Students challenge University over policy on Living Wage accreditation

A University official has confirmed the University is unlikely to become a Living Wage accredited employer

Students from the Green Party, Liberal Democrats, Labour, Socialists and Quakers campus societies have urged the University to ensure greater equality in the pay of all staff.

However, a University official has confirmed that the University is highly unlikely to apply for Living Wage accreditation.

Image: Nouse

Image: Nouse

Being awarded the Living Wage Employer mark would ensure that every member of staff employed by the University of York is paid a salary of £7.85 an hour.

According to David Duncan, University Registrar and Secretary, the University currently pays all its staff at rates above those set by the Living Wage Foundation (LWF).

However, staff employed by York Conferences Limited (YCL), a subsidiary company for the University of York, are not included in the University’s policy to pay a minimum of the Living Wage to all employees.

Duncan confirmed that some staff employed by YCL are paid slightly lower than the Living Wage equivalent, due to the fact that the company is not required to pay it to its employees. Employees of YCL include those in catering, such as the Costa in the Roger Kirk Centre, the running of sports facilities, retail outlets such as Nisa, Design and Print and conferencing.

Duncan said: “YCL has to compete with other businesses in the city where wage rates and conditions are significantly worse.

“In addition, the trading year on campus is constrained by the fact that more than 80 per cent of students are off campus for at least 12 weeks a year.

“Our policy is to take account of the LWF rates in our annual negotiations with the campus trade unions, but not to guarantee that we will always follow the LWF’s recommendations.”

However, Sam Maguire, YUSU President, said: “This does not mean that it isn’t something that the Union should pursue if the students think it is the right thing to do.”

Stuart Maule, coordinator of the student-led Living Wage campaign, said he felt that the use of YCL as a subsidiary “is a tactic the University of York has used to avoid paying the Living Wage to those it is aimed to support the most”.

He added: “When students made demands to the University to pay the Living Wage to all its staff, the University effectively created a loophole by expanding YCL’s operations and shifted University of York positions to YCL.”

Maule also expressed his concerns about the University’s refusal to communicate with students backing the campaign. He told Nouse: “The University of York has behaved with total disregard for safeguarding their most vulnerable members of staff.”

He called the University’s policy to acknowledge the LWF for all employees a “refusal to make any commitment to its most vulnerable staff at a time when the salary of the Vice-Chancellor is higher than ever before.”

In 2013, YUSU passed a policy that aimed to implement the Living Wage for all YUSU employed staff. There are plans to hold a referendum on whether the University and its subsidiaries should pay all its staff the Living Wage.

4 comments

  1. All “YUSU” employed staff… but not “YUSU Commercial Services”? Now why does that sound so familiar…?

    Reply Report

    • 8 Mar ’15 at 9:01 pm

      Jaunty Times

      @John Smith
      Now I’m pretty sure that if you check the facts you will find out that all FT YUSU comm services staff are paid over the living wage and have done for a long time. Their student staff are paid the student living wage (also an accredited rate) that tracks £1 under the National Living Wage. At present this equates to £6.85 per hour – try finding any where else in York that will pay this to an 18 year year old fresh from home that hasn’t had a job before when the national minimum wage for someone like this is a shocking £5.13 an hour.

      Reply Report

      • Student living wage isn’t accredited, as it’s recognised by no-one except YUSU. One of the aims of the referendum was to get some actual research behind it, rather than it being plucked out of thin air. We’ll see how that goes.

        Reply Report

  2. “According to David Duncan, University Registrar and Secretary, the University currently pays all its staff at rates above those set by the Living Wage Foundation (LWF)”

    I think it’s so disappointing that a) David Duncan refuses to acknowledge that YCL staff are ’employees’ of the University – of course they are, by extension – and these staff provide so many of the services that students use and value every day, and b) that DD is prepared to come up with such flaky excuses for not providing the Living Wage to YCL staff. The University has a responsibility to choose subsidiaries that are ethical (as far as they can be) and if YCL are inflexible, they need to be lobbied or other subsidiaries need to be investigated and considered. With Koen Lamberts’ salary of a modest (ahem) £236k, you could pay 14 people for a year on the Living Wage. ‘Nuff said.

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