University pressured to pay staff Living Wage

Robert Young & Jenni Reid - News Reporters 8 March 2012

A joint UNISON and National Union of Students (NUS) campaign was launched last Friday, aiming to persuade UK colleges, universities and students’ unions to pay their staff the living wage.

In a bid to highlight the dramatic pay differentials in higher education establishments, UNISON and NUS plan to create a ‘league table’ listing those universities with the lowest and highest paid staff.

The living wage currently stands at £7.20 an hour, a level set by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University to “lift thousands more families out of working poverty”. In a statement released by UNISON, NUS Vice-President Dannie Grufferty argues that “The difference between minimum wage and a living wage is the difference between constant money worries and being able to make ends meet.”

Cambridge University has been targeted by the organisations as being one of the worst offenders, with over 1,000 of its staff earning below the living wage. Employees such as housekeepers, cleaners, kitchen porters and gardeners earn around £12,334 a year, the minimum wage for a 40-hour week.

The Living Wage scheme has already been successfully introduced in universities and local authorities across various regions of the country, leading to sustained pressure on both Cambridgeshire County Council and Cambridge University to adopt the proposals.

With Ed Miliband behind the campaign, the Cambridge University Labour Club (CULC) was one of the first Labour Clubs to campaign for staff to be paid a living wage. Richard Johnson, head of CULC, told The Cambridge Student that “for most colleges, the cost of Living Wage would be negligible.”

A spokesperson for the University has claimed that Cambridge’s minimum pay levels have increased, and that the figures given by UNISON apply only to trainees and those on zero-hour contracts.

Robert Young & Jenni Reid – News Reporters