Some of Britain’s biggest universities are paying less than the living wage to staff on their alumni fund-raising teams.
UK universities are increasingly adopting US-style cold-calling and spam email tactics in an attempt to boost donations from their graduates.
The universities of Durham, Southampton and Newcastle – all members of the Russell Group – have been criticised in the Independent newspaper for paying staff less than the £7.65 an hour living wage.
Earlier this year, Durham University was paying just £6.50 an hour, rising by 84p after probation, to its telephone campaign workers.
UNISON has mounted a high-profile campaign at Durham to improve this for the significant number of staff who are paid below the living wage.
Reading University, which has staff paid below the living wage and which derecognised the support staff trade unions ahead of a major restructure, also fails to pay the living wage to its fund raising team.
Not every university is as mean, though: London South Bank pays its fund-raising callers almost £11 per hour.
But not everyone in London is as lucky – the University of Westminster is quoted as paying just £7.50 an hour – which is much less than the London living wage of £8.80 an hour.
Outside the capital, wage rates for this role vary substantially. Newcastle University will pay student callers £7.25 – below the living wage – for its autumn campaign, while Leeds Metropolitan University pays its callers more than £9 per hour.
Many universities are increasing the size of their fund-raising teams boost their income sfrom donors, arguing that the alumni funds are vital for providing lower-income students with hardship funds and scholarships.
However, with rising student debt due to the increase in tuition fees and student loans, and with many vice-chancellors pocketing substantial pay rises and putting away significant surpluses into reserves, graduates are questioning the increasing calls from universities for additional donations.
UNISON continues to campaign for universities to attain accreditation from the Living Wage Foundation as living wage employers.
Foundation director Rhys Moore said: “We believe that employers who can afford to pay the living wage should do so.”
UNISON national secretary for education and children’s services Jon Richards said: “As a contributor to my alma mater I find it incredible that universities – including my own – are paying part-time, casual staff less than the living wage.
“The fact that some universities, such as the University of Southampton, go on record justifying this practice because other institutions pay even less than they do, shows they have lost their soul.”