Students join scout higher pay call

first_imgScouts across the University have spoken out about their low pay and poor treatment by colleges. Many scouts noted that although they enjoyed working at the colleges, they felt that they were not being paid enough and suffered from a lack of respect from college authorities. One scout from Balliol who wished to remain anonymous said, “the cost of living in Oxford is expensive – house rental especially. Wages don’t reflect this.” Another scout from Balliol suggested the same. They commented: “[the cost of] accommodation is too high in Oxford. Transport is too high. Food is too high. “The Oxford City Council tax is going up again and again. I think if our pay could be raised up to £7 per hour we will manage some of the cost of living in Oxford.” Scouts at other colleges have also voiced concerns about a lack of respect from college dons. A scout from Hertford who did not wish to be named said, “people need to realise that cleaning is hard work. “Just because we haven’t got great qualifications, it shouldn’t mean that a cleaning job is poorly paid.” Another added, “we need a greater basic civility between fellows and scouts who pass by each other in quads or outside college daily (e.g. good morning). That means basic good manners and rightful respect of fellows to scouts.” The petition for higher pay has been backed by students who have set up the Oxford University Living Wage Campaign, part of a wider campaign, involving trade unions and city councillors, to make Oxford a Living Wage City. The Living Wage campaigns claim current wages fail to reflect the high cost of living in Oxford and the rising costs of global commodities, often forcing scouts to take second jobs to cover costs and leading to many scouts living in poverty. The Living Wage, which is based on an index of costs of things such as accommodation, transport and food, is calculated using a method developed at York University. It has been estimated at £7 per hour for Oxford, far below current levels of pay for scouts. Despite the pressure and despite the council recently agreeing to increase its salaries and pay its employees a Living Wage, many colleges are resisting reform, claiming current pay is adequate and above minimum wage levels. Liam Taylor, who runs the Living Wage Campaign at Balliol, said there was widespread concern among scouts at the college about the level of pay and the rising costs of living in Oxford. He said, “at Balliol College, scouts (the people who clean student rooms) are currently paid £6.05 an hour, well below the Oxford Living Wage of £7 an hour. “This puts Balliol in the bottom 15% of all Oxford colleges in terms of how much it pays its staff. Last March, 38 low-paid workers in Balliol signed a petition asking for higher wages.” Taylor said that despite widespread support from students and the Balliol JCR, which has passed several unanimous motions in favour of a Living Wage, college authorities had rejected the petition without consultation. “The College Executive Committee last week rejected our proposals to set up a working party on the Living Wage in Balliol College, citing a lack of funds to raise staff wages. They rejected the issue out of hand without attempting to explore compromise solutions. “There is no forum where workers at Balliol can negotiate for higher wages – the scouts do not even know at which meeting their wages are discussed – and the next staff consultative meeting is not until October,” he added. Univ JCR President Stefan Baskerville also backed the Living Wage campaign. He said the cost of living in Oxford was close to that of London. He said, “The University currently employs large numbers of low-paid staff through contracts with cleaning companies, many of whom are migrant workers who are paid at or just above the minimum wage, £5.52 an hour. As a result many cleaners live in poverty and some cleaners work up to fifteen hours a day, for multiple employers, to support themselves and their families. However, Elizabeth Crawford, the domestic bursar at University College, suggested that hourly rates of pay do not accurately reflect the wages of scouts. Crawford said, “at Univ the hourly paid staff have free bus travel (an annual season ticket) the value of which varies according to the contracted hours, an annual bonus and additional pay for long service.” “I am certain that the College’s basic rate is well above that described as the Living Wage, when relevant benefits are considered,” she added. Coucillor Joe McManners, who introduced the motion in November last year that led to the adoption of the Living Wage by the City Council, said that their was too much inequality in Oxford. He said, “better pay for the lowest pay enables them to participate more fully in society and also reduced the impact of poverty on public resources.”last_img

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