Image may contain: Villa, College, Apartment Building, Lawn, House, Mansion, Housing, Town, City, Urban, High Rise, Building, Grass, Plant

Robinson College: Living Wage Campaign report released with damning results

Robinson is the college paying the least staff the Real Living Wage

Robinson College's Living Wage Campaign released its report on the college's payment of its employees, finding that as of 2018, the college had the fewest workers of any Cambridge college working on the Real Living Wage.

At the same time, Robinson College’s assets and investments have constantly been on the rise since 2012, whilst staff pay has been stagnant.

The approach of Cambridge University colleges to staff pay vary drastically. According to the CUSU Living Wage League Table 2019, only eight colleges pay all their staff above the Real Living Wage.

Trinity College was recorded as having the highest minimum hourly wage at £9.27.

At the other end of the League Table, Clare and Homerton colleges were recorded as paying 33 and 32 members of staff below the Real Living Wage respectively , both with a minimum wage of £7.70. Robinson and Magdalene colleges refused to publish the requested data at the time of the findings publication.

A spokesperson from Robinson College told The Tab Cambridge: "Robinson College values its staff and recognises the significant contribution they make to every aspect of College life.

"We routinely engage directly with staff on their concerns, including around pay, and have mechanisms in place to facilitate this."

In 2019, Robinson College had refused to accept a Freedom of Information Act Request about spending on staff pay, citing reputational damage as a reason.

Cambridge University Student Union (CUSU), on the other hand, have suggested that becoming Living Wage Accredited could improve the college’s reputation for prospective students and give it a competitive advantage for attracting job applicants.

A 2017 study by the Living Wage Campaign, in connection with Cardiff Business School, which involved businesses who became Living Wage Accredited during the study, found that 86 per cent of companies reported gaining reputation in the study, whilst 33 per cent reported that a major intention was to "improve recruitment and retention of employees paid below the Living Wage".

Approached for comment by The Tab Cambridge, a Robinson Living Wage Campaign representative told us: "Time and time again, Robinson have claimed that they are financially unable to improve working conditions for their lowest paid staff, but our findings show these statements to be nothing more than lies and disinformation.

"We hope that college will take our report as an opportunity to open up an honest dialogue with students and workers about how our institution can help remedy the stark social divisions in the city."

In 2018, a report by the Centre for Cities think tank identified Cambridge as the UK's most unequal city for the second year in a row. That year, six per cent of all residents took in 19 per cent of all income generated in the city, with the poorest 20 per cent accounting for just two per cent.

As the newest Cambridge University college, some defendants of the college’s resistance to becoming Living Wage Accredited have noted that it needed first to become financially stable.

The college is ranked 24th out of 31 colleges in net assets, although Queen’s college, who are Living Wage Accredited, has a lower student to asset ratio than Robinson college and like Robinson has a large outstanding loan.

Notably, in 2018, the Warden of Robinson College, equivalent to a Master, was the highest paid of all colleges’ Masters, earning £92,951 per annum.

Only three other colleges, Pembroke, Trinity and Emmanuel, pay their masters over £80,000 per annum.

CUSU Ethical Affairs Campaign told the Tab Cambridge: "While Robinson ignores calls for it to pay the Real Living Wage it actively plays a part in the maintaining of huge income disparity in one of the most unequal cities in the UK.

"Until Robinson – and all other colleges in Cambridge – take full responsibility for their staff welfare and pay the Real Living Wage, students will continue to work to uncover their unethical employment practices."

Featured image from: Steve Haslam