In contrast to the Government’s “Living Wage”, which is really just a euphemism for the paltry minimum wage, the actual living wage reflects the amount a worker would need to be paid per hour to be able to afford the necessities of life based on the cost of living. As of 2021, that is £9.50 an hour (or £10.85 in London) – significantly more than the £8.72 an hour employers are statutorily required to pay over-25s.
The Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough has played a key role in researching the living wage. They officially calculated it between 2011 and 2015, and now do it alongside the Resolution Foundation – “an independent think-tank focused on improving the living standards of those on low- to middle-income”.
As the webpage hosted by Loughborough University says: “the voluntary living wage voluntarily adopted by thousands of employers throughout the UK is set at a level based on CRSP’s Minimum Income Standard”. However, while the University is happy to boast about this research, it’s much less boastful about the fact that the staff who carry out this research are not employed by a voluntarily accredited living wage employer: there are 122 voluntarily accredited higher education employers, but Loughborough University is not one of them.
This fact was brought to our attention by an anonymous staff member, who pointed out that voluntary living wage accredited employers pay annual increases to keep up with inflation. By not being accredited, Loughborough puts off paying an increase until August, instead of April – almost half a year later!
This is a penny-pinching move by the University that saves them from having to pay higher wages for half of the financial year. However, it has an enormous impact on low pay-grade workers – that is, support staff like cleaners and cooks who are vital to keeping the campus running! This is particularly insulting given that these key workers have been offered an insulting 0% pay increase (a real-terms pay cut!) by UUK, the collective bargaining body of which Loughborough University is a part. Meanwhile, Loughborough University banked a whopping £54m surplus after a bumper financial year and esteemed Vice-Chancellor Allison has taken home nearly £300k for the last two years.
It is actions like these that show the #lborofamily facade to be a farce. Beneath the shiny public image, management remain management – they’re only concerned with extracting rent and fees from students while squeezing as much labour from staff for as little cost as possible. This is true for staff across all pay grades – workload was one of the key issues that academic staff went on strike over in 2019/20.
This is at a time when Loughborough has both a record number of enrolled students and a record annual income. There is plenty of money to both pay the real wage to all staff and to hire more workers to spread workload without loss of pay. The problem is that as long as market forces are at play in higher education, the money is instead spent on lining the pockets of management and on ways to get even more students enrolled to increase university income even further.
Cases like these illustrate the need to end the marketisation of higher education, as well as the need to give staff and students control over the University’s finances. Only then can we make sure that management salaries are reigned in, more staff are hired to so work is evenly shared, and hard-working staff – support and academic staff alike – are paid a proper wage.