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University of Birmingham criticised for not paying living wage

According to Unison, catering, cleaning and library learning support assistants earn below the living wage at the university

A rally about the living wage at the University of Birmingham
A rally about the living wage at the University of Birmingham

MPs and councillors have criticised the University of Birmingham for not paying the living wage to dozens of its workforce.

Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe and Coun Stuart Stacey attended a rally at the university today amid claims about 350 of its staff are paid below the independently-agreed £8.25 per hour.

According to Unison, catering, cleaning and library learning support assistants earn below the living wage.

Labour MP Mr McCabe said the university had intimated it pays the living wage but does not.

He said: “I support a living wage and think all decent employers should be encouraged to pay the living wage. It is a disgrace that the Chancellor has sought to undermine the concept by deliberately using the language of the living wage for his second rate proposals.”

Coun Stuart Stacey, speaking on behalf of Birmingham City Council, added: “The council is committed to making Birmingham a Living Wage city, giving all our residents a fair share of the wealth we create here.

“While we make paying it compulsory for our contractors and grant recipients, we call on all progressive private and public sector organisations to reap the benefits of a stable and motivated workforce that adopting it voluntarily can bring.”

More than 1,000 city council staff had a pay rise rubber-stamped on Monday after the voluntary living wage increased from £7.85 to £8.25.

In a statement, a University of Birmingham spokesperson said: “The university takes its responsibilities as an employer very seriously. Support staff on the very lowest rates of pay currently earn £7.85 per hour, well above the £6.70 National Minimum Wage and the new National Living Wage, which is being introduced from next April for workers aged 25 and over, that will begin at £7.20 an hour. Our pay rates are revised on August 1 each year and, for the past few years, we have matched the Living Wage at that point. It is not possible to revisit our rates mid-cycle because of the knock-on consequences of what is a relatively steep rise.

“The University employs more people than any private sector employer in Birmingham and we are proud of our record of employment and remuneration. In addition to pay, all members of staff enjoy generous holiday, sick pay and pension arrangements.”

Professor Carl Chinn MBE addressed the rally at the university.

He said: “Each day, senior managers who are paid substantial sums of money look across to Old Joe, named after Joseph Chamberlain, but how many of them think of their responsibility to their low-paid fellow workers and the belief that Joseph Chamberlain had that a great town owed a responsibility to all of its people, irrespective of their wealth.

“It is more than time for the university to pay at least the living wage and to commit itself to truly become an institution that is of Birmingham rather than one that happens just to be in Birmingham.”

According to Unison, the university brings in more than £528 million per year and it would cost less than £1 million to be living wage compliant.

It claims 128 university staff are paid between £100,000 per year and £220,000 per year at the university.

Unison spokesperson Lianne Brooks said: “Leading universities such as the University of Birmingham have a civil and moral duty to pay the living wage to all their staff.”

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