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“It’s common sense for business’ and workers” – PhD researcher Calum Carson on his work with Leeds Citizens and the Living Wage

In the second of our series on the Living Wage, Ashley Colbourn of Leeds Trinity University speaks to Calum Carson, who is completing his PhD on the subject at the University of Leeds. 

The fact that the Living Wage is not paid by so many major companies, particularly universities, in the UK is a problem that many people feel strongly about.

Calum Carson is in that boat, so much so he is conducting his PhD research into the area from his base at the University of Leeds’ Business School.

Calum says his interest in the Living Wage movement sparked from his childhood, where he lived at home with his Mother and two sisters. His mother worked as a dinner lady and was only being paid the minimum wage, meaning getting by from month to month was often a struggle.

He pursued his interest further in 2014, realising that there was little to no academic research in the benefits/drawbacks of paying the Living Wage meaning it would be a good topic to investigate.

So where do Leeds Citizens come in? Calum explains below that he began working with Tom after hearing about the work Citizens had been doing with the Living Wage Foundation.

From there, Leeds Citizens played a big role in an action carried out by Calum and other academics at the University which took place during last November’s Living Wage week.

Calum drew up a petition asking for a meeting with the University to discuss the issue, which was circulated through many different contacts and printed in large form before being taken to the Vice Chancellor’s office.

There are currently just shy of 5,000 accredited Living Wage Foundation employers in the UK, with just under 50 in Leeds.

Calum explained as well as the plaque employers can display wherever they please, there are plenty of other benefits of paying the Living Wage for employers.

Unfortunately, there are not many universities that pay the Living Wage, although Leeds Trinity University based in Horsforth are signed up to the scheme.

When asked what the benefits of paying the Living Wage for universities are, Calum said: ”There are very few universities who pay it now, so it really differentiates you from the rest of the university sector to do that. Universities also have a particularly reputational issue with high pay for their vice-chancellors, so it shows that there’s a commitment to respecting their workforce at the other end of the pay scale. More than anything, universities are meant to be places that look after people and enhance creativity and knowledge around the country, and that should be reflected in the dignity of their workforce by being paid the Living Wage”.

He also explained what the current situation at the University of Leeds is.

The ultimate aim of Calum, Leeds Citizens and many companies is to make Leeds a Living Wage city, a feat he says will be a ‘forgone conclusion’ in years to come: “I think so. There are a lot already signed up, Channel 4 are already a Living Wage employer and they’re about to move their headquarters here. Leeds City Council has committed to it even though they haven’t fully accredited yet. Bill Barton at Barton legal and a lot of employers around the city are committed to making Leeds a Living Wage City so I just think it’s a foregone conclusion at this point and anyone who’s not on board at the start is going to look bad at the end”.

You can hear our full interview with Calum below.


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