Several campaigners and supporters of the University of Nottingham’s (UoN) Living Wage/Anti Casual Employment Campaign leafleted in Trent Courtyard ahead of the Union Council’s meeting on Tuesday 2nd February.
The campaign consists of the local group Nottingham Citizens, UNITE, Unison, and University and College Union (UCU) trade unions associated with University staff, as well as students from various societies.
Their principal demand is that the University acknowledges their motivations and cooperates with them towards improving its employment conditions by implementing the Living Wage for its lowest paid staff and permanent employment contracts for University teaching staff.
The University of Nottingham currently remains an unaccredited Living Wage employer despite rival Russell Group institutions such as Kings College London, the London School of Economics, and University College London being among 17 universities with Living Wage accreditation.
Based on figures provided by the University and a headcount of employees paid below the minimum wage, assumed to work full time for the purposes of estimation, it would only cost the University at most £650,000 to pay its staff the Living Wage.
“Despite the £25 million surplus gained by the University in the last academic year, the number of employees paid below the Living Wage has risen”
However, despite the £25 million surplus gained by the University in the last academic year, the number of employees paid below the Living Wage has since risen from 711 to 745.
According to the proposal document compiled by the campaign, as of last August, low paid workers receive £7.93 per hour.
This is by no means the first campaign effort for the implementation of the Living Wage within the University. Scott Jennings, President of UoN Left Society and Chair of the Student Living Wage Campaigners, was involved with a previous campaign effort in 2013 which centred primarily on student campaigners and trade unions associated with University teaching and research staff.
Speaking to Impact, Scott said that the campaign had “presented a petition of 2,500 signatures to the University which they ignored”.
He added that the campaign, founded by Young Greens, Labour Students Nottingham and UoN Left Society in 2012, was “relaunched in 2015” after its previously unsuccessful petition to the University, and now comprises “a much tighter working group, including UoN Feminists, Socialist Students Nottingham, Palestinian Society and Oxfam”.
“The realisation that the lowest paid staff members may have had to leave employment or take second jobs […] can be upsetting for students”
Rachel Hoskins, Communications Manager of UoN Feminists, shared that in her experience, “the realisation that the lowest paid staff members may have had to leave employment or take second jobs to support themselves and their families can be upsetting for students who appreciate their work”.
Concerns have also been raised by Andreas Bieler, Professor of Political Economy in the School of Politics and International Relations and the Vice President of the UCU, who voiced his discontent to Impact about the University’s proposition to franchise foundation courses to a private provider and the potential for this to lead to lower pensions.
Andreas has been instrumental in identifying the key manifesto points of the current campaign based on a variety of personal testimonials collected from the University’s teaching staff.
“Theo Winston spoke of the ‘importance of students relating to issues of social justice'”
Theo Winston, Treasurer of Socialist Students Nottingham, spoke of the “importance of students relating to issues of social justice within the local community beyond the boundaries of campus”.
He hopes that the Living Wage Campaign, having joined the Anti Casualisation Campaign, will increase the visibility of Socialist Students Nottingham on campus, as well as other groups that advocate social justice.
Whether or not there is a consensus amongst the trade unions and students as to the suitability of a conflation between the Anti Casualisation campaign and the Living Wage campaign, the one thing everyone seems to agree on is the fact that more students and staff, whether they are teachers, researchers, or low paid workers, need to get involved.
The University of Nottingham has been contacted for a comment on its position and invited to respond.
Image: UoN Living Wage Campaign via Facebook