Living Below Minimum Wage in Paris
For students that work in Paris, a decent day’s earnings is a distant dream for many. Being a student in the one of the most expensive cities in the world, expenses and rent can be high, and the added language barrier for most foreign students can make it an even tougher affair. According to the salaire minimum de croissance (SMIC), the French government has set the minimum wage at 9,88€ per hour (before taxes) which contradicts the 6€ per hour “grant” that student workers are paid. Student workers are also not afforded with any legal rights set forth in a contract or existing AUP policy. The earnings by AUP student workers are legally considered “grants” and do not constitute a wage, which has alarmed the Student Union to possible abuse under this terminology. Prompted by the alarming legal discrepancy, a Call To Action by the Student Union was published, calling for the end to “cheap labor” and the right to fair compensation under French law.
For Dhouha Djerbi, the President of the Student Union, who is also a tutor at the Academic Resource Centre (ARC), 9,88€ should represent the “dignity” of student workers who pursue “legitimate work” - something that she believes is about more than a sum of money. While the concern of job entrenchment is also “petrifying” to her, she has bravely taken up a position to fight for fair and legal compensation in the face of pressure from the Student Government Association and the University’s administration. She is not the only one. For other students like Mohammad Abdalhaleem, a Senior student worker at the Office of Student Development, the average weekly earning of 42€ does not cover his weekly food expenses which are usually between 60-70€. However, he is concerned about losing his job if the minimum wage is raised and is unsure what his legal rights and recourse will be if the administration begins cutting back on the student program.
Another anonymous contributor, who works at the Careers and Internship Office, does find his work mundane at times and to kill time, he works on his homework to try to be productive. Despite finding his work as irrelevant to his education, he “sympathize with the crusade [but finds] it's causing too much trouble and may lead to the end of a great thing for many students”. Senators in the Student Government Association have also voiced their opposition to the raise in student grants as they feel it threatens the livelihood of many student workers and their jobs. One senator was also quoted as saying, “we are a registered institution in Delaware and do not have to oblige by French law.” The resistance came primarily from student workers themselves who felt the Student Union did not adequately address their concerns before representing their interest. The Student Union, however, has reiterated their position as an open and transparent organization that has regularly called for statements in their emails.
The Student Union, who have been taken aback by the partisan divide over the issue, have started to seek legal experts in the field of minimum wage and have defended the illegality and inconsistent policy that AUP have maintained over student grants. In response to the seriousness that the administration is taking on this issue, the Deputy Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, Randy Vener, have stated that “AUP is considering the overall situation.” The Student Union have been given some time to strategize their next move and will reconvene with the administration and the Student Government Association on 13th December 2018.
According to a joint statement by the Student Union and the Student Government Association, President Schenck has “emphasized the need for all present parties to work together to reach a solution which aids in the AUP Community’s continued growth and success.” The President’s Office has also announced their intent to increase the grant by 30% in the near future and restructured accordingly. Nevertheless, the Student Union will also be pushing to increase the grant to a flat 8€ per hour.