Last year the University of Nottingham Living Wage Campaign, an alliance of trade unions, student societies and local campaigning groups, managed to get the University to agree to pay the living wage, resulting in a pay increase for 400 staff. This victory has been undercut however as it has emerged through discussions with cleaning staff that this increase in wages has come alongside a drastic increase in working hours. It seems the university has decided to pay for the increase in wages by understaffing and overworking the cleaners. On top of this the University is still not accredited to the Living Wage Foundation, meaning the commitment can be abandoned at any time. Crucially this also means only the, often insufficient, core hours of the staff are paid the living wage rate, with overtime paid at a lower rate that reflects poverty wages.
The Living Wage Campaign’s press release explains how in one building on campus the cleaners were required to work double shifts during their normal three hours work period. There are also rumours that some cleaners will be required to work over the Christmas period instead of spending the holiday with their friends and family. Andreas Bieler, Vice-President of the UoN UCU branch says ‘Cleaners at Nottingham University are exhausted. They regularly have to do extra work during the same period of time. They are being asked to work more for no additional pay.’
The Living Wage Campaign is demanding that Vice Chancellor Shearer West end the policy of understaffing and accredit the university to the Living Wage Foundation. Students and staff must stand together to fight for these demands. These terrible conditions are another symptom of the marketisation of universities, seen before with the attack on pensions last academic year and the drastic increases in tuition fees. It is clear that the increasing focus on profit is damaging for students, academics and non-academic staff. If we want to see our universities become places dedicated to learning instead, with decent conditions and pay for the workers that keep it running, then students, academic staff and non-academic staff must fight together against this marketisation. The only way to do this is to fight against capitalism, break with our profit driven system and fight for socialism!
by Alex Randell, Nottingham Marxists