Organised by UNISON with the workers concerned, and supported by UCU, London Citizens, the NUS, numerous London-based NGOs and MPs including local representative Frank Dobson, the Campaign calls for all contracted-out employees working within the Central University of London to receive paid sick leave, to be represented by a recognised trade union, and to receive the London Living Wage (due to rise to £8.30 from 1 September 2011).
Many of the constituent colleges of the University of London already pay this figure, approved by Mayor Boris Johnson, and independently calculated as the minimum required for a worker to live (as opposed to merely exist) in London.
The University of London has made a commitment ‘in principle’ to paying its staff the London Living Wage. As usual, commitment in principle means dereliction in practice: University of London staff continue to receive poverty wages. The VC of the University of London, Professor Geoffrey Crossick, is currently out of office; why not send him a short email to ensure that he comes back to work with his principles fresh in mind? Below is the email Bloomsbury Fightback sent — feel free to resend it under your own name, or to use it as a template for your own message.
Please email the University of London Vice Chancellor Geoffrey Crossick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Professor Crossick,
We write to you about the current campaign for the Living Wage for all employees of Senate House. The current London Living Wage is £8.30 per hour. You will be aware that this is not a wage rate intended to provide for its recipients a life of luxury. It is calculated to allow its recipients to provide the ‘essential of life’ for their families. The constituent colleges of the University of London offer many courses on justice, development and labour rights; each year they host scores of conferences, symposia and seminars on the same issues. In the light of this it is an outrageous contradiction that the University would pay to its staff even a fraction less than the wage level the London Living Wage recommends, and which is already paid to all employees by many corporate institutions with less claim to moral probity than the University of London (KPMG and Barclays are both accredited by the London Living Wage Foundation).
The London Living Wage represents a basic standard of treatment. This holds for all employees, whether they work directly for the University or are outsourced to private-sector contractors like Balfour Beatty WorkPlace or Aramark. It would be chicanery to argue it is ‘unfair’ to insist that such contractors implement the London Living Wage. Balfour Beatty last year made a profit of £141 million, up 32% on 2009; according to the company’s own performance review, Balfour Beatty Workplace ‘grew strongly’. The US-based Aramark (which UNISON ranks as one of the top three worst large employers in the country) had a turnover of $12bn last year. Meanwhile those who are employed to clean, cater for and maintain the University receive significantly less than the minimum sum required for the provision of the essentials of life for their families. This can’t go on. If the University wishes to avoid colluding in the impoverishment of its employees, it cannot continue to pay them poverty wages. The London Living Wage must be implemented on 1 September 2011 to bring the central University into line with the surrounding Bloomsbury colleges, who will move to the £8.30 minimum on this date.