Emerging disparity between University employee salaries

The divide between the highest and lowest paid employees at the University has been growing over the last six years as the Vice-Chancellor has seen a 10 per cent greater increase in his salary compared to the lowest paid workers at the University of York

CARLOS62

CARLOS62

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.

Jonathan Frost

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.”

13 comments

  1. “The rates of pay for staff in grades 1-8 are determined by national negotiations over which the University has no direct control.”

    Hah, this is such a rubbish excuse. Firstly, even if the rates of pay for these grades aren’t determined by the university, there are ‘spine points’ within the grades. Presumably the university could do what UCL have done and basically ‘delete’ the lowest two spine points that fall below the living wage:
    http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/salary_scales/final_grades.php

    Secondly, for staff that are not directly employed by the university, the uni no doubt has options over which company to select to do work for them. They should select those which pay the living wage, (or near to it), or at least those with relatively low pay ratios between the highest and lowest paid members of staff in the company.

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  2. Mr. Sharp, you are right.

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  3. There’s a spare Knighthood going if Brian fancies it?

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  4. Wow, Nouse suddenly became very left-wing… Using a Labour Club press release as their front page, then having one of their member co-write it.

    I’m perfectly happy with the VC earning 16x as much as the lowest paid cleaner on campus, his job is 16x times as important and his wage has only risen a little above inflation over the last five years. I can understand this being on the last page of news but front page? Really? Ouch.

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  5. I wouldn’t take any notice of campaigns against unfairness by Labour. They gave me a Knighthood in the first place whilst they were cosying up to the bankers and city. It’s only now that they are in opposition that unfairness really matters to them.

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  6. Edmilibandwagon.

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  7. In response to Tim Ellis’ waffle:

    “Students at York have questioned whether the YUSU President has warranted the huge payrise over the last few years.

    “The high level of pay that our President 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.”

    Works both ways…

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  8. “I’m perfectly happy with the VC earning 16x as much as the lowest paid cleaner on campus, his job is 16x times as important and his wage has only risen a little above inflation over the last five years.”

    How did you calculate that his job is 16x as important, out of interest? If the cleaners didn’t turn up to work for a month, I can assure you far more people would notice than if the VC didn’t. Of course, in the long-run it’s important to have a VC who is capable of implementing a strategy that benefits the university, and it seems Brian Cantor is doing this reasonably well.

    I don’t have an issue with people being paid a lot to do difficult jobs, but the living wage is about encouraging employers to pay their staff a decent wage if they can afford to do so. A small increase in income for people on the lowest wages clearly makes a much bigger difference to the quality of their and their family’s lives than an equivalent increase to someone already earning a lot.

    This is hardly a left-wing issue; afterall, the coalition agree with this final point, which is why they’re rightly increasing the personal allowance before you have to pay income tax.

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  9. @ James Rogan.

    ‘his job is 16x times as important’

    Based on what criteria? It’s of no use ordering the construction of a shiny new Ron Cooke Hub Megacentre if it’s got shit smeared all over the walls.

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  10. Of course his job is more important. If every cleaner (despite the fact that they do good jobs) left tomorrow, every position would be filled by someone who would do the job equally well. You can slag BC off all you want, but in an environment that has become more and more hostile over the past decade he has spearheaded York’s continued success. The University has expanded; won Times University of the Year; secured loads of research income; maintained roughly the same league-table position; and churned out loads of good graduates. Not an easy task

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  11. £16k is quite a high ‘lowest wage’ and £258k is pretty reasonable for someone at the top of a successful ‘company’. With that £258k the VC will be paying about £115k in tax and NI supporting NHS/state schools for those in the lower tax bands whilst presumably using private health care and private education.

    People shouldn’t be so greedy and worry about what others earn and focus on making money for themselves.

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  12. @Anon

    That’s exactly what I do… I don’t care about what anyone else earns, I only care about my own earnings. It’s a sound methodology if you ask me!

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  13. “£16k is quite a high ‘lowest wage’ and £258k is pretty reasonable for someone at the top of a successful ‘company’.”

    I believe the actual lowest salary is around £14k, though the ‘benefits and employers’ contributions to the USS pension scheme’ increase the value of it. Here’s a current job advert for cleaners:

    https://jobs.york.ac.uk/wd/plsql/wd_portal.show_job?p_web_site_id=3885&p_web_page_id=142245

    Still, £14k is not a *relatively* bad level for a lowest wage. But as I said: ‘A small increase in income for people on the lowest wages clearly makes a much bigger difference to the quality of their and their family’s lives than an equivalent increase to someone already earning a lot.’

    For a single person £14k is ok. If they’ve got to feed and house a family, it’s a different issue. Someone in this situation would likely be claiming tax credits worth hundreds or thousands of pounds a year. So paying them a living wage would mean the government could:
    (a)Let them keep the full tax credits alongside their higher wage
    or
    (b)Cut (some of) the tax credits and then use the savings to
    (i)cut the national deficit
    and/or
    (ii) spend it elsewhere
    and/or
    (ii)reduce income tax or other taxes

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