Nottingham Trent University pays 212 of its staff below the living wage

UNISON are putting pressure on the university, whose vice-chancellor is the highest paid in the country

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In the run up to the General Election, every few weeks Left Foot Forward will take a look back at the coalition’s record on a specific policy area. This week we focus on low pay, and each day we will feature a piece that looks back at the impact of coalition policies on in-work poverty over the past five years.

The vice chancellor of Nottingham Trent University is the highest paid in the country, taking home more than £600,000 a year in salary and bonuses. So why does the university pay 212 of its workforce below the living wage?

UNISON have pledged to keep the pressure on Nottingham Trent, after it obtained information through a FoI request showing the underpayment of its lowest-paid staff.

According to its last financial statement, the university has an operating surplus in excess of £13.1m; and yet it maintains that it cannot afford to pay all staff the living wage.

UNISON’s FoI request also revealed that the university spent £2.9m on agency staff in a single year. That’s approximately £984 per employee – money which could surely be used to give low-paid staff a decent income.

UNISON East Midlands head of higher education Catherine Mellors said:

“We have approached the university and asked it to pay their lowest-paid staff the living wage, but this has been flatly refused.

“It is sad to see that both prestigious universities in Nottingham appear to be in a rush to the bottom. The universities are some of the largest employers in the city, and claim to offer their students great employability, and yet offer some of the lowest salaries to many of their own staff.

“However, they offer some of the highest salaries in the sector, with large numbers earning over £100k per year.”

Universities rely on a huge number of ‘behind the scenes’ staff to function, including cleaners, caterers and clerical and maintenance staff. In July of last year, students at Cambridge University won a campaign to get the living wage for all support staff at the university, after a report by the UCU revealed that over half of UK universities were underpaying some of their staff.

Last year Raymond Burse, the president of Kentucky State University, took a pay cut of $90,000 in order to give university support workers a pay rise. In January students at Oxford University called on their vice chancellor Andrew Hamilton to commit to the same reduction, after they calculated that by 15 January, he would have earned as much as support staff would earn in the whole year.

All universities need to sign up to the living wage if they want to be seen as the champions of progressive thought and fairness that higher education centres should be. Claiming to increase students’ employability while refusing to adhere to employment rights is an act of hypocrisy that can no longer be ignored.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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