St Anne’s JCR passed a motion on Sunday, stating its support for the College paying its staff the Oxford Living Wage, which it currently does not do. The motion’s passage marks a victory for the St Anne’s Oxford Living Wage campaign group.
They aim to persuade the College to move from paying staff the National Living Wage in favour of a figure more in line with Oxford’s relatively high cost of living.
Members of the group, Izzy Colletta, Philomena Wills, Matthias Barker, and Grace Tierney, said they were “very pleased that our JCR has agreed to support the Oxford Living wage motion. We are hopeful this will help to move the campaign forward, towards securing sufficient wages for all college staff. We hope that other college JCRs will also follow suit and that support of the JCR student body will convince College to pay its staff a living wage for this city.”
The Oxford Living Wage is an hourly minimum pay for all workers currently set at a rate of £10.02 per hour, in contrast to the National Living Wage figure of £8.21. Through it, employees would receive a minimum annual pay of £19,278 for working a 37 hour week.
Oxford City Council have operated an employer recognition scheme for those that have adopted the Oxford Living Wage for their employees. Currently the only Oxford colleges accredited by the Council for doing so are St Cross, Blackfriars and Campion Hall.
According to one individual involved in the running of St Anne’s, some colleges have taken issue with the Council’s calculation of the Oxford Living Wage as standing at 95% of the London Living Wage, questioning how this figure has been calculated.
Concerns have also been raised by colleges regarding how their budgets could cope with the increased expenditure on staff wages. The St Anne’s Living Wage campaign group, however, believe that it is possible, if not easy, for college budgets to adapt to the change.
The St Anne’s College annual report on the 2017-18 year, shows a budget surplus before depreciation of £3.4m for the year ending 31 July 2018. The report states that: “the objective remains to increase the accumulated surplus to help fund an enhanced capital expenditure programme of student room provision and build a buffer against unforeseen adverse events on any of the income streams.”
Some students have suggested using this surplus to pay for staff earning the Oxford Living Wage, instead of on increasing capital expenditure. St Anne’s remains the only college that utilises a living wage levy on students (currently set at £3 per term for each student) in order to pay their staff the National Living Wage.
The levy was instituted in the 2017-18 academic year, after the passage of motion by the JCR, as the College was not at that time paying its staff that amount. Speaking about the levy, the Campaign Group said: “We think that reducing staff salary to the status of a charitable levy is both irresponsible and demeaning. It is patronising to include a levy for something as significant as a Living Wage in a category that includes funding for punts and maintenance of our JCR.”
The passage of the motion occurs at a time of campaigning across the University in favour of the Oxford Living Wage, as the Oxford Living Wage Campaign has committed to increased action on the matter in the coming weeks.
Statistics published by the Living Wage Foundation suggest the taking up of a Living Wage would be beneficial: 75% of businesses paying the living wage say it has increased motivation and retention rates for employees.