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By Tim Williams
A meeting on Tuesday night saw representatives from societies across the university and the Oxford community discuss coming together in order to further the Oxford Living Wage Campaign.
The meeting saw an emphasis on the principle of community, as OUSU Vice President Daniel Stone described the living wage as a matter of “social justice”.
Stuart White, Fellow at Jesus and Lecturer in Politics, explored how the principles of “Citizen Organising” could be applied to the campaign: “Change comes from building power, and power comes from building relationships”.
OULC Campaigns and External Links Officer Kevin Feeney explained that “at the most basic level” this would mean “a closer degree of coordination between present groups”. Following the meeting, Chair Sarah Santhosham said: “The Oxford Living Wage Campaign was greatly encouraged by the broad level of cross-community support for our work and objectives.”
However, Santhosham emphasized the need to further widen participation in the campaign “in order to make this successful”. Angus Ritchie, Chaplain for Social Justice at Keble outlined the need to “engage more deeply with getting people not on the living wage actively involved”, in particular scouts.
Santhosham explained: “It’s simply talking to the people we see everyday, building up stories”.
While recent JCR motions in colleges, including St John’s and St Peter’s, have raised the profile of scouts being paid below a living wage, attendees at the meeting sought to emphasise the wider range of the campaign.
OULC representative Christopher Gray explained that while pushing for higher wages for scouts may be an “easier campaign to run” because of the “community aspect” of many colleges, it would be important not to overlook other “faceless” university workers, such as those who clean libraries.
Feeney concurred: “We’d have to be blind not to see the people who support our lives as students. We owe them; our happiness and comfort are due in no small part to hard work done by others in all walks of life.”
The importance of the campaign was outlined by Unison spokesperson Philippa Lanchbery, who described the Living Wage as the difference between “living with dignity like an adult and simply existing like a teenage student”.
Islamic Students’ Society representative, Hanz Macdonald also explored the importance of being “positive and encouraging to people who already pay the living wage”. Hannah O’Rourke, a member of the Oxford Living Wage Campaign, explained: “If Oxford University can say that they’re a Living Wage employer, that’s really good for the university’s image”.
Santhosham said: “The attendees of the meeting had a wide range of experience and resources and it was great to see people from different backgrounds come together to work constructively on an issue we see as a major community concern.”
She continued: “The meeting was both productive and positive, and has enabled us to form a forum through which cross-community campaigning can work more effectively and on concrete action points over the next year.”
A University spokesperson said: The University of Oxford has mechanisms in place for setting the salary scales of its employees. On the very lowest point of the University pay scale, employees receive £13, 552 per annum, which equates to around £7.14 an hour.
“This salary would go up incrementally each year, bringing the hourly rate up to £7.33 following the first pay increase alone. Equality principles are integral to all aspects of staff management, however, balanced against this, the University has limited resources available within which expenditure on staffing issues must be properly prioritised.”