Students join Santa to call on University to give Cleaners the Gift of the Living Wage this Christmas

Students will join trade unions, academics, faith groups and community organisations (and Santa Claus!) at 10:00 on 9th December for a seasonal #LivingWage4Xmas action outside Fulton House to celebrate the contribution of low-paid workers to the university.  Accompanied by a choir singing Living Wage-themed carols and fortified with mince pies, Santa will deliver a sack of Christmas cards calling on the Vice Chancellor, Richard Davies, to give low-paid workers the gift of the Living Wage this Christmas.

Students are being asked to join the event (in seasonal costume if they wish) to pay tribute to the cleaners, porters, gardeners and caterers without whom the university could not function, and to send Christmas cards to the Vice Chancellor asking him to intervene to ensure that the university accredits as a Living Wage employer, which means paying £8.25 an hour to all directly-employed staff, as well as those working on campus employed by private contractors.

Research by Citizens Cymru Wales, which campaigns for the Living Wage, has found that hundreds of staff working on campus receive poverty pay.  Having conducted interviews with 30 low-paid workers, campaigners have found that employees often need an extra job, or even 2 extra jobs, to top-up their university wages. Introducing the Living Wage would make a huge difference to people’s lives.  One cleaner said that she had been unable to afford the train fare to London to visit her grandson since he was born, and the Living Wage would help her do this.  Another worker voiced their fear of debt collectors because the low wages paid by the university are not enough to cover their basic bills.  Others said that they had to choose between paying their water and electric bills each month, because they could not afford tboth. Another spoke of having to walk 45 minutes back and for to work every day in all weathers because they were unable to pay for transport.  A single mum spoke of the pressure that low wages put on family life, and that if the university introduced the Living Wage she could give up one of her additional jobs and spend more time with her daughter.

Cleaners are preparing a video letter to University Chancellor and former First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, to explain their situation and ask him to intervene to support Living Wage accreditation at the next meeting of the University Council.     

Ross McKendrick, Swansea University Students’ Unions Ethics Officer said:

“We are talking about the people who keep our classrooms clean, who set up the halls for our exams, who serve us our food, and who come in early in the morning to open up the buildings.  It is a grave injustice that our fees are being used to pay poverty wages to these people.  I hope that students will join us in showing our respect for these workers by turning out on December 9th, and showing the Vice Chancellor that we support the Living Wage.”

Alan Twelvetrees of Citizens Cymru Wales, the community alliance that campaigns for the Living Wage, said:

“It is a matter of principle that everybody today should earn enough to lead a decent life.  There are now over 50 accredited Living Wage employers in Wales, including Cardiff University and the Welsh Government.  Swansea University has been thinking about this issue since 2011, and met us earlier in the year to discuss it, so now is the time for them to put their money where their mouth is.”

Rhydian Morris, Mature Students’ Officer at Swansea Students’ Union, said: 

“The Living Wage will benefit the University because it will mean the staff are coming to work in a better frame of mind, feel respected by their employer, and more motivated to do the best job they can.  Research has shown that the

Living Wage is good for employers as well as for workers, and we hope that the Vice Chancellor grasps the opportunity to do the right thing.”

Heath Davies, chair of Unison trade union at the University, said:

“The Living Wage will be fantastic for low-paid workers at the university. We think that about 200 people would get a pay rise straight away, and it will make a massive difference to many of our members who are struggling to make ends meet.  We are proud of Swansea University, so it is embarrassing that Cardiff University have accredited as a Living Wage employer and we have not.”   

Supporters are invited to bring Santa hats and other Christmas-themed attire and join the #LivingWage4Xmas action from 10:00-11:00 on Wednesday December 9th outside Fulton House.  For more information, contact Mark Eades or Michelle Kazembe