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Surrey Labour Students Campaign for Living Wage For University Workers

Published on: 2 Oct, 2012
Updated on: 12 Oct, 2012

Living Wage campaigners at the The University of Surrey

Surrey Labour Students have re-launched their campaign to persuade the University of Surrey to gain accreditation as a Living Wage employer. The University say that they already pay all employees the Living Wage and are keeping accreditation under review.

During a ‘day of action’ on the University’s campus, students gathered close to the Vice-Chancellor’s office to discuss the campaign and listen to speeches. Around 500 students and staff have signed a petition in support.

Shabana Mahmood MP, speaking in support of the campaign

Labour’s Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Shabana Mahmood MP, spoke alongside Donald Hirsch, the Director at the Centre for Research in Social Policy which has worked on formulating the policy associated with a Living Wage.

The Living Wage currently stands at £7.20 an hour outside of London. This figure indicates the wage which will provide a comfortable standard of living to an ordinary adult family and it is calculated annually by an independent group of academics.

Many of the University’s staff are currently paid over £7.20 an hour, but without accreditation there is no commitment to continue paying wages at this level.

Chair of Surrey Labour Students, Alex Wilks, said: “It’s important that the University of Surrey commits to paying a Living Wage to all staff, not only this year but in future years too. Accreditation will give staff and contractors a guarantee that they will be paid a fair wage for a fair day’s work.

“Surrey is one of the most expensive places to live and work in the UK, and as one of Guildford’s largest employers the University of Surrey has a responsibility to look after its staff. The University has enjoyed great success in recent years, but this would not have been possible without the fantastic work done by its cleaners, security staff and others.”

A spokesman for the University of Surrey said: “All employees of the University are paid at least the Living Wage. We are keeping the idea of a formal accreditation for this under review at the moment.

“We also pay a generous pension contribution to our employees on top of the salary element. This reflects our belief that it is important to support our staff properly for the excellent work they do.

“We are very keen to support the University community of students and staff, using our resources to deliver the best possible experience for all.”

A number of universities across the UK have pledged to pay a living wage in recent months, including the University of Manchester. Other universities, including the London School of Economics and many institutions within the University of London also pay their staff a Living Wage.

Surrey Labour Students hope to continue their dialogue with the Vice-Chancellor in the coming weeks.

Speaking in support of the students campaign, Shabana Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Ladywood, said: “I’m really pleased to be able to support Surrey Labour Students in their Living Wage campaign on behalf of all University of Surrey staff.

“The Living Wage makes a massive difference to the lives of the lowest-paid workers, especially in Guildford where living costs are high. We should be relentless in our pursuit of a Living Wage at the University of Surrey.”

Donald Hirsch, one of the creators of the Living Wage concept takes his turn to address campaigners

One of the central figures in the creation of the Living Wage, Donald Hirsch, said: “Our research shows clearly that the National Minimum Wage cannot provide people in Britain with an adequate standard of living. A Living Wage of £7.20 an hour is about giving everyone the opportunity of a decent lifestyle that allows them to fully participate in society.”

A campaign spokesperson said: “Although the campaign is run by the Surrey Labour Students’ society, it is non-political and has cross-party support including gained an endorsement from the university’s Conservative Society earlier this year.”

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