By Clara Gaspar
Durham Labour Club (DULC) have renewed their campaign for the University and Students’ Union to afford all their staff a salary in line with the living wage.
The move comes one week after the national Living Wage Foundation’s announcement of a rise in the National Living Wage.
As of this year, the real UK Living Wage is £8.75 per hour outside London, while within the capital it is £10.20. These figures are an independently calculated representation of what people need to get by, as opposed to a government minimum.
This year, the DULC chose to target the SU with a petition, as well as using social media and distributing literature throughout colleges, requesting that the University pay all its employees the National Living Wage.
The petition, addressed to Gary Hughes, the Students’ Union’s Chief Executive, garnered over 200 signatures during the campaign.
In a statement published on Durham Students’ Union website, Charlie Walker, Opportunities Officer for the Students’ Union, also voiced his concerns with present wage levels.
He wrote: “The Students’ Union Assembly passed policy in 2014 to support the SU and the University paying all staff a Living Wage but neither the University nor the SU have acted on the issue since then. I believe that this situation is unacceptable and that we both should pay our staff the Living Wage.”
He added: “The government intends to increase their National Living Wage to £9 per hour by April 2020. It’s time for Durham to get ahead of that and start paying a real Living Wage as set by the Living Wage Foundation, because it’s only fair to be paid enough to live on for the work that you do.”
The campaign for the wider University to pay all of its staff the National Living Wage has a long history.
Durham University Labour Club launched its Living Wage Campaign in 2014, following a Freedom of Information request submitted by its members that revealed 13% of University employees were being paid less than the National Living Wage in 2011 (£7.20/hour).
In 2014, Durham University’s Students’ Union Assembly passed policy to support the Students’ Union and the University paying all staff a Living Wage. However, since then, neither Durham University nor the Students’ Union have made any commitment to this policy.
Joe Dharampal-Hornby, CoChair of Durham University’s Labour Club has stated:
“For years students have campaigned tirelessly for the University and the Students Union to pay all their employees a genuine living wage. Tuition fees are now £9,250/year, our Vice Chancellor earns £287,000, and rent in Durham is rising further, yet many staff are not paid enough to live on.
“This gross inequality is both unfair and quite frankly unsustainable. There was great enthusiasm around DULC’s recent campaign day, with over 200 students signing our petition specifically targeting the SU. We were delighted with their response and will keep up the pressure to ensure the policy is fully delivered. Moreover, DULC will continue to take to fight to the University, to ensure its pay structure rewards all its staff, not just a privileged few.”
The issue of pay has been also raised by Sabrina Seel, the Postgraduate Academic Officer.
“Postgraduates have not received a pay rise in nearly 10 years. Lots of them work almost twice as many hours per week than they are paid for by the University. Postgraduates deserve fair pay and conditions.”
In April, Education Secretary Kirsty Williams stated that “Universities should pay the living wage as part of a “civic mission””.
So far, the Universities of Oxford, Cardiff, Glasgow and LSE are a few of the higher education institutions that have pledged to pay all their staff in accordance with the Living Wage Foundation’s salaries.
Photograph: Joe Dharampal-Hornby