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RIBA minimum wage ‘shameful’ says Archaos


Student group Archaos has hit out at the RIBA’s plan to combat student low pay by establishing a minimum wage, claiming the institute should do more to support practising architects

In a letter to the AJ Archaos chair Caine Crawford said the new policy, which was rubberstamped on Thursday (AJ 24.03.11), was ‘weak’ and a decade late, calling on the RIBA to halt the ‘diluting’ of the profession with more students.

He said: ‘The only way for the RIBA to fully support students of architecture is by supporting the profession we aspire to. Not diluting it by producing too many students.  

‘Surely members deserve more from their Institution; they contribute £9 million a year to the RIBA after all.’

The RIBA introduced a new statutory minimum wage clause covering post-Part 1 students working for architects in the RIBA’s Chartered Practice scheme last week.

Following the announcement Archaos launched an anonymous ‘Low Pay No Pay’ survey aimed at gauging the true depth of the problem in the profession.


Caine Crawford’s letter

The RIBA now has to tell its members that they should be paying the National Minimum Wage for all employees in their practice. Astonishing that the profession should need telling that services rendered should have due consideration. 

Archaos, the national architecture student society, has pushed for a minimum wage for a decade. Last September the latest update on the hourly rate and conditions was added to the terms for chartered practice by the RIBA, but only as a recommendation. In response to this a number of architects claimed that as students need to gain experience to achieve their professional qualification it exempts them from paying any wages at all.

It is frankly shameful that architects seek new and interesting ways to get out of paying for labour, and equally shameful that the only thing the RIBA can do about it is to issue a weak directive to members to pay what should be the very least we should expect. I welcome the consultation on low pay and no pay that Ruth Reed has launched, but it is by no means the first time we have heard positive rumblings, only for RIBA bureaucracy to claim that doing nothing is doing enough.

I do sympathise with architects. In tough economic times finding work is difficult and nursing those jobs through to completion is seemingly more and more trying as the years go by. But can I just remind architects that they are supposed to be professionals. Undercutting bids is rife. Taking loss-leading work in the hope that further work will carry a profit is the norm. And spending time and effort on competition entries that even when won, give nothing but a headline in the architectural press, seen as required. These practices are counterproductive and lower the income of all.

Quite simply if you can’t make any money out of the work passing through your office, you shouldn’t be taking it. If the profit or loss of your practice relies on not having to meet the salaries of your staff then frankly you should shut up shop.  There are more than enough practices out there with a solid business model that would welcome the additional work being shared out without having to match your loss-making quotes.

The only way for the RIBA to fully support students of architecture is by supporting the profession we aspire to. Not diluting it by producing too many students.  We educate more students every year than even a healthy economy could adequately support, yet we still have more and more courses validated producing yet more students. The business of educating architects is far more profitable to the RIBA than supporting practising architects.  

The RIBA has had more than enough time to support architects in their battle for Low Pay, but we have few initiatives supporting members, it is not enough to just have a televised architectural competition every year to promote architects. Surely members deserve more from their Institution; they contribute £9 million a year to the RIBA after all.

Perhaps it is time for a new professional body.


Caine Crawford, Chair of Archaos, the national architecture student society




Readers' comments (2)

  • I agree with the above, yet as I am just finishing my third year, and even voluntary positions hard to come by, I have near to no prospect of finding work necessary for continuation on the ARB path. If practices cannot sustain graduates in voluntary posts, they will not suddenly find the money to employ at any rate, minimum wage or otherwise. It will be a waste of a degree, and I personally wish RIBA had kept it as it is for now, in order to maximise opportunity in this difficult economic climate. Dilution is the key point, and the past 2 or 3 years of graduates add even more to the pile each year.

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  • John Kellett

    Surely it is illegal under UK law to employ students and not pay them. Whether you are an RIBA Chartered Practice or not is immaterial.
    Voluntary work is for the 'not for profit' charity sector or 'work experience' for school-children only.
    The US unpaid 'internship' model is not valid in the UK (or indeed anywhere).
    Any architect or practice paying staff (student or not) less than the minimum wage should be stuck off and challenged in court. The majority of Part 1 and Part 2 students provide valuable work, in fact they wouldn't be employed if they didn't!
    If the profession's business model relies on an underpaid or illegal workforce it is in a sorry state indeed.

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