Labour challenges Microsoft to set standard for fair pay in Cambridge

Comment: Apple - Manufacturing injustice? 21 December 2012

Computer software giant Microsoft’s move into new offices in Cambridge’s CB1 development building on 21 Station Road in the New Year could “set the standard for fair pay in the city”, says Cambridge Labour Parliamentary spokesperson Daniel Zeichner, who is calling for Microsoft to pay all its staff at least the living wage of seven pounds forty five pence per hour.

Microsoft Research’s new European headquarters building was officially opened on Tuesday at the CB1 area near the railway station. The six-storey, 83,5000 square feet building is let to Microsoft for 20 years and will house 220 of its staff after the move in the New Year.

Mr Zeichner, who was the Labour candidate for Cambridge MP in 2010 says: “We are all delighted that Microsoft is one of the iconic companies moving to CB1 – but what a chance for them to make a clear promise this week that everyone who works there will be paid enough to live on. Not just the directly employed staff, but the cleaners, the caretakers the caterers and the maintenance staff.”

The Living Wage, the minimum wage required for a resident to afford the basic costs of living such as food, housing and childcare, is currently estimated at 7.45 for areas outside London, according to calculations by the Centre for Research in Social Policy.

The focus of the on-going Living Wage Campaign in Cambridge led by Cambridge University Labour Club and supported by the Labour Party in Cambridge has so far focused on public employers, namely councils and universities; but attention is shifting to private companies. Mr Zeichner says the problem with approaching private companies such as Microsoft to provide information on wages is that they are not bound to reply under the Freedom of Information Act.

Microsoft has thus far been unable to provide comment or confirmation regarding whether or not they will pay at least the living wage to all its staff. Mr Zeichner told TCS that there are plans in the New Year to submit further FOIs to councils, the NHS and universities to see how much in license fees is paid to Microsoft. “For a company like Microsoft, seven pounds forty five pence an hour can hardly be an insurmountable obstacle. So I’m calling on Microsoft to set a lead, with the ultimate aim of making Cambridge a living wage city”, he added.

Update 8th January 2013:

With regard to paying all staff the living wage, a Microsoft spokesperson said: “Microsoft Research does not comment on the pay structure of its employees but I can state that we pay all of our full-time employees at least the living wage.”

She added: “It is also a factor that we take into account when we tender for facilities management contracts for catering, cleaning etc”, but gave no clear guarantee that a living wage will be paid to all of its staff included part-time employees.

Mr Daniel Zeichner, in response, said that “sadly, it shows that they do not insist that contractors pay a living wage, which for a company as profitable and influential as Microsoft is deeply disappointing.”

Gwen Jing

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