King’s protest: “Wages, not wine”

Jack Stewart 30 January 2014

The King’s College Living Wage Campaign organised a protest for ‘wages not wine’ last Sunday, after recent revelations that the university spends an annual £338,559 on wine.

Despite a last minute time change (which was, according to the email sent to members of the college, to increase media coverage) around 50 students gathered at the college’s main entrance.

Students were joined by College Porter, Chris Clarkson, and chanted “wages not wine”. One of the placards read “our college, not your business”.

Protesters were keen to stress that the £50,000 spent on free wine for fellows would be more than enough to cover the cost of paying all King’s staff the living wage – estimated to be around £42,000 per year.

A central member of the Campaign, Daisy Hughes, told The Cambridge Student that she was pleased with the turnout given the “confusion over timings and the awful weather.” She continued: “it’s a good sign that so many people have been interested in joining in with demonstrations, and that the campaign is already in the process of planning further action.”

Currently only 3 out of 31 Colleges pay all members of staff the living wage, which is set at £7.65 an hour outside London. Despite this, King’s students in attendance said that appropriate pay is an achievable goal to be reached by sustained pressure. Two protesters said that it’s simply a matter of “social justice and respect for workers”.

Speaking to TCS last week, Keith Carne, the First Bursar at King’s, explained that “the council at King’s is looking into salary levels.” Pending approval by the college’s governing body, changes will be incorporated “in the budget for 2014-15”. He has also said that much of the wine is sold to make an overall profit for the college.

Organisers of the campaign expect real change thanks to the “amazing response from students, staff and fellows, and the fact that it’s not really an issue you can disagree with”. One campaigner stated that as long as its workers are paid a wage to cover the basic cost of living in the UK, the College’s wine policy is of no real concern to the campaign: “It’s simply about respecting the people who make the college work.”