Pembroke’s treasurer said the Cambridge Living Wage Campaign figures were incorrectWIKIMEDIA COMMONS

A report by the Cambridge Living Wage Campaign revealed that, as of August this year, 13 colleges paid some employees less than last year’s Real Living Wage (RLW).

The 2022 ‘Taylor’s Table’, published by the Cambridge Students’ Union, states that the lowest possible wage across all of these colleges was less than £9.90 per hour 2021 RLW.

The RLW, calculated annually by the Living Wage Foundation, is distinct from the £9.50 minimum wage (£9.18 for under-23s), as it takes into account the cost of household goods and services. For 2022, it has been calculated at £10.90 for seats outside London (which has an RLW of £11.95, given its higher cost of living).

The SU report notes that, given Cambridge’s high cost of living, calls have been made to extend the London tariff to Cambridge as well.

Queens was the only college, as of November 2022, paying all staff beyond this year’s RLW.

According to Taylor’s Table, colleges paying less than £9.90 an hour are: Pembroke, St Edmund’s, Churchill, Robinson, St Catharine’s, Homerton, Wolfson, Lucy Cavendish, Fitzwilliam, Emmanuel, Magdalene, Peterhouse and Clare Hall.

Emmanuel finished bottom of the table, with the lowest pay grade at £6.83 an hour.

Talking with Universityhowever, Emmanuel College treasurer Mike Gross said SU’s findings are misleading.

Gross detailed, “When I responded to the original Freedom of Information request I explained that this low hourly rate applies to Emmanuel students who volunteer to work at our student-run café.”

“The bar is only open to college members, is only run during the semester, aims to break even, and is popular for being student-run and having low prices. I am very happy to be guided by the Emmanuel student community as to whether these arrangements remain right for us.”

Gross noted that if this group were to be excluded “the lowest salary currently paid by the College is £10.11”.

In addition to this, Pembroke College treasurer Andrew Cates said SU “messed up their spreadsheet and used data for Pembroke from a previous year.”

Cates said the College “has long since paid all of our staff the Real Living Wage and was one of the first Colleges to adopt it.”

He went on to note that the College “actually noticed” the error in Taylor’s table, “but I don’t think we bothered to correct it,” adding that the college “cares deeply about our staff but not so much about SU tables ”.

Mysteriously, however, responding to a Freedom of Information request on August 24 this year, Pembroke College Chancellor Dr Becky Coombs said that “the exact lowest hourly wage paid by the college to casual workers … £9.50, below the 2021 and 2022 RLWs.

Meanwhile, the director of external relations and development at Homerton, a college whose lowest hourly rate is recorded in Taylor’s Table as £9.18, said University that they pay “all permanent and temporary staff their real wages” and that all “employees, including occasional staff, receive free meals on duty, and for occasional catering staff, the meal is eaten during working hours of paid work”.

The College also noted that, at the end of October, it had paid staff a one-off amount of £1,000 to help support it through the cost-of-living crisis.

Similarly, Fitzwilliam College explained that it had “paid staff members a cost of living payment of £1,000”.

The College also announced that they will “increase the minimum hourly rate of permanent staff members to £10.90 in April 2023” and that they will “seek to be accredited by the Real Living Wage Foundation by the end of 2023”.

SU community and welfare officer Daisy Thomas said University that the minimum wage campaign believes “that all workers should be paid the real wage, including those on casual contracts or students” and stressed: “There have been no inaccurate reports of the data, which has always been all publicly available” .

Thomas said the information in Taylor’s table was calculated from FOI requests “submitted in August 2022” and emphasized that if “any college, including Pembroke, has since changed their pay rates, it is encouraged to get in touch”.

“We’d be thrilled to hear if Pembroke changed their pay since August and are now paying real wages.”

The Cambridge Living Wage Campaign, which developed the Taylor’s Table, is a campaign group made up of local students, local residents, City Council representatives and the SU Community and Wellbeing Officer.

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