Living wage rally to criticise serious staff wage discrepancies

Image credit: Cambridge University Living Wage


A living-wage rally is set to take place this evening, as the city of Cambridge’s employers are taken to task for large numbers of staff not being paid the living wage. Heather Wakefield, head of UNISON’s Local Government Service Group, is set to join former CUSU President Tom Chigbo and Priya Kothari, Head of Policy at Save the Children UK, in an event hosted by CUSU Women’s Campaign and CULC (Cambridge Universities Labour Club).

Recently, the disparities in staff wages in UK universities have been criticised by the Green Party; the national living wage, which is currently set at £8.55 per hour for London and £7.45 for the rest of the UK, is currently not being met by 6,769 workers at British universities. Some staff at the University of Cambridge are working on zero-hour contracts, meaning that their earnings are not secure from week to week.

Despite this, every British university is employing at least one person with an annual salary of over £140,000. The Young Greens – the youth branch of the Green Party – are calling upon all universities to ensure that the ratio between their highest and lowest salaries never exceeds 10:1.

In 2011, the heads of elite universities were awarded an average pay rise of £9,700. Currently, the average salary of the highest-paid individuals at British universities is £248,292 – £105,992 more than the prime minister’s salary. If university principals did indeed lower their salaries to the suggested £140,000, the surplus cash would be enough – with  £3.7m to spare – to raise to the living wage the pay of all the university staff who are currently on minimum wage.

Despite the University of Cambridge regularly attaining top spots in national rankings, its Vice-Chancellor, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, receives less income than the heads of Imperial College, London; the University of Birmingham; and the University of Oxford. While Borysiewicz earns just over £300,000 per year, the head of London Business School takes home in excess of £500,000 annually. The inequality gap is greatest at Imperial, with 699 staff members paid less than living wage. The universities that emerge best from the Young Greens’ report are SOAS and the University of London.

Phelim Brady, Chair of CULC, said: “We know that the living wage has wide support among Cambridge students, of all political affiliations and none. We think it’s wrong to live side by side with people, for instance many bedders and kitchen staff, who don’t earn a decent wage.

“But the challenge we face in a [collegiate] university… is that it takes work from people in each and every college for us to make progress. That’s why we’re working together with CUSU to highlight the issue of low pay and to kickstart this year’s campaign.”

The rally will take place at 19.45 in Keynes’ Hall, King’s College.

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