The Archaos executive set an interesting challenge in its letter when it asked RIBA presidential candidates: 'What strategy would they take to tackle the issue of student pay in architectural practices?' (AJ 22.06.06). I am pleased to respond.
Students leaving Part 2 often work for less than minimum wage - particularly when working on competitions for larger practices (the minimum wage act states that all hours worked have to be taken into account when calculating an hourly rate). This practice is clearly unfair not only on graduates, but also on the many smaller practices trying to win competitions while fully compensating all their employees. Although the RIBA would need to be absolutely certain of the facts first, the institute should certainly consider withholding Chartered Practice status from any practice treating its students in this way, and should also be willing not to publish or give awards to any such practice for, say, a twoyear period. Finally an appropriate clause on employment practice should be included in our Code of Conduct.
However, the issue of low pay is one that affects the entire profession - and economic sustainability is central to my manifesto.
Architects' salaries are appallingly low given the value we add and the skills and experience we provide. The profession needs a valuebased fee scale so that practitioners and practices - both small and large - are properly compensated for their services. I believe this can be achieved by linking our fees to the new Planning Gain Supplement proposed by the government (which is basically a development tax on increased land values following the grant of planning permission), and would love to take on this challenge!
Valerie Owen, RIBA presidential candidate, by email