The lowest paid employees have seen a 15 per cent increase in total emolument over the last six years, whilst the Vice-Chancellor’s pay has risen by almost 26 per cent.
Including benefits and employers’ contributions to the USS pension scheme, Brian Cantor, the University Vice-Chancellor, was paid £258,473 in 2011, up from £204,910 in 2006, whereas the lowest bracket was paid £16,163 last year rising from £14,014 in 2006.
Cantor’s pay is now 16 times higher than the lowest at the University. Six years ago the ratio was 14:1, however the increase seen in the last few years has moved the Vice-Chancellor’s pay above the median average difference in the sector.
The University has defended the greater increase in pay for the Vice-Chancellor, compared to the lowest bracket, by stating: “The Vice-Chancellor’s pay has for years been below the average of our competitors in the university sector.”
Tim Ellis, YUSU President, questioned whether the Vice-Chancellor has warranted the greater increase over the last few years.
“The high level of pay that our Vice-Chancellor receives is very worrying and shows an insensitivity to the financial difficulty that many students are currently facing, as well as many departments. While it is important that we attract the best candidates from the field to the top jobs at York, it is absurd that individuals should be getting paid such huge salaries and unfortunately this is a sad reflection of the environment across the Higher Education sector.”
Higher Education was recently identified as the sector where the gap between the highest and lowest paid staff was the greatest in a recent review of public sector pay by Will Hutton. The government-commissioned report stated that the median for Vice-Chancellor’s pay was 15.35 times that of the lowest paid staff.
“With such hefty pay increases year on year, I would ask whether the performance of our Vice-Chancellor has merited the increases?”
Tim Ellis, YUSU President
Figures obtained from an FOI request by the York Labour society also show that the number of University workers being paid below the Living Wage of £7.20 to be 154 in November last year. These are defined as ‘temporary’ or ‘casual’ workers that the University does not acknowledge as full employees.
The Living Wage is calculated from a family of four consisting of two adults, each working 40 hours a week, and two children. This amount has been identified as £8.30 an hour in London and £7.20 elsewhere – a significantly higher figure than the National Minimum Wage. These wages have been calculated by UK think tanks to provide an hourly sum that enables employees to supply the necessities for their families, and also to allow them to afford recreation.
Although the Living Wage is not a legal obligation, a campaign by Labour students has been increasing pressure upon institutions and businesses to look at paying a higher wage for their workers. In a recent visit to the University, last year, David Miliband spoke to the Vice-Chancellor about the payment of a Living Wage for all its workers.
Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the University and College Union, on the issue of executive pay stated: “All the main political party leaders are making strong arguments that executives’ pay should be subject to proper scrutiny, including by employee representatives. UCU sees no reason why this should not extend to higher education.”
Ellis added: “Furthermore, with such hefty pay increases year on year, I would ask whether the performance of our Vice-Chancellor has merited the increases? With higher fees and a student body that is quite rightly demanding more and more from our University, I would like to see much more money being put into the areas that need it, the areas that affect the students that make the University of York what it is.”
However, a University spokesperson outlined how the Vice-Chancellor “voluntary gift aids” a proportion of his pay back to the University: “The rates of pay for staff in grades 1-8 are determined by national negotiations over which the University has no direct control. The Vice-Chancellor’s salary is determined by a Remuneration Committee comprising lay members of the governing body. The Vice-Chancellor’s pay has for years been below the average of our competitors in the university sector.
“The Vice-Chancellor also voluntary gift aids part of his salary back to the University; if this were taken into account, the comparison between his salary and that of the lowest paid member of staff would look different.”
Other universities such as Queen Mary’s in London, however, have joined the Living Wage campaign. Professor Simon Gaskell, the Principal at Queen Mary’s, stated: “Paying the living wage and bringing the cleaning service in-house has brought dividends to Queen Mary. The college is cleaner, staff feel rewarded and the wider community – both on and off campus – have fully backed the idea.”
Rhiân Davies, York Labour Society Chair, explained the Living Wage movement: “The campaign comes from the Labour Students Organisation but the campaign we want to run is more focused on the ethicality of the wages of the lowest paid on campus.”