On Sunday, St Anne’s JCR voted for a motion to “call on the college to pay all staff the Oxford Living wage of £9.69 per hour, and to become a certified Living Wage employer”. The motion passed with 29 votes in favour and 2 against.
The motion noted that Oxford has one of the highest costs of living in the country, proven by an analysis by Lloyds Bank on housing affordability in 2017 that found Oxford to be the most expensive city to live in the UK.
Employers that are certified “Living Wage employers” must pay their workers a Living Wage and pledge to increase wages within 6 months of a recalculation of the figure. The Living Wage is recalculated every year in line with rises in the cost of living.
Oxford City Council announced a new Oxford Living Wage rate of £9.69 per hour which will apply until April 2018. Due to the high cost of living in Oxford, the Oxford Living Wage is higher than the Living Wage (£8.75) and is set at 95% of the London Living Wage (£10.20). These rates are voluntary and set by the Living Wage Foundation.
Current colleges that are Living Wage accredited are Christ Church, Hertford, Mansfield, Merton, Oriel, Queen’s, Somerville, St Cross, St Hilda’s, University and Wadham.
The Living Wage is separate to the National Minimum Wage (NMW) and the National Living Wage (NLW) which are made compulsory by the government. In April 2018, the NLW, which only applies to those over 25, will be raised from £7.50 to £7.83. Those under 25 are still paid the NMW.
Currently, St Anne’s pays permanently contracted staff the NLW and has an advertised wage of “£7.50 per hour plus 0.91p per hour holiday pay” for the vacant role of “Casual Kitchen Porter/Wash-up” on their website.
Tom Zagoria, proposer of the motion and former co-chair of Oxford University Labour Club (OULC), gave the following statement to the Oxford Student: “It’s terrific to see Anne’s students so enthusiastically supporting a real Living Wage. The basic principle that every worker must be paid at least enough to live in this city shouldn’t be controversial. This is only a first step however, and I hope that the Anne’s community continues to actively get behind justice for our lowest paid workers.”
An open letter was circulated before the meeting and, at the time of writing, has accrued 185 signatures.
The letter read: “We, as members of the St. Anne’s community, call for all staff at our college to be paid at least enough to get by in Oxford. That means paying the Oxford Living Wage of £9.69 per hour to both casual and contracted workers. It also means becoming a Living Wage Foundation certified employer, which guarantees the security that wages will rise along with cost of living.
“Across the country, 8 million people in working families live in poverty. Oxford is the least affordable city in the United Kingdom to live in, and too many in this city are simply not paid enough to live and support their dependents. St. Anne’s College must not be a part of those statistics, and it must guarantee a real Living Wage for all workers.
“We therefore urge our College to take immediate steps towards becoming an official Living Wage employer, and towards raising pay to a minimum of £9.69 per hour. We do this out of respect and gratitude for the contribution that all staff make towards our college, and out of a belief that St. Anne’s should be a force for social justice in our community.”