Wales politics

Universities should pay living wage, minister says

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Media captionKirsty Williams said universities should use their power to do good, like paying the living wage

Universities should pay the living wage as part of a "civic mission", Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has said.

Cardiff University is the only one of Wales' eight universities with the status of a living wage employer.

Accredited firms and organisations pay a higher minimum wage than the statutory level - at least £8.45 an hour.

The body that represents higher education, Universities Wales, said many institutions "do have pay rates that match the voluntary living wage".

Mrs Williams also called for "much greater constraint" in setting the pay of universities' highest earners.

All vice-chancellors in Wales are paid more than £200,000 a year, in line with salaries across the UK.

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Image caption Cardiff University is an accredited living wage employer

"I would hope that universities would see their civic mission as being one that ensures all their staff are paid a proper wage," Mrs Williams told BBC Wales' Sunday Politics programme.

She added: "We need those universities to recognise the power that they have within our nation of Wales to do good.

"Yes, to educate people, but to use their power, their resources and their facilities to contribute to the nation as a whole and paying the living wage to all staff is an important way of doing that."

The Living Wage Foundation said an hourly wage of £8.45 was needed to meet the cost of living - higher than the UK government's National Living Wage for people aged over 25 which rose to £7.50 this month.

In an annual letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (Hefcw), Mrs Williams calls for "rapid progress" in ensuring all staff receive at least the living wage.

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Media captionCleaner Anna Wilcox had to work two jobs before she had the living wage at Cardiff University

She also says universities should "exercise much greater constraint than has been evident in recent years" in setting pay for senior staff.

Last November Mrs Williams announced a new funding regime for students that will help them with living costs, instead of subsidising tuition fees.

Universities warmly welcomed the changes at the time.

The most generous student finance package will be just over £9,000 a year - equivalent to an income on the National Living Wage.

A spokeswoman for Universities Wales said: "Many Welsh universities do have pay rates that match the voluntary living wage.

"Governing bodies will feel it is important to maintain their own decisions over pay cost increases, alongside the excellent benefits and conditions they provide, meaning they are often the employer of choice in their locality," she said.

A Hefcw report last year found top salaries at universities were "broadly comparable" with the rest of the UK.

In a statement Hefcw said: "We have confirmed with the cabinet secretary that we will be working with the universities with a view to securing the rapid progress which she seeks in this area."

Sunday Politics Wales, BBC One Wales, 2 April, 11:00 BST

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