Eight colleges are set to raise hourly wages in line with the latest measure to increase the living wage in Oxford by 10%. This is part of a series of measures by the Council to promote wage fairness in the local economy. The new Oxford Living Wage will be raised to £12.49 an hour, and be pegged at 95% of the London Living Wage, currently £13.15.
The Oxford Living Wage, first introduced by the City Council in 2008, is part of the broader Oxfordshire Inclusive Economy Partnership between local government and civil society, to promote equality & sustainable opportunities across the county.
Oxford’s colleges have long been criticised on the grounds of labour rights. A student-led campaign for better wages and conditions in University employment, Oxford Worker Justice, has drawn attention to issues such as the lack of transparency over precisely how much non-academic workers at the colleges are paid, as well as over the use of zero-hour contracts and agency staff.
An annual ranking of colleges published by Oxford Worker Justice finds low pay, insecure contracts, and massive wage inequalities to be prevalent across the majority of colleges. Past investigations by Cherwell, meanwhile, have brought light to exploitative labour practices and stressful workplace conditions among University housekeepers in the “scout system”.
Additionally, the City Council’s employer recognition incentive, that encourages employers who pay the Oxford Living Wage to accredit so they can get wider recognition, indicates that less than 25% of Oxford’s 38 colleges have been accredited. From a list of over 120 accredited employers, only Magdalen, Merton, New, Somerville, St. Cross, St. John’s , Wadham, Worcester Colleges appear, in addition to local businesses frequented by students, such as Common Ground Cafe & the Old Fire Station arts hub.
As an incentive, the Council argues that providing a living wage may help businesses “improve both recruitment and retention.” Research from the Living Wage Foundation backs this up; 75% of surveyed employers reported that paying a living wage had increased workers’ motivation and retention rates, while 94% felt that it had benefited their business overall.
Set to come in from April 2024, all businesses will be accredited through a recognition scheme, operated by Oxford City Council and the nationwide Living Wage Foundation.