Oxford University Student Union has come under fire for using a cleaner who is not paid the living wage, despite OUSU campaigning for the University to pay the £7.45 hourly rate to all employees.
The Oxford Living Wage has been affiliated with OUSU since November 2011. The campaign describes its members as “Students, University staff and members of the local community committed to securing a Living Wage of £7.45 for all Oxford University employees.”
Will Brown, chairman of the Living Wage Campaign, told Cherwell, “It is imperative that this is corrected as soon as possible to set a powerful example of the importance of fair pay.”
He added, “It is obviously disappointing that not everyone who works in OUSU’s premises currently receives the Living Wage, especially given its laudable commitment to campaigning to end poverty-level pay for the employees of the University and its Colleges.”
David J Townsend, OUSU President, commented, “Since the cleaner is sub-contracted, we are only in a position to ensure payment of the Living Wage for the services provided directly to OUSU.”
He added, “What the cleaner is paid for other contracted work is beyond our immediate power, but a matter on which we are lobbying the University, with considerable success in respect of directly employees so far.”
Townsend continued, “Once this question was brought to my attention, in consultation with the Vice-Presidents I took steps to ensure that, as from the coming year, the cleaner will indeed be paid the Living Wage.”
The development comes a month after the University agreed to pay all direct employees a living wage with immediate effect. However, much of the cleaning work is still being subcontracted to providers who do not pay their staff the wage.
The University subcontracts its cleaning work to several companies. The OUSU offices on Worcester Street are contracted to Calber Facilities Management, a firm based in Wantage.
The company’s recruitment policy states that ‘Consideration will be given to pay rates with attention given to market rates, skills and experience. Calber is aware of equal pay and discrimination legislation and will comply with the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998’. The company does not include any provision to meet the living wage.
The company’s JobIsJob.co.uk entry lists their cleaner wage as ‘£6.30 per hour’. As of Thursday evening Calber Facilities Management were unavailable for comment.
Sarah Santhosham, Vice-President for Charities and Communities, told Cherwell, “This situation came to our attention earlier this year and we have been taking steps to ensure that all sub-contracted staff in our building will be paid a Living Wage as of the start of next academic year.”
The issue was addressed at Wednesday’s OUSU council meeting, in a motion proposed by Santhosham. A motion resolved “to continued to raise this issue active with the University and Colleges.” However, David Railton, Chair of OUSU Council, told Cherwell they, “already had a policy of supporting the Living Wage before this motion- our policy lapses every 3 years so this was just a renewal of past policy.”
Pavel Linshits, a 2nd year History student, commented, “If this isn’t the definition of irony, I don’t know what is. It seems hypocritical of OUSU to promote the living wage without deeming it a necessity on their own turf.”
Tom Rutland, the OUSU President Elect, commented that he “will be working to spread the living wage as per the pledge I, and all the other sabbatical candidates, undertook as part of the hustings.”