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Why all Universities should become Living Wage employers

Read this blog by Dr Suresh T Nesaratnam, Senior Lecturer at The Open University in Milton Keynes, one of the first Universities in the country to become a real Living Wage employer.

Picture from a Citizens UK action at the University of Manchester, calling on the University to become a Living Wage employer.

Why do I believe in the Living Wage? It’s because (to use a cliché) it’s the right thing to do. Five years ago The Open University (OU), with its commitment to social justice, decided that all its staff – including people employed through third parties (such as the catering and security staff) deserve to be paid at least the real Living Wage (which rose this week to £9.00 outside London, and £10.55 within London).

We all want to work in a place that is cohesive, where staff are motivated, morale is high and where people can do their best at work. For this to happen the wage has to be right. For employers, recruiting staff is not cheap, both in terms of cost and time. But Living Wage employers see improvements in staff recruitment and retention (improvements of 52%). People earning less than the real Living Wage often take on two jobs with consequent issues for their health and home life. Over 70% of parents working full-time and earning below the Living Wage reported worrying so much it affects their day-to-day life and over 43% said they had fallen behind on household bills. 

The OU is the second-largest employer in Milton Keynes, and has a big impact on the local community. We affect a lot of people in the city and understand the important role we play. The very committed Living Wage Group of Citizens:mk lobbied key employers in the city – law firms, banks, councils, schools and religious institutions, to follow their lead and sign-up to the Living Wage. This hard work means in Milton Keynes, we now have nearly 50 accredited Living Wage employers !  

So it’s great news that two more Universities, Aberystwyth University and the University of Bristol announced their accreditation this week.

The real Living Wage enables a family to have a decent standard of living. Earning less that the real Living Wage can mean a precarious life relying on the support of family, friends or even turning to food-banks. This doesn’t seem right. Our biggest employers, for moral and loyalty reasons, should show that they see the value of their staff through paying them at least the real Living Wage. Currently, there are 33 universities in the UK which pay the Living Wage, and the remaining 80% are being urged to follow suit.

Hindus often consider their dharma (Sanskrit for ‘duty with a social ethic, which holds society together’). It looks like The OU, and the other Living Wage employers in Milton Keynes, have also been doing this!

Back our campaign

👉 Only a fraction of all universities are Living Wage employers, so why not check whether the university you study, work at or have studied at in the past pays the real Living Wage? Visit our campaign page to find out and use our template letter to raise this important matter with your university - the voices of students, alumni and staff will matter to them!


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