A planned ‘flash mop’ in the Social Sciences Library on Tuesday lunchtime as part of the Living Wage Campaign was cancelled this week following objections by members. The plan had been to assemble in a flash mob, but with members holding mops and buckets in a gesture of solidarity towards scouts.
One member of the Living Wage Campaign’s Facebook group, Stephen Boyd, posted, “That ‘action’ on Tuesday I just got an email for is embarrassing. What patronising middle class do-gooding bullshit. I’m sure the people living on minimum wage will really enjoy a bunch of privileged knobs playing fancy dress for a day, as them.”
Others swiftly agreed, with one commenting on the post, “For the love of God don’t do this. You could have at least nominally invited cleaners, instead of just students, community leaders and academics. Don’t dress up as cleaners and stand around Oxford, it’s not solidarity, it’s just patronising dress-up.”
In response, some members rose to the defence of the campaign. Daniel Stone commented, “It’s not our intention to be patronising and I think it will be powerful for members of the University and non-University community to stand together in unity around this issue.
“Ideally we would be standing in unity with cleaners too but many of them are afraid of losing their jobs – this fear prevents many of them from speaking out, joining unions and becoming more active in this campaign. We’re doing what we can to change this situation so that cleaners are able to speak for themselves.”
Sarah Santhosham, Chair of the Living Wage Campaign, posted a statement on the group as a response to the queries, commenting, “The Oxford Living Wage Campaign has always been run on the basis of consensus among its members. As some members have raised issues with bringing cleaning materials along to the action tomorrow in solidarity with the cleaners that work across the university; the campaign has decided to withdraw that particular aspect of the action. We will still be going ahead with the action itself, and would hope that everyone who believes in a living wage for Oxford will come along and join us in showing that there is widespread support for this issue among students, academics and the community.”
“The campaign will always appreciate and the input of its members; whether they are scouts and cleaners themselves, community leaders or supportive students. It is only by working together as a wider community that we can find the best way to make these changes happen and achieve a living wage in Oxford.”
At 1.30pm on Tuesday the campaigners congregated outside the SSL. Santhosham read out the letter to Dr Goss, Head of the University Personnel Office, which gave him until the 25th of November to respond to the concerns of the campaign, and to discuss implementing the living wage in the SSL and ultimately in all Oxford Libraries. The letter had been signed by both Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs, as well as student supporters and academics.
One of those involved, Louise Carey, told Cherwell, “We then stuck a large copy of the letter to the door of the SSL. More copies were handed out, and we stuck these all over the windows. There was a good response to the action, with lots of students reading the letters we had put up, and we think it was useful in raising the profile of the campaign.”
She added, “We hope that he will respond to the strong expression of student support for the Living Wage and meet with us to discuss it.”
Louise Clarke, the SSL Librarian, commented, “All staff on the SSL payroll (i.e. library assistants and librarians) are paid the living wage or more. The cleaning contract for the Manor Road Building (in which the library is based) is not administered by the SSL and so I am unable to comment on that.”