Colleges pass Living Wage motions

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Univ and St Hilda’s JCRs both passed motions to support the Oxford Living Wage Campaign at meetings on Sunday. These JCRs become the eighth and ninth in the University to back the initiative, with Balliol being the first in 2009.

Univ JCR President Daniel Tomlinson explained that the motion “passed with almost no opposition”, and commented, “I have been a supporter of the Living Wage for a long time simply because I believe that all people should be paid enough to provide their family with the essentials of life.”

He added, “the motion now means that Univ’s Living Wage Campaign has the backing of the student community in college. I intend to talk with college staff about how much a Living Wage would cost and then the members of the Living Wage Campaign in college and I can get together and figure out next steps.”

Tim Moyo, a Univ second year, told Cherwell that ‘The Living Wage campaign seems to be really popular in Univ. It’s definitely a really good cause and I think lots of people across all areas of college are supporting it.’

Louise Carey, a major supporter of the campaign at Univ since last year, stated that “I support the campaign because I believe on principal that everyone should earn a wage which will afford them a decent quality of life. As one of the richest universities in the country, Oxford can and should be paying its lowest earners the Living Wage.”

Carey praised Corpus Christi for paying its staff the living wage, but claimed, “the majority of colleges for which we have data are still paying their scouts and other staff below £7.20/ hour.” She said that “this is unacceptable, and the Oxford Living Wage campaign is hoping to work with colleges and the University to improve this state of affairs.”

She added, “The success of the motion demonstrates solid undergraduate support for implementing the Living Wage at Univ”, and that she hopes that “this indication of students’ views will strengthen our position in future discussions with the college.” She confirmed that they intend to continue to publicise the campaign over the coming weeks.

The motion at St Hilda’s, proposed by Josh Deery and Chris Barrie, resolved to “mandate the President and Financial VP to lobby college on our behalf to enforce a living wage policy in college, in the spirit of the OUSU Living Wage campaign”, and to do this with minimal battle impact.

Sarah Finch, JCR President at St Hilda’s, said that those at the meeting passed the motion “by an almost unanimous vote.” There was only one vote against the motion and three abstentions. Finch stated that “the campaign reflects the need for all colleges to be conscientious employers in the community, and our JCR’s respect and gratitude for the people who keep our college running.”

She went on to say that “I am sure that the issue was raised due to the prominence of the OUSU Campaign for Living Wage and the number of other common rooms who have successfully lobbied their colleges on this issue.”

Sarah Molloy, a second year undergraduate at Hilda’s, said, “the motion passed fairly easily with the usual objections from people claiming that we should ‘increase staff efficiency’ rather than pay more, essentially missing the point of the campaign.”

However, a Hilda’s student who wished to remain anonymous commented, “I would have voted in favour once upon a time, but now I’d probably vote against.”

“We don’t get higher student loans for going to Oxford, despite paying London prices. If scouts can’t afford to live in Oxford, then move elsewhere. There are loads of jobs in Oxford that pay the absolute national minimum wage. And scouts get loads of privileges and have it easy – I know, I’ve scouted in the vac.”

The campaign, set up in 2006, pushes for the establishment of a Living Wage for employees across the city. The website explains how the movement “seeks to strengthen relationships between students and workers. We campaign alongside workers, academics and community groups for improved pay and conditions for low-paid employees in the University.”

The national minimum wage for over-22s is currently £5.35 per hour, and the campaign website states that Oxford is “an expensive city — we therefore anticipate that a living wage for the Oxford area is likely to be substantially higher than the national minimum wage.”

The campaign’s research shows that “in most colleges, the wage rate is around £6 per hour, but there is no uniform standard rate”.

Fourteen academics have publicly backed the Campaign, as have Oxford University UCU, the union for those employed in Oxford colleges, as well as Oxford City Council and the Oxford University Labour Club.

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