Hey everyone! The last week has been a super exciting one, as it has been Living Wage Week! Last Monday, the new Real Living Wage rate of £9 an hour was announced by the Living Wage Foundation. This rate is calculated by an independent commission in collaboration with Loughborough University. It calculates the rate needed to meet basic living costs. This is no luxury pay, particularly in Cambridge which is becoming an increasingly expensive city to live in, but pay which allows for basic supplies and resources to live above the poverty line.
Cambridge, in particular, is a difficult institution to tackle as each college or department works as a separate entity from the University itself. For example, even though the University has committed to living wage accreditation, only Queens’ College has further accredited. This means that we need to work on each individual college to ensure they’re paying the Real Living Wage to all of their workers. As students of this university, we are often too busy to really take time to appreciate all the work that is going on to support us throughout our time here. Without our cleaners, cooks, bed makers, and support staff, this university wouldn’t function. More importantly, staff deserve the dignity of fair pay; a failure to do so is exploitation. So why are so many of them still paid such low wages?
Of course, there is no legal requirement for Universities, businesses or institutions to pay the Living Wage, but this is an issue of workers’ rights and wellbeing. Without a happy and supported workforce, this university, its colleges and departments are failing its staff. In addition, the majority of workers on the lowest contracts will be women and people from marginalised backgrounds. In ensuring every worker is paid a fair living wage, the university will be reducing the inequality between the lowest paid, and those (overwhelmingly white men) who benefit from the highest pay. Not only is this about justice for workers, but about social justice and fighting for a fairer attitude to work within this university.
Over the past week, we have held two important events. The first was a rally outside the Senate House on Monday morning to celebrate the beginning of Living Wage Week. This was attended not only by students but also Alex Mayer (MEP) and Lewis Herbert (Cambridge City Council) who all called on the colleges to step up and pay the Real Living Wage to all their internal and outsourced staff members. Our second event was a panel event held on Wednesday which focused on low pay and precarious contracts within the service sector. We discussed the KCL cleaner’s dispute, the McStrike, and other issues for workers across universities and beyond. If you missed it, watch this important panel on playback here.
We will be holding our next open meeting at Jesus JCR on the 13th November. Please do come along, it will be open to all no matter how much you’ve been involved in already. We will be discussing the campaign so far, our successes and our drawbacks whilst using this to look towards the next couple of weeks. If you have any questions or accessibility requirements for the meeting, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We do have a long way to go in getting all the colleges to gain accreditation and further the movement for workers’ rights, but this week has been filled with inspiring words and actions for this movement. We have learnt how important it is to build a working relationship with the staff within our University and work together on the issues which affect them most. It is an uphill battle, but we will win because we are fighting for something which is right. Please do get involved with the Living Wage Campaign: you can like us on facebook or join our facebook group for more information.
We look forward to seeing you all at our next meeting on Tuesday!
Alice and Jake