It was announced this week that only four University departments have been recognised as paying all their employees the national Living Wage, two years after OUSU began campaigning on the issue.
The departments that pay all of their affiliated staff at least £7.45 an hour were presented with giant thank you cards by the Oxford Living Wage Campaign last Monday.
The vast majority of undergraduate and graduate departments, sub-departments, and faculties did not receive any recognition. This includes particularly large or prominent institutions such as the Saïd Business School and the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art.
The OUSU-led campaign was one of several around the country designed to kick off National Living Wage Week on Monday.
Although University policy ensures that all of its direct employees are paid a Living Wage, the campaign only recognised departments known not to be employing subcontracted cleaners at a lower rate.
The four Departments that received OUSU recognition were those of Biochemistry, Mathematics, Physics and the Blavatnik School of Government. On Monday afternoon, the campaign, headed by students Ruth Meredith and Andrew Gray, gave each of these departments a card signed by many different students and staff from departments and colleges around the University that support the campaign and their stance.
Despite the low numbers, OUSU Vice-President for Charities and Communities Dan Tomlinson was enthusiastic about the campaign and its importance:
“It is very important to celebrate those departments that have recognized the need for the Living Wage here in Oxford, where the cost of living and level of child poverty is so high”
He added that he was, “thrilled” by the number of department members who signed the cards and expressed pride in their department for stepping up and taking a stance against poverty pay. Over forty students took part in the presentations.
The Student Union itself came under fire earlier in the year, after it was discovered that a cleaner working in its building was paid 15 per cent less than the Living Wage. Although the cleaner was subcontracted by the University, then OUSU President-elect Tom Rutland stated he would:
“be working to spread the living wage as per the pledge I, and all the other sabbatical candidates, undertook as part of the hustings.”
When asked what the Student Union had done to rectify the situation, Tomlinson commented:
“Every member of staff that OUSU employs is paid a Living Wage. The University indirectly employs cleaners for a large number of University buildings, including our own, through a subcontractor and I have raised the issue of the Living Wage for these cleaners with University staff members. I am hopeful that when the University’s contract is renegotiated the people that clean the OUSU building will be paid the Living Wage.”
The Living Wage will be increased to £7.65 nationally in six months time everywhere but in London, which is at £8.80 to reflect the greater costs of living in the capital. This is an increase of 20p from the previous Living Wage and is more than a pound higher than the current legal minimum wage for those 21 and over, which is £6.31.
The campaign, has received the support of more than 400 companies and charities nationwide, such as Oxfam, KPMG, and Barclays.
The Oxford campaign was founded in 2006 by a group of students from Balliol and received OUSU affiliation in 2011. It also gained attention that year by protesting at Oxford’s three Tesco’s stores in an attempt to encourage a change in their wage policies.
The national movement has gained some high-profile political supporters, such as Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and London mayor Boris Johnson. The former Oxford Union President said of the campaign earlier this week that its progress is “good for London’s productivity and growth” and that he finds it “extremely heartening to see major new companies signed up this year”.