Protests as Durham University fails to pay 600 workers the Living Wage

Protestors demonstrate against Durham University refusing to pay the Living Wage.
Protestors demonstrate against Durham University refusing to pay the Living Wage.
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UNION members and students in Durham joined forces to lobby university bosses over pay.

Unison organised the protest over the refusal by Durham University to pay the Living Wage to almost 600 of its lowest paid workers.

At £7.65 an hour, the Living Wage is calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK and is higher than the national minimum wage.

The University of Sunderland pays the Living Wage, but Unison says Durham bosses are making excuses.

Clare Williams, Unison regional representative, said: “The university has ran out of excuses for not paying hard-working staff the Living Wage, yet here we are again having to protest. The university is not an employer that is struggling financially.

“Despite the fact the deputy vice chancellor co-wrote a paper on helping disadvantaged communities and the importance of paying the Living Wage, being present at the North East’s first Living Wage summit in November and the university hosting a distinguished annual lecture on the Living Wage, the university continues to deny its own staff a Living Wage.

“Students pay £9,000 a year in tuition fees and value the staff – the university should value them too.”

John McDade, another Unison officer, said: “The turnout today shows the strength of feeling not only from staff and Unison members but from students and academic staff that Durham University should be paying its staff the Living Wage.”

A spokesman for the university said: “The university strives to maintain a good reward package for all its staff.

“The Living Wage campaign takes no account of other benefits which our staff enjoy, most notably a final salary pension scheme, into which the university makes a contribution of 12 per cent of salary. Last year, we implemented auto-enrolment, which requires the university to contribute further to staff pensions.

“Given the lack of control over the formula and the factors used to calculate the Living Wage, it is possible that adopting the Living Wage is simply not sustainable in the medium term as a pay policy which helps to maintain job security for our staff.

“We are using reserves to a limited extent, but greater cuts will be needed in the coming years which could lead to a further call on reserves.”