Students fight for fairer staff wages

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A petition has been launched to raise the wages of college and departmental staff employed by the University.

The petition, created by OUSU’s Living Wage Campaign, is demanding an increase in pay so that staff salaries meet living wage rather than minimum wage standards.

A ‘Living Wage’ is the minimum level of pay required to maintain a decent standard of living in a certain area. It is calculated by a formula from the National Income Standard, which is authorised by the Rowntree Trust, which takes factors such as cost of housing, council tax and transport into account.

According to 2010 calculations, the living wage for Oxford equates to £7.01 per hour. However, it is understood that many Oxford University employees are paid as little as £5.93 per hour.

There is no uniform standard pay across colleges.  In some circumstances cleaners are hired through contracted companies, where wage discrepancies also arise.  

According to the OUSU website, “The Living Wage Campaign seeks to build stronger alliances between students and workers within the University.”

Sean Whitton of Balliol said, “So many Oxford students feel strongly about poor wages for college workers, especially scouts, because they see how dependent the university is on them day in day out and are shocked to find that in a university traditionally seen as very wealthy they receive so little remuneration. 

“We know we have this mass support – a petition is an effective way of showing the university that we do.”

Eight college JCR Committees have already pledged support for the campaign. When questioned about the petition, many Oxford students were supportive.

 

One college scout told Cherwell, “Of course I welcome this iniative. I work very hard and less than £6 an hour is not enough, especially with living costs increasing.”

One PPE student commented, “I agree with OUSU’s campaign to support the living wage for employees of Oxford colleges. The minimum wage does not cover the full cost of living.”

Another student remarked, “It’s good that a need for change in the type of wages university staff are currently getting is being recognised, but it’s pretty bad that they’re only recognising this need now.”

The campaign has drawn attention to the fact that some universities, such as UCL and LSE, already pay a living wage, as well as Oxford City Council.

Yet concerns have been raised that the forthcoming education cuts, which are likely to force the University to substantially raise its tuition fees, mean that an increase in support staff wages may not be viable.

However, one undergraduate commented, “Scouts, waiters, and other college staff work hard to make our college experience easier, and their pay should reflect that. I would not be comfortable with having my room cleaned by someone who is paid the bare minimum.”

Anyone who wishes to become involved is advised to get in touch via livingwage@ousu.org.

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