Living Wage Week: University of Manchester hold debate with academics and grassroots campaigners

Manchester paused this week to debate whether students should be paying the real living wage – as part of a national week to shed light on the issue.

The student-led Living Wage campaign is lobbying for the University of Manchester to be accredited as real living wage employers.

MM attended an academic discussion – the first event for the campaign – where the students, organised by Will Ranger, raised the question: ‘Should the University of Manchester pay the real living wage?’

Will said: “The University claims to care passionately about social responsibility but there’s a group of students calling out this blatant hypocrisy.

“Student accommodation is expensive and unaffordable to most students,” he added on the rate of student accommodation, which some undergraduates struggle to pay.  

“We’re also trying to urge the government to put a cap on student fees.”

The University of Manchester’s Tarani Chandola, Professor of Medical Sociology, and Matt Johnston, PhD student, gave their views In the discussion.

Professor Chandola claimed that extreme work conditions in poorly paid jobs causes high levels of stress.

“It’s better to be in a bad job, than not to be in a job at all.

“Some people are still working in underpaid jobs, anyone paid under six pounds an hour is working illegally.”

Johnston, who is also a researcher for the European Work and Employment Research Centre, fully supported the campaign.

“The organisation is trying to get involved with employment and to help them with a better understanding for the real living wage for underpaid workforces.”

He added: “This is what local governments should aim for, and to stamp on underpaid wages.”

Ranger explained how the campaign work alongside UNISON – who are campaigning for the living wage for Bupa care workers.

UNISON’s Conor McGurran, also at the event on Tuesday night, organised a candlelit vigil at Gorton Parks Care Home to call for care home giant Bupa to pay the real living wage for all of its staff.

“Bupa tend to be unresponsive towards local unions,” he said.

“We’re here to show Bupa that their staff deserve better pay for what they do,” he added.

An unnamed member of staff working at the care home agreed.

“The wages here are low. I’ve had problems with debt and I can’t ever afford to go on holiday. 

“When I do have leave from work I have to pick up extra shifts to top-up my income. It gets tiring.”

Unison liaises with Gorton MP Afzal Khan, who emphasised the importance of social care in the community.

“Social care is a really important public service and people deserve dignity in social care.

“It is only right that the staff who care for vulnerable people are paid a decent living wage.”   

Image courtesy of Caroline Reilly via Twitter, with thanks.

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