Hundreds not covered by Uni Living Wage pledge

Colm Murphy 4 February 2015

An investigation by The Cambridge Student has revealed that last year’s pledge by the University of Cambridge to pay all of its directly employed staff the Living Wage does not extend to over 600 temporary workers.

Through the ‘Temporary Employment Service’ (TES), the University employs over 600 staff for a variety of roles. None of these roles come under the pledge, although it seems many are paid above the Living Wage.

In July 2014, the University announced that they would be paying all of their direct employees the Living Wage, which was then £7.65 an hour, from 1 August 2014. This was hailed by student campaigners at the time, including the then CUSU Living Wage Officer Ben Bayley, who said all “who have been involved in the campaign are delighted.”  It was also reported in the student and national media, including this newspaper, The Tab, Varsity, and The Telegraph. The University specified at the time that this would affect around 130 workers.

However, TCS subsequently learned that some TES-employed workers at the ADC Theatre, a department of the University, were being paid less than the promised £7.65. Bar Staff and Box Office Assistants are currently paid £6.65 an hour plus 12.07 per cent holiday pay, which comes to £7.45 an hour.

This is 20 pence less than the wage promised in the widely-praised pledge, and 40 pence less than the current Living Wage of £7.85 an hour.

After inquiries made by TCS, the University was forced to clarify that these employees were employed through TES. This is significant as, according to TES’s website: “Working through TES does not constitute an employment relationship with the University”, which means they are not technically directly employed. However, these employees are still ultimately paid by the University of Cambridge.

As a result, ADC Theatre Manager Flo Carr confirmed: “There is no requirement to pay the Living Wage to temporary workers.”

In the minutes of the University Council discussion on 12 May 2014 which confirmed the pledge, only directly employed staff were specified. At no point were TES employees mentioned, although minutes to a Human Resources Committee meeting were referred to. Eleven months after the HR meeting, the minutes are not available online, although the Assistant Director of the Human Resources department has assured us that the minutes will be uploaded in the near future.

Not all workers employed through TES will be paid less than £7.65, and pay scales range from £7.32 to £15.05 an hour. However, none of these employees are guaranteed the Living Wage by the pledge, unlike those on fixed contracts.

When TCS asked the University to clarify how many of the 600 TES employees are paid over £7.65, a University spokesman said: "The University does not centrally hold figures on temporary workers.

"I can confirm some but by no means all, temporary workers do earn below the current living wage."

Banner from the Living Wage campaign. Photo credit: Akshay Karia.

In response, CUSU Living Wage Officer Daisy Hughes said: “This demonstrates how difficult it is to try and make institutions change their ways. We hope that the University will act in the spirit of their promise and actually start paying the Living Wage to all.”

When TCS published initial findings regarding ADC staff, Chair of the Cambridge Universities Labour Club Fred Jerrome said: “This demonstrates the need to keep pressuring the university to uphold its social values and keep up the fight for our colleges to also pay the living wage.” After being informed about TES, Jerrome has confirmed that he stands by this statement.

The Living Wage is supported by the Living Wage Foundation, and is calculated at the Centre for Research and Social Policy at Loughborough University. Lead by CUSU and CULC, the Living Wage campaign in Cambridge has been running since 2007. It aims to pressure all colleges into paying the Living Wage. Currently, Queens' college is an accredited Living Wage employer, although some other colleges such as King’s now pay the Living Wage after pressure from student activists. In addition, it was recently announced that Oxford University will become an accredited Living Wage employer in April.