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Campaigners welcome Cambridge University's pledge to pay staff Living Wage

Cambridge University's commitment to pay all of its employees at least the Living Wage has been welcomed by campaigners.

The university has been accredited as a Living Wage Employer, which means everyone working for the university receive a minimum hourly wage of £9.50 in the UK or £10.85 in London. Both rates are significantly higher than the government minimum for over 25s, which currently stands at £8.72 per hour.

The real Living Wage is the only rate calculated according to the costs of living. It provides a voluntary benchmark for employers who wish to ensure their staff earn a wage they can live on, not just the government minimum. In the East of England, almost a fifth of all jobs (19%) pay less than the real Living Wage - around 448,000 jobs.

Eilís Ferran, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge said: “University of Cambridge staff are at the heart of everything we do as one of the world’s top global research-intensive universities. We are delighted to have been given accreditation as a Living Wage Employer, ensuring wages will never be lower than the independent benchmark set by the Living Wage Foundation.”

Cllr Anna Smith, Daniel Zeichner MP and Miranda Gomperts celebrate Living Wage Week. (44150985)
Cllr Anna Smith, Daniel Zeichner MP and Miranda Gomperts celebrate Living Wage Week. (44150985)

Labour City Councillors have welcomed the news.

Cllr Anna Smith, Executive Councillor for Communities, who oversees the City Council’s anti-poverty commitments including an award-winning Real Living Wage Campaign, said: “I'm delighted to hear the news that Cambridge University has taken this major step in becoming Real Living Wage accredited. At a time when so many people in work are struggling to make ends meet, committing to paying at least the real living wage to every member of staff is great news. I would encourage the Cambridge colleges which are not yet signed up to the campaign to follow the university's excellent example and commit to paying the Real Living Wage to all.”

The differences in pay rates between different colleges within the university has attracted considerable controversy in the past. Colleges have also been heavily criticised for making staff redundant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of the City Council, also welcomed the news, but stressed that there was still more to do to tackle inequality in the city;

“Cambridge City Council has been an accredited Living Wage employer since November 2014, paying all staff at least £10 per hour, and we’re proud of that record. We know the difference it can make to staff in terms of improved morale and retention.

“This is a really positive step from the University, when 19% of all jobs across our region still pay less than the Living Wage. In Cambridge, recent data shows that the bottom 20% of earners account for just 2% of all income. But we would like to see all 31 Cambridge colleges follow the example of King’s and Girton colleges and now the University and commit to paying the Real Living Wage of at least £9.50 per hour.

There are huge benefits in high-cost Cambridge for colleges and employers to reward and retain hardworking staff in lower paid roles, including those who work on contract in catering and other services. £9.50 an hour is the bare minimum people need to survive on in our city. There’s still more to do and that’s why, at the council, we remain committed to working with all our partners to tackle inequality and poverty.”

Laura Gardiner, Director, Living Wage Foundation said: “We’re delighted that the University of Cambridge has joined the movement of 7,000 responsible employers across the UK who voluntarily commit to go further than the government minimum to make sure all their staff earn enough to live on. In this difficult time, their commitment will help to give their staff the additional support they need to better support themselves and their families.

“They join thousands of small businesses, as well as household names such as Burberry, Barclays, Chelsea and Everton Football Clubs and many more. These businesses recognise that paying the real Living Wage is the mark of a responsible employer and they, like Cambridge University, believe that a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay."

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