London's top-ranking university is facing a backlash from its staff over the low wages it pays to campus cleaners.Oh? Does it not pay minimum wage? It is, after all, illegal not to do so...
Five academics at University College London have written to Professor Malcolm Grant, provost of UCL, to protest at the “grossly inequitable” minimum wages paid to contract cleaners that force them to live below the poverty line.Ah. Right. They do indeed pay the minimum wage, but that's not good enough, according to these wackademics.
In a letter dated September 1 seen by the Standard, they say: “We urge you to ensure that UCL pays a London Living Wage [£7.85 an hour] to all employees and others working for UCL, even if employed by agencies with whom UCL has contracted to supply staff.”
So, are they economics professors, or something?
Mel Bartley, professor of medical sociology in public health and a signatory to the letter, told the Standard: “Apart from moral issues, there are compelling public health reasons to pay a living wage... People who don't have money for a healthy lifestyle are more likely to suffer obesity and depression, and are more at risk of diabetes or heart disease. By paying minimum wages of £5.80 an hour, UCL are storing up problems that will be paid for later by society at large.”There you are. See what you learn when you graduate from UCL? That it takes money to have a 'healthy lifestyle'...
Dr Jennifer Mindell, clinical senior lecturer in public health and another signatory, said: “Sadly we've not yet had a reply from the provost, though we've been told he's received our letter.”He probably hasn't stopped alternately laughing and crying...
The provost, whose remuneration of £404,000 last year was the second highest of university heads in the country, has told the Standard that paying contract cleaners a living wage “would cost £500,000” and was “a luxury” UCL “could not afford”.This is the 'greedy bankers' argument all over again, isn't it? Regardless of whether the cleaners do a comparable job to those at the top of the organisation, they should still be paid more.
But campaigners point out that UCL's financial statements show a surplus of £12million and that since taking up the post in 2003, Professor Grant has vastly increased the pay of top staff: 311 UCL academics now earn more than £100,000 and 18 more than £200,000.
Why? Because, that's why!
The provost, dubbed “five-star Grant” for his partiality to expensive hotels on business trips, dismissed as “preposterous” the Standard's suggestion that he might “afford” the living wage if he and his top staff took a one per cent pay cut — yet all three signatories we spoke to said they would be “absolutely happy” to take such a cut.So, let them give the money directly to the cleanersr. What's stopping them? Are you telling me that these amazing minds can't figure out a solution that doesn't involve the univesity?
Professor Bartley added that Professor Grant's plan to buy in top academics from around the world — thereby driving UCL to 4th position in the world rankings — had made UCL into “the Chelsea of British universities”. “It can't be right that to attract highly-paid academic stars from around the world, we have to keep our lowest paid workers in poverty. That kind of calculus is morally indefensible.”Well, if it's a 'moral issue', why don't you take a pay cut and go work for a university that suits your moral values?