How much does your university or college pay its staff? We all know vice-chancellors are living in comfort but what about the immense numbers of support staff that keep higher education institutions running efficiently? Would you be surprised to know that many of them are living below the poverty line despite the fact they work for some of the biggest employers in the UK? Why is this? The majority of universities and colleges do not pay staff at the bottom of their pay scales the Living Wage; many outsource the lowest paid jobs such as domestic work to contractors who pay no more than the minimum wage.
What is the Living Wage?
The Living Wage is simply the basic rate at which one can live without fear of poverty. Currently this stands at £8.30 per hour in London and £7.20 per hour in the rest of the UK. Research has shown that the National Minimum Wage (£6.08 per hour) is not enough to sustain basic needs or to allow people to enjoy quality of life. The Living Wage is calculated by considering the lowest average cost of the following areas: social housing rent, council tax, childcare, transport and the regional cost of a shopping basket including food, clothing and household goods.
Why institutions should pay the Living Wage
We are in harsh economic times and education institutions are feeling the squeeze as much as any other workplace. However we also believe that paying, at the very least, the Living Wage shows that institutions value their staff and the opinions of their students. It's hard to face the fact that while institutions are aiding the social mobility of their student bodies through education they are also perpetuating the poverty of their staff. Institutions need to show they reflect fairness not only in their policies towards students but in the way they treat their staff. As students are often looking at their institutions as future employers, reassurance is needed that these institutions respect and value their workforce.
A Living Wage shouldn’t be a privilege; it should be the fundamental right of any employee. Not only does the Living Wage allow employees a better standard of life it also reflects positively on the employer. Research has shown that employees receiving the Living Wage to have a higher level or morale and work more efficiently. Also the levels of absence and staff turnover were significantly seen to be reduced. Therefore employers and employees have mutual respect for each other and consequently this creates a contented workplace.
What we want to achieve
Over the next year we will be rolling out a number of resources and ideas which students can use to get their campaigns off the ground, while also working with Unison and Citizens UK to map the local and national impact of the Living Wage in higher and further education institutions. The aim of the campaign is simple we expect that all universities, colleges and student unions will pay the Living Wage. Therefore we are encouraging all students who believe in a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay to get involved in this campaign.
Email Vice President Society and Citizenship Dannie Grufferty for more information