A policy to pay every single member of Cardiff University staff at least the living wage was officially approved last week.
The move by the University to seek accreditation as a ‘Living Wage employer’ was proposed by the newly promoted Acting Chief Operating Officer, Ms. Jayne Dowden.
She put the proposal to the University Executive Board (UEB) on Monday 17th February and says the move has the full support of the Vice Chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan, adding that, “He is personally very committed to this.”
It is believed that, if the application is successful, Cardiff University would become the first University in Wales to be an accredited Living Wage employer, paying a minimum hourly rate of £7.65.
Ms. Dowden told gair rhydd of the news from her office where a bunch of flowers stood next to a large ‘Thank You’ card, given to her by some of the University’s cleaners who had benefited from this decision.
She explained that it has been a lengthy and complex project to get off the ground, not least with the nature of the cleaning contracts.
“We have thirteen separate cleaning contracts so we had to change the terms and conditions of each company’s contract and now every single cleaner is paid the Living Wage.
“This has made a real difference to people’s lives and this [the flowers & card] is a very moving gesture.”
Ms. Dowden made clear that a wide range of people had been working on getting the University to a stage where it was able to apply for Living Wage accreditation.
One of the most prominent figures to have pushed the agenda was Dave Sheppard, the University’s Cleaning Services Officer, with Ms. Dowden commenting that, “He has worked tirelessly to make this happen.”
Mr Shepherd explained that, “Back in 2012 I submitted a paper outlining the business benefits of adopting the Living Wage for contracted cleaning staff within the University. I believed that it would enable us to attract and retain the highest calibre of staff in what is traditionally an under valued occupation, and increase competition between potential suppliers.
“Detailed budget proposals had to be prepared as the cost implications of adopting the Living Wage were substantial. Once these had been agreed we met with all the current contractors to advise them of our proposal and to determine any potential barriers or difficulties in implementation.
“New contract prices were invited and approved and I am delighted to say that with effect from 1st January 2014 the Living Wage was implemented for all contract cleaning staff within the University and it is something of which the University can be justifiably proud.”
The University has been widely praised for this announcement. The Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Owen Smith MP, who said, “This is fantastic news. I congratulate Cardiff University unreservedly for being the first Welsh University to implement a Living Wage policy.
The Living wage has the potential to transform the lives of working men and women in Wales and we need more public and private sector institutions to introduce it for employees and contractors.”
Cari Davies, the Students’ Union President also backed the University’s policy. She said, “I’m extremely pleased that Cardiff University are committed to becoming a Living Wage employer, it’s a campaign that students have shown a passion for and backed through our democratic processes.
“It is important that the University truly values the staff who make its existence possible and this move is one which demonstrates that. The Students’ Union hopes to join the University in securing accreditation and whilst all full time staff are paid the living wage, there is some work to do before all casual and part-time staff can be offered the same.”