Keynote address III: The case for the living wage and in-house services
The case for the living wage and
Jane Wills, Queen Mary University of
UUK conference Strategic Sourcing 4th
An unlikely story?
• Focus today on saving
money and increasing
quality and productivity
• Living wage is about
increasing wages for those
in routine service jobs …
• And at Queen Mary, we
brought cleaning back inhouse
… how can that be strategic?
Stories big and small
• BIG: in-work poverty in the UK; the
economic crisis; do universities have a
role to play?
• SMALL(er): increased morale; decreased
labour turnover; increased productivity;
more attention; restructuring the service;
knock-on to student experience; the
brand and reputation; better local
Big Stories: The UK’s big problem
Share of employees in low-paid work, by selected countries.
Source: Pennycook (2012, 4). Based on 2009 data, except for France and the Netherlands for which 2005 data
were used, and this uses the OECD definition of low pay as those earning less than two-thirds of the national
gross median hourly wage
Big Stories: the 1 in 5
The characteristics of those earning less than the national minimum wage (NMW) and the living wage (LW)
Source: Savage (2011, 5). Based on estimates of Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) data, 2010
Do universities have a role to respond?
Being a civic university?
Google search – Newcastle:
“The primary feature of a civic university is its
sense of purpose – an understanding of not
just what it is good at, but what it is good for.
A civic university sees itself as delivering benefits
to individuals, organisations and to society as a
whole. It means putting academic
knowledge, creativity and expertise to work, to
come up with innovations and solutions that
make a difference. … [pioneering] a reinvention of
the traditional idea of a civic university.”
Sheffield and many others state a similar vision …
What difference does this make to behaviour as
an employer and a neighbour?
Lord Lionel Robbins
Higher Education: Report of the
Committee Appointed by the Prime
Minister, Under the Chairmanship of Lord
A mass system, based on merit, for the
public good focused on “a common
culture and common standards of
Small(er) stories: Queen Mary
• 1887 a ‘palace of
• 1888 “to improve the
scientific and technical
workmen engaged in
• 2014 has 17,840
students and 4,000 staff
The living wage
• £8.80 in London
• £7.65 rest of UK
compares to £6.31 NMW
30%+ in wages in London
20% in wages rest of UK
The market versus life …
based on the cost of a basic
standard of living.
500+ accredited firms; 1000s of
workers; £millions redistributed;
saving tax credits for Treasury.
A living wage campus
• Campaign in 2005 – broad alliance of
students, staff, local community
leaders in London Citizens.
• Research material also part of ESRC
project: Global Cities at Work
• 1 Jan 2008 most cleaning moved inhouse, the rest a year or so later.
• 200 people moved from NMW to
>LLW as part of QM community
• Late 2008, interviewed 73 cleaning staff (59 of whom had
transferred from the contractor; representing 24 countries
• What’s changed at work?
– Working more productively (68%), with more supervision (63%)
and completing a broader range of tasks (61%). [Increased hours
for the cleaners employed]
– A good number reported aspirations to move up within the
college in cleaning or beyond.
• 292 non-cleaning staff surveyed
– a third report changes in cleaning and of them, 83% say it’s
better … more contact, increased response times.
– Lots of requests for further improvements but only 4 staff (1%)
opposed the move back in-house.
• The Chief Admin Officer:
– “At the end of the day, the combination of both the VAT
and the improvements in performance and efficiency that
you’re expecting made it a much more viable position for
us to take … In this instance, the experimentation with
services being provided by the private sector was a failure
in my opinion. It was a failure in terms of the quality of
service that was being delivered, the ability of the
institution to manage that external service provider, and
the failure for the individuals that were being employed. In
that sort of analysis you can’t possibly come to any other
• And he was “perfectly happy” about any increase in
Costs and benefits?
• Costs to HR in taking on staff
• Expertise in managing the service – inheriting
‘supervisors’ who were largely untrained; sickness mgt.
• Fall-out in transfer from the contractor
BUT benefits too:
• Staff retention and training
• Morale and knock-on effects in student experience
• Reputation – in community and wider arena
The ethnicity of cleaners in
workforce (including cleaners)
Source: Analysis of HR
records from QMUL
Chinese and Other
Info refused or unknown
All staff (%) All cleaners All cleaners
Big and small stories
QM is “located in an area of deprivation.
The cleaners live in the local area and the
decision has an impact on the local
community. QM has to take a high moral
standing because of the nature of what
we do. If we are not going to do
something like that, who is? I think it’s
very important that the University takes
the lead in [this]. It’s the right thing.”
Follow up resources:
• Report on the experience at QMUL:
• Living Wage Foundation:
• Website with research and film: