A top journalist and filmmaker has put his weight behind the pay war this week, calling the wage rates at some Oxford colleges a “disgrace”.
Tariq Ali – who debated with Henry Kissinger during the Vietnam War – has signed The Oxford Student’s petition refusing to donate any money to colleges that do not pay all staff a Living Wage.
He said: “The hourly ‘living’ wage being suggested is in itself barely adequate, but what employees are being paid is a disgrace especially by Oxford colleges who pay enormous amounts by comparison to those who help them raise even more funds to keep going.”
He added that he was “happy to sign…put my name down!” to a request to join the campaign.
Ali, 68, is an alumnus of Exeter College, where he studied PPE in the 1960s before becoming a radical figure on the political scene. Vehemently against the Vietnam war and other American conflicts, he has written screenplays for the BBC and for the Oliver Stone documentary South of the Border.
A second year PPE-ist at Wad- ham said: “Tariq’s ideas are to be celebrated. We cannot support any college that does not respect its workers. Oxford has been a symbol of unfair privilege for too long. We must push the remaining colleges to value their workers and the best way to do this is to encourage people to donate to colleges that do pay the living wage.”
Earlier this year requests made under the Freedom of Information Act found that scouts at Exeter are paid as little as £6.69 an hour – over 50p less than the £7.20 calculated as a “Living Wage”. Staff at the College told reporters that they found themselves “living off credit cards” to make ends meet, and that they felt ignored by Exeter authorities. One scout said: “Every week at staff meeting we say we aren’t earning enough but are ignored.”
The Living Wage rate – calculated by the Institute for Social Policy research at Loughborough University – takes into account housing, childcare, food, accommodation and council tax costs outside London.
Ali is among 80 students and alumni who have signed a petition refusing to donate to any college that does not pay all staff a Living Wage.
A spokesperson for Exeter College said: “If our staff were seriously underpaid compared with other similar employers, they would leave us more often than is currently the case. We therefore believe that we reward our staff at the going rate, especially when we include the fringe benefits and other perks that this College provides.”
Robert Natzler, a first year Univ student and assistant chair of the OUSU Living Wage Committee, also signed the petition. He said: “ Whilst some colleges do pay a Liv- ing Wage when the perks their staff are presented with are taken into account, I for one would certainly never dream of donating to a college that paid less than a Living Wage after perks – and would certainly have second thoughts over any college that didn’t give its staff members a choice between a low-paid perk- rich job and the Living Wage rate.”
You can sign the petition here: http:// www.gopetition.com/petitions/the- oxford-student-join-the-wage-war. html