Demonstrators gathered in front of Senate House sporting "The Living Wage" tote bagsMathias Gjesdal Hammer

Around 30 students gathered in front of Senate House at 9:40 this morning as members of the University Council entered the building to commence discussion of a formal proposal that calls on the University to commit to paying all of its staff the real living wage.

The University has been paying direct employees the real living wage, defined as the minimum wage needed to cover the costs of living, since 2014. Yet it does not commit to ensuring its contracted workers are paid the same. The wage is currently set at  £8.75 across the UK, except in London, where it is set at £10.20. 


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Staff and academics demand Cambridge commits to paying real living wage

The proposal, officially called a Grace, was submitted last month by 228 members of the Regent House, the University’s governing body. The Council is now responsible for deciding whether or not the Grace will be voted upon by the 5,500 academics and senior administrators who make up the the Regent House.

Demonstrators, some carrying tote bags with “The Living Wage” written on them, seemed optimistic about the vote as they distributed leaflets to members of the Regent House walking by.

Speaking to Varsity, CUSU President Daisy Eyre, who was in attendance, said that she believed it was “very likely” that the Grace would be approved.

She said in a statement, "We as students have a responsibility to fight for justice for everyone who works in this university, for all those people who contribute to our education through constructing the buildings we learn in, cooking our food, cleaning our rooms.

“It is simply not acceptable that as rich a university as Cambridge has so far not committed to pay all its workers, including its contracted workers, the living wage. I hope that University Council on Monday will see the truth of this, and also see that what is good for its workers is good for the University; studies show that sick days reduce and satisfaction increases when the living wage is paid!"

Today’s demonstration is the latest development in a joint campaign by Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU), Cambridge Universities Labour Club (CULC) and Cambridge Defend Education for the University to begin paying all its staff members the real living wage.

Co-chair of the CULC, Nick Saunders, told Varsity, "This is just the beginning of our Campaign. Next we'll move onto the colleges."

At present, Queens’ College is the only Cambridge college that is accredited by the Living Wage Foundation, though students at other colleges are interested in working to change this. When asked by Eyre if anyone was willing to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to their colleges regarding wage statistics, more than half the demonstrators present raised their hands.

The Council is expected to announce the discussion’s progress later this week.