Should the University of Nottingham pay the Living Wage?


Hundreds of UoN staff this winter will have struggled to heat their homes and pay for Christmas. These are staff we come into contact with every day; they serve us coffee in Hallward, lunch in Portland, and willfully wade through our mess when cleaning rooms in halls. The University has decided that these vital staff are not worth a wage that enables them to live free of working poverty.

A Living Wage would make a tangible difference; all could support themselves and their families without being forced to rely on payday loans or food banks, as reports from Unison campus representatives have suggested some do. It would also help relieve the chronic worry and stress that comes from trying to make ends meet.

“The building of a £20 million De Vere hotel on campus appears a higher priority than fair pay for its employees.”

The University can afford this. In 2012, UoN’s budget surplus for the year was £24 million, but the building of a £20 million De Vere hotel on campus appears a higher priority than fair pay for its employees. In 2012 Vice-chancellor David Greenaway was awarded £331,000, while for many of the lowest paid at our University living costs are rising and their real wages falling.

The Living Wage could benefit the University in general. An independent study examining the benefits of the Living Wage found that it reduced absenteeism by 25%, and 75% of employers reported an increase in the quality of their employees’ work. The University has a chance to show it is a responsible, ethical employer.

“An elite institution like UoN should be taking the lead in this important debate.”

At the heart of the Living Wage is a new way of thinking about employment: employers have a duty to pay their staff not just the minimum they can get away with, but a wage that actually reflects living costs. An elite institution like UoN should be taking the lead in this important debate. It should be proud to stand up and say that it supports its staff and the communities they live in. At the moment, it belongs to club of just five UK universities that employ more than 500 staff below a Living Wage. As students we should stand with the lowest paid on our campus and demand a better deal.

Michael Pugh



Artificially inflating wages could be deeply harmful to the very people we want to help, and even to students.

There are stark wage disparities at UoN, but despite the claims of many on the Left, this wage disparity is not a personal attack or an ideological stance. David Greenaway’s salary is justified by the fact that he could command a similarly high wage at another organisation. Without his high salary, his skill-set would lead him elsewhere.

“If the Living Wage were applied on a national scale, the results could be disastrous.”

In the face of a higher wage floor, those employees who are already earning the Living Wage will demand a proportionate pay rise. This sparks an upward-spiral. UoN would face a university-wide increase in salaries, and a significant dent in funds which are vital for investing in important research and the future of students.

If the Living Wage were applied on a national scale, the results could be disastrous. In seeking to meet the costs of higher wages, companies will increase the price of consumer goods, reduce shifts, and cut jobs. Research undertaken by the IPPR/Resolution Foundation predicts 160,000 job losses if the Living Wage were to be introduced in the UK, which is a 0.5% reduction in employment. Many of these jobs will be for people with low-skills: often students, and those struggling at the very bottom.

“It is unlikely that we will be able to implement even a means-tested Living Wage without a wage and price spiral.”

It is unlikely that we will be able to implement even a means-tested Living Wage without a wage and price spiral. Instead, workers improving their skills and demanding higher wages in better jobs is a credible alternative which does not involve calamitous meddling with the nature of the market.

Rob Moher


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Image: Martin Sylvester

3 Comments on this post.
  • Jeff Winger
    8 February 2014 at 22:37
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    Rob Moher ignores that fact that those on low wages have to have recourse to the benefits system to top up their incomes so that they can keep a roof over their head, food on the table, clothe the children etc. People like him live in a paradoxical world where they demand low taxes and low pay for workers. You can’t have both if you wish to alleviate poverty. Either pay low wages but have a higher benefits bill / taxes, or have higher wages but a lower benefits bill / taxes.

    It’s interesting that conservatives like him opposed the introduction of a minimum wage in the late 1990s. Guess the reason they gave for their opposition? The exact reasons given here. They were proven wrong. It’s interesting that the Chancellor is considering a rise from £6.31 to £7.00 (which isn’t far off the living wage at £7.65) What does Robert think of this? Is he thinking to Tories may cause mass unemployment? The National Minimum Wage has not risen in line with inflation / the cost of living since 2009. That’s 5 years of reduced incomes for the lowest paid. But Robert doesn’t offer any solutions to increased poverty and food banks.

  • Barbara Walters
    27 February 2014 at 14:48
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    I think Rob Moher has missed the point. The idea that adopting a living wage will lead to wage inflation is ludicrous – people on minimum wage aren’t paid enough to provide for themselves and their families, paying someone enough money to buy food and pay their bills wouldn’t inspire greed!

    I also want to point something out: the university is a CHARITY, it receives numerous tax cuts and benefits because of this. To be a charity, an organisation has to benefit the wider community, not just the students. How on earth can a charitable organisation benefit the wider community if it doesn’t pay it’s employees enough to live on? Paying employees a living wage means that they have more money to spend, shops and businesses in Nottingham would benefit from this too, not just UoN employees.

    I don’t understand how a student at a top university can feel comfortable arguing against a living wage for employees of that university. All of the staff who have made your canteen food, the gardeners who made the campus look so impressive on your open day, it’s those people who you’re dismissing! You expect to earn a good wage when you graduate, and I’d argue that everyone should expect to earn at least enough to provide for themselves and their families.

    On a side note, this campaign isn’t talking about implementing it nationwide (although obviously that is the ultimate aim of the Living Wage supporters), so talking about people losing their jobs across the entire country is a misleading deflection.

    The university can afford it, why not pay employees enough to live on? I can’t quite believe that someone could oppose that. As the previous poster said, these are tired arguments that were used when the minimum wage was considered ‘ludicrous’. Would you get rid of the minimum wage now?

  • Josh
    22 March 2014 at 08:36
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    They should get paid what they deserve- for most of them, next to nothing. Currently students are paying £9k for substandard teaching and no pastoral care. Ive only had 1 professor who I would call a good teacher at Notts.

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