Colleges have been urged to show a “moral commitment” to the living wage after figures revealed that less than one-third are accredited living wage employers.
Only eleven of Oxford’s 38 colleges are currently signed up to the living wage, despite recent encouragement from the county council to help staff “live with dignity.”
Christ Church, Hertford, Mansfield, Merton, Oriel, Queen’s, Somerville, St Cross, St Hilda’s, University, and Wadham are the only colleges signed up to the Living Wage Foundation scheme.
The University itself has been paying all staff the living wage – which is set to rise from £8.45 to £8.75 in 2018 – since April 2015.
City council leader Bob Price urged Oxford colleges to apply for formal living wage accreditation. He said: “They may not think the accreditation is important but it shows a moral commitment to continue to pay staff the living wage in the longer term.
“It would also give more weight to the scheme: the more businesses and institutions that can join will encourage others.”
“We have been very pleased with the businesses involved so far and Oxford came out quite well in a recent survey of workers – but we want to push it even further.”
The comments come shortly after the Oxfordshire County Council claimed it could not afford to pay staff the Oxford living wage, which currently stands at £9.26 an hour.
Meanwhile, the city council announced that it would increase that figure to £9.69 in April 2018.
“Oxford is the least affordable city for housing in the UK,” the city council said.
“House prices in the city are more than 16 times average earnings. 30% of the city’s population lives in private-rented housing. The council believes that the high cost of living in Oxford means the living wage is essential to help employees live with dignity.”
However, colleges have defended themselves against the council’s criticisms.
In a statement, Corpus Christi College said: “College fellows, as trustees, review the remuneration of all staff taking into consideration hourly pay rates and a range of other significant benefits and conditions of service such as holiday and meals entitlement… and security of tenure.
“It is our belief that a comprehensive approach to the evaluation of remuneration provides an inherently fairer and more reliable measure of the high esteem in which we hold our staff.”
Green Templeton College said that while around twenty employees doing “casual bar work” were paid less than the living wage, the rest of its staff were.
Several colleges – including Magdalen, Jesus and Worcester – claim to pay their staff the living wage, but have not sought accreditation.
Furthermore, Kellogg College’s staff are directly employed by the University, and as a result, the graduate college considers itself to be indirectly accredited.