Pembroke has become the tenth college to back the Oxford Living Wage campaign after passing a motion in support of the initiative at last week’s JCR meeting. The motion passed with little opposition or debate, with just 2 people voting against. It pledges to send members of the JCR committee to talk with college authorities about increasing scouts’ wages.
Currently, scouts at Pembroke are paid £6.63 an hour, less than the £7.20 deemed necessary for an adequate standard of living.
Pembroke’s action follows that of several other colleges: Univ and St. Hilda’s voted in support of the campaign just last week. Balliol was the first to take up the initiative in 2009.
Caspar Donnison, who proposed the motion, told Cherwell that he was prompted to raise the motion now because he saw the campaign “lifting off” in Oxford and saw an opportunity to strengthen it. However, he also stressed that this is a cause to which he has been committed for a long time, “I have been a supporter of the Living Wage for a while. I strongly believe in the economic arguments such as higher morale in the workplace and fewer benefits being required if wages are higher. I see the OUSU-led campaign in Oxford University as particularly important as this is a city where the cost of living is very high”.
Donnison continued, “I do not claim that the Living Wage campaign is an ideal solution nor that there are not other factors involved but just that it is an improvement upon the current state of affairs. In London thousands of families have been lifted out of poverty because of the success of the campaign so it can really make a difference”.
The motion, which was seconded by Emma Kinnaird, News Editor of the Oxford Student, noted that Pembroke is lagging behind other colleges, including Corpus Christi, who already provide the living wage for their scouts.
The JCR resolved “to send a delegation of the JCR committee to meet with the authorities of college to discus reaching this standard of pay for our scouts”. Donnison was, however, quick to point out that there was a “cooperative stance” between the students and the college. It is hoped that this action will convince college to increase wages, though Donnison admitted that the JCR would also be satisfied by “convincing reasons showing that, though we do not yet have the Living Wage, special employment privileges and pension schemes put us in an near equivalent position to the payment of the living wage”. Further action will depend upon the outcome of the meeting.
Pembroke JCR appeared united behind the motion. There had been concern that there may be questions about possible ill-effects, such as rent rises, that increased wages could have on students, but the meeting remained relatively free from debate.
The Oxford Living Wage campaign, established in 2006 and endorsed by four academics, as well as Oxford City Council and Oxford University Labour Club, is currently gaining momentum. OUSU’s Sarah Santosham, Chair of the Living Wage Campaign, appeared positive, telling Cherwell, ‘We are hugely encouraged by the level of support generated across Common Rooms for this important community concern. We will support and encourage other Common Rooms who hope to follow suit. Pressure is mounting on both colleges and the University, and we are confident that there will be real progress on this over the year.’