Unison criticises Durham University for not paying 600 workers the living wage

The Northern Echo: John McDade, left, and Paul Riley, from Unison, protest outside Durham University last year John McDade, left, and Paul Riley, from Unison, protest outside Durham University last year

A UNION has condemned the North's leading university after it emerged it was paying nearly 600 of its workers less than the living wage.

Figures obtained by the trade union Unison under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act show Durham University paid 597 staff less than £7.65 an hour, despite having a £4.5m underspend on its staffing budget.

Unison also found the university, which charges students £9,000 a year in tuition fees and pays its vice-chancellor £232,000 a year, had underspent on staffing by £14.9m over the last five years.

Unison regional organiser John McDade said: "It is disgraceful and shameful that Durham University blatantly refuses to treat their lowest paid employees with some dignity and pay them the living wage rate.

"They clearly can afford to pay this - they simply choose not to.

"Lifting low paid workers out of poverty wages and letting them have dignity should be a priority for the university which lauds itself as a centre of academic excellence, while failing to value its low paid staff."

Mr McDade claimed the taxpayer was effectively having to subsidise the university, as many of its lowest paid workers, such as cleaners, porters, security guards and clerical staff, were reliant on benefits.

Durham University has repeatedly been criticised over its refusal to pay the living wage and this year also saw strikes over pay, as part of a national dispute.

A Durham University spokeswoman said Unison had not raised the living wage as a major concern in any local union consultative meeting but the university strived to maintain a good reward package for all its staff.

She also said university staff enjoyed other benefits including a secure final salary pension scheme, to which the university made a 12 per cent contribution of salary.

She continued: "We implemented an additional pension scheme through auto enrolment in April 2013 for eligible members of staff.

"This resulted in an additional 379 members of staff being enrolled into the auto enrolment pension scheme.

"With these variables in play and 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."

Comments (3)

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11:01am Thu 2 Jan 14

Voice-of-reality says...

How can the university possible be expected to pay a living wage?
It has to spend millions on relocating its HQ to the most hideous building in Durham
It has to spend over a million on art, and,
its vice chancellor 'shabby' seemingly cannot afford to buy more than one tie and one suit.

Given such pressing problems how can the unviersity possibly be expected to pay a living wage to other staff?
How can the university possible be expected to pay a living wage? It has to spend millions on relocating its HQ to the most hideous building in Durham It has to spend over a million on art, and, its vice chancellor 'shabby' seemingly cannot afford to buy more than one tie and one suit. Given such pressing problems how can the unviersity possibly be expected to pay a living wage to other staff? Voice-of-reality

11:14am Thu 2 Jan 14

David Lacey says...

VOR - you sound like COG! But how right you are.
VOR - you sound like COG! But how right you are. David Lacey

6:06pm Thu 2 Jan 14

Voice-of-reality says...

I can assure you that whilst I am a cynical old git I am not Cynical Old Git.
I would remove 'shabby', return admin to OSHall, (getting rid of the unneeded bloated bureaucracy that will not fit in the building), and return power to the colleges. Alas, in the new 'Durham-reich' these things will never happen.
I can assure you that whilst I am a cynical old git I am not Cynical Old Git. I would remove 'shabby', return admin to OSHall, (getting rid of the unneeded bloated bureaucracy that will not fit in the building), and return power to the colleges. Alas, in the new 'Durham-reich' these things will never happen. Voice-of-reality

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