University: “No requirement” to pay temporary workers the Living Wage

Colm Murphy and Sam Rhodes 2 February 2015

An investigation by The Cambridge Student has revealed that the University of Cambridge is not paying all of its employees the Living Wage. This is despite the fact it was previously announced that they were to become a Living Wage employer from August 2014. 

In July, the University announced that they would be paying all of their direct employees the Living Wage, which was then £7.65 an hour. This was hailed by student campaigners at the time, including the CUSU Living Wage Officer Ben Bayley, who said all “who have been involved in the campaign are delighted.”

However, TCS has learnt that university employees, specifically temporary workers at the ADC Theatre, are not being paid this wage.

Officially, the ADC is classified as a university department, as it states on their job advertisements, and as such its employees count as university employees. When asked for clarification, this was confirmed to TCS by an ADC employee. The ADC Theatre is currently advertising for a contract at £7.45 an hour for its Bar Staff and Box Office Assistant.

This consists of £6.65 an hour plus 12.07 per cent holiday pay. This is 20 pence below what the University promised to pay its staff in July, and 40 pence below the current Living Wage of £7.85 an hour.

Since TCS has published this story, ADC Theatre Manager Flo Carr has responded and offered some clarification. She said: “The staff who work in the casual front of house roles are employed through the University's Temporary Employment Service rather than being University employees. This is due to the nature of the roles. Having a fixed-hours contract for these casual roles is not practical for the workers themselves, who want to be able to do shifts depending on their availability throughout term. Being 'temporary workers' allows them the flexibility to take on fewer shifts if required, or more shifts when they have more time available.

“There is no requirement to pay the Living Wage to temporary workers.”

In response to this, a temporary ADC employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, told TCS: "This shows that the University's Living Wage promise was a cynical PR move and does not extend to temporary and casual workers, often those most in need of a wage you can live on."

When TCS broke the original story, campaigners responded negatively. Living Wage campaigner and Chair of the Cambridge Universities Labour Club (CULC) 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.

“With our Living Wage Officer, Gabriel Fleming, CULC is working to ensure all employees are paid enough to live on.” CUSU Women's Officer Amelia Horgan added: "I'm disappointed to hear that the University has not yet made good on its promise to pay all employees a living wage."

The Living Wage is supported by the Living Wage Foundation, and is calculated at Centre for Research and Social Policy at Loughborough University. The Living Wage campaign in Cambridge has been running since 2007, and is lead by CUSU and CULC.

The campaign has drawn support from Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge Julian Huppert and Labour Party candidate for 2015 Daniel Zeichner, as well as Green Party candidate Rupert Read. It has also been encouraged by the Cambridge City Council, which started paying its own employees the Living Wage in November.

Currently, the campaign aims to pressure all colleges into paying the Living Wage, and follow Queens’ College’s lead in becoming accredited Living Wage employers. Only Queens’ is an accredited employer, although some other colleges such as King’s now pay the Living Wage after pressure from student activists. It was also recently announced that Oxford University will become an accredited Living Wage employer in April.


APOLOGY: In our earlier version of this article, The Cambridge Student implied that the ADC Theatre, and, by extention, the University, was breaking a pledge. Upon receiving clarification, we have learned this is inaccurate as the promise only extended to fixed contract employees. TCS apologises for the inaccuracy.