J4W told Varsity that they were “very disappointed” that Sunday’s action was called offDAVID JOHNSON

A protest calling for all Homerton workers to be paid a real living wage was cancelled after the College principal disputed claims that the College were not.

Arranged by the student-led Justice for Workers (J4W) campaign and the larger Cambridge Commons group, the protest asked the College to pay all its casual workers the living wage (£9.50 per hour).

However, hours before the protest, Cambridge Commons pulled out following a phone call between Woolley and group chair, Tariq Sadiq. A move which led J4W to call off the protest altogether since it was a “community project.”

In a statement that morning, Cambridge Commons put their decision down to a “positive response from the College”, claiming that Homerton agreed for “all permanent and temporary employees have been regraded to £10.02 per hour. That’s 12p above the Real Living Wage announced in November 2021.

“Whilst this does not yet include casual staff, this is clearly great progress - and stands in contrast to the record of many other colleges.”

Sadiq's announcement that the demonstration was offVarsity

Chair Tariq Sadiq told Varsity: “I want to reiterate that the Cambridge Commons wants to work cooperatively with colleges and other employers to persuade them to become accredited Real Living Wage employers.”

Despite Sadiq’s response, J4W told Varsity that they were “very disappointed” that Sunday’s action was called off.

According to the College, the protest was based on “incorrect understanding of Homerton’s pay policy.

“The Principal defended the College’s and his own record on fair pay, and in the light of the correct information, the organisers called off the protest. They have since said that ‘Cambridge is fortunate to have such a distinguished campaigner for equality and social justice joining our community’, and the Leader of the Council has written to the Principal to apologise for the misinformation around the proposed action.”

The dispute turns on whether casual workers – employees who occasionally do work for a specific business – should receive the real living wage.

While the College pays permanent workers the living wage, casual workers are excluded since they “[do not] have to work unless they want to.”


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Homerton told Varsity that the casual workers are typically university students (including Homerton students), gap-year students, and sixth-form students and all receive at least the minimum wage and receive a free meal on duty and holiday pay. “The College does not require them to work a minimum number of hours: casual staff can accept or decline shifts at any time.”

Despite this, J4W said that the real living wage “should be a right of all workers despite age, number of hours worked and employment status.”

Homerton added: “Lord Woolley supports efforts to reduce pay inequality, and is arranging to meet representatives of Cambridge Commons. He is happy to talk to student campaigners on this issue, but has not been approached.”

A further statement was provide to Varsity by Cambridge Commons clarifying that: “Homerton College gave The Cambridge Commons updated information that they had been paying the Real Living Wage since February 2019 to all permanent and temporary employees and we were happy to acknowledge that and welcome the uprating of their pay to above the Real Living Wage from January 2022.

This was a really positive response and in the interests of continuing the dialogue and building the relationship, The Cambridge Commons felt it appropriate to cancel the event on Sunday, which involved different group...We see Homerton as a potential champion for the Real Living Wage and we are very happy to accept their invitation to meet”.

They continued: “We want to discuss how Homerton might become an accredited Real Living Wage employer, to include casual staff as some other Cambridge colleges and employers have done. Being an accredited Real Living Wage employer brings many benefits to both employees and employer alike."

This article was corrected on 16/02/2022, to reflect new information brought to Varsity.