NUS and UNISON launch campaign for colleges, universities and student unions to pay at least Living Wage to employees

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The NUS and UNISON today said they would name and shame universities who pay their staff less than £7.20 an hour.

The campaign, which calls on all colleges, universities and students’ unions – including private contractors on campuses – across the UK to pay at least a Living Wage to all of their employees, is being launched at UNISON’s Higher Education Conference in Brighton.

It will see the two organisations creating a ‘league table’ of the worst offenders – those with the biggest gap between the lowest and highest paid staff.  The unions will also award those that do the right thing by giving a ‘kite mark’ to the colleges and universities that agree to pay the living wage.

NUS Vice-President Dannie Grufferty said: “There is clearly an inherent injustice in the average Vice-Chancellor getting paid more than 17 times more than a minimum wage employee on their campus.

“Colleges and universities are a community and everyone within that community needs to be treated with dignity and that means paying them a wage they can live on for their work.

“The difference between minimum wage and a living wage is the difference between constant money worries and being able to make ends meet. It also makes sense for employers who’ll see a rise in productivity and greater retention of staff.

“Employers at colleges and universities have six-months to get their house in order before we name and shame those that allow such shocking disparities to continue.”

Jon Richards, UNISON National Secretary for Education and Children’s’ Services, said: “It is time universities got their houses in order. Whilst top pay has skyrocketed – with some Vice Chancellors now earning over £300,000 – the lowest paid are on poverty wages. As educational institutions, they should know better. Low pay and inequality are at the heart of the huge problems that we face as a society today. We are determined that this disgraceful pay gap is closed.

“The Living Wage has been agreed as the bottom rate for Further Education workers, with the national employers body – the Association of Colleges (AoC).  I congratulate the AoC for their stance on this issue, and am today sending a strong message to College Principals that we are watching them – we expect them to honour this national rate.

“We will shine a light on those that do – but will name and shame the colleges that shirk their responsibilities to their staff and pay poverty wages. It is also now time for University leaders to do the right thing and endorse the living wage as the minimum rate of pay for higher education institutions. ”

The average yearly income of a university Vice-Chancellor in 2009/10 (the last year for which complete figures are available) was £218,813 and for a college principal it was £115,872 – though some earn significantly more than this. This compares to just £12,334 for a worker on the minimum wage doing a 40 hour week in 2009/10.

Even some of the UK’s most prestigious institutions are paying workers at poverty pay levels. At Cambridge University and its colleges – where local union officials estimate that over 1000 employees receive less than the living wage  – the Vice-Chancellor earns £249,000 a year. This is almost 20 times the salary of the lowest paid worker who earns an hourly wage of just £6.70 per hour.


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