Hertford College has become the first college at Oxford University to pay all staff the Living Wage, according to the Living Wage Foundation.
Former JCR President Josh Platt, who campaigned during his tenure for the College to adopt the wage, told Cherwell, “I’m absolutely over the moon that Hertford is accrediting as a Living Wage Employer. This is fanastic news for all the staff at this College, who now know that Hertford will always prioritise fair wages for its employees. Accreditation is testament to the hard work of our students; it was their passion for this cause and their determination to see it through that has got Hertford to this point.”
A spokesperson for the Living Wage Foundation confirmed that the College was the first of Oxford’s colleges to officially accredit to the scheme.
Hertford student Harry Coath, who campaigned for the adoption of the Living Wage, commented, “Hertford’s accreditation is great news for staff and we hope that other colleges will follow its example. This change only happened because Hertford students expressed their dissatisfaction and lobbied college on low pay. Students in every college should do the same.”
Likewise, Fergal O’Dwyer, Oxford Living Wage Campaign co-chair, told Cherwell, “Hertford’s accrediting as a Living Wage Employer is a hugely significant moment in our University’s progress towards fair pay, security, and respect for it’s lowest paid workers. It proves that there is no reason that an Oxford college committed to these basic principles should choose not to accredit as a Living Wage employer.”
He added, “We hope that Hertford proves to be an example for other colleges, and that this news will contribute to the growing conversation about the importance of accreditation in Oxford.”
Ruth Meredith, OUSU Vice-President for Charities and Community, told Cherwell, “I am incredibly pleased that Hertford have made the decision to listen to the voices of staff and students calling for them to become an accredited Living Wage employer.
“This term, OUSU’s Living Wage Campaign heard from scouts at Hertford what accreditation would mean to them. The responses mentioned being able to give up second jobs, not worrying so much about switching on the heating at night, and showing that staff are fully respected for the work they do. We applaud Hertford for listening to their staff, and would encourage other colleges to do the same.”
She added, “Hertford’s accreditation is recognition that paying a Living Wage to all members of our community at Oxford is vitally important, and completely possible.”
The College, which accredited to the scheme in November, had asked staff not to speak to the press about it. But a note leaked to Cherwell, addressed to the Governing Body from housekeeping staff, read “we would like to say how much we appreciate the hard work that has gone into getting the college staff onto the Living Wage. This is an issue very close to our hearts and we are very relieved to finally be awarded this increase.”
It went on, “We are very proud to hear that Hertford is the leading college to move forward in awarding the Living Wage to its lower paid staff and hope that all the other colleges will follow Hertford’s example.”
In Trinity term, 200 Hertford students signed an open letter to Hertford’s Principal, Will Hutton, calling for the College to become an accredited employer.
Commenting on the letter, outgoing JCR President Josh Platt remarked, “I would like to thank all who signed our open letter, or spoke to your tutors about this issue before it went to Governing Body, or helped with the campaign in any way. I would like to thank the fellows who, when presented with the possibility of accreditation, grabbed it with both hands, and worked tirelessly behind the scenes to iron out all of the finer details. Most of all, I’d like to thank all the staff at Hertford College, who make it such a wonderful place to live and work.
“Accreditation to the Living Wage is something for the entire college community to celebrate.”
Incoming JCR President Holly Redford Jones told Cherwell, “This is really great news.”
Queen’s College, Cambridge was the first Oxbridge College to become an accredited employer, earlier this year. OUSU also announced earlier this year that all its staff would be paid the Living Wage.
In order for an employer to become a Living Wage accredited employer, all staff and contracted staff must be paid the wage, and must then obtain an accreditation licence from the Living Wage Foundation. The Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University calculates the UK Living Wage, which is currently set at £7.85 per hour.
But campaigner Harry Coath pointed out, “This victory should be the first step in building a closer campaigning relationship with staff. The City Council calculates the ‘Oxford Living Wage’ at £8.36, whereas accreditation only guarantees £7.85. It is important that we continue to support staff where they have grievances, and to involve them in the campaigning process. I would like to see more permanent staff solidarity groups in colleges, perhaps existing as part of the JCR structure.”