Home News EXCLUSIVE: University paying hundreds of staff ‘poverty wages’

EXCLUSIVE: University paying hundreds of staff ‘poverty wages’

Image credit: The Living Wage Foundation
Image credit: The Living Wage Foundation

Over 300 staff employed by the University do not earn the living wage as of June 2013, a Freedom of Information request (FOI) submitted by Exeposé has revealed.

Unlike the minimum wage, which stands at £6.19 an hour, the living wage is calculated according to the basic cost of living, including necessities like accommodation, food and clothing.

The principle has cross party agreement in Parliament and boasts David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Boris Johnson as vocal supporters. Various other universities, including Loughborough, Queen Mary and UCL, have voluntarily agreed to pay all of their staff the living wage, alongside numerous higher education colleges and student unions.

But 302 Exeter staff earn under the £7.45 an hour threshold, with one apprentice being paid as little as £2.77.

Despite six of these staff members earning less than the minimum wage, the University is breaking no laws because apprentices are not subject to the legislation brought in under the previous government.

A further five apprentices earn £6.19 exactly – which remains a full £1.26 per hour less than the living wage.

The bulk of the 302 low paid workers are cleaners or catering/retail/domestic assistants, though the University did not break the statistics down further. 58 of those staff members are paid £7.11 an hour, with a further 233 earning £0.18 more.

A University spokesman said only: “we are actively considering the living wage, but will need to discuss further with the unions.”

The University also highlighted how pay rates are negotiated at a national level, through Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff.

The revelations come as the University continues to invest heavily in new facilities, with hundreds of millions of pounds being poured into developments over the past few years, raising questions about where funding should go.

In a piece published today, Exeposé’s Online Comment Editor, James Bennett, notes the cost of the Forum and argues that the disparity between this and low staff pay is indefensible. He concludes that: “as a student population we should encourage the Guild to put pressure on the University to take up the voluntary living wage scheme.”

Freedom Society’s President, Liam Taylor, disagrees, suggesting there is nothing wrong with the University’s pay rates.

“A living wage sounds like a nice idea on paper when times are tough. Unfortunately the economic reality is that it doesn’t work and would do more harm than good by costing jobs,” he said.

The statistics will nonetheless place the spotlight on the University’s ethical obligations, and a number of other political societies have hinted at launching future campaigns in relation to staff pay.

Debating Society have said they would consider putting forward a relevant motion at a later event, whilst Labour Students, Liberal Democrat Society and Socialist Students have expressed concerns. All three groups are considering lobbying the University in response to the news.

SocStu co-President Carlus Hudson described the statistics as “outrageous,” suggesting that his society would put pressure on the University “to pay all of its staff the living wage.”

“Paying poverty wages is a totally unacceptable way to treat staff who are essential for keeping one of the highest ranking universities in the country running,” he added.

A detailed list of staff working for less than £7.45 per hour is pictured below.

Harrison Jones, Online News Editor

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Click to enlarge
The full run down of staff members paid less than the living wage (click to enlarge).
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