Published on May 9, 2014 | by Karina Starobina


UAL cleans up its act and votes ‘yes’ to living wage

After a year-long campaign, with the dedicated support from the Student’s Union, GMB members have won the London Living Wage for all contracted staff across the University of Arts London.

UAL protest for living wage

Students and staff protest for living wages for UAL workers [Facebook: SUArts]

Cleaners in the GMB, the union for support staff in further and higher education, were about to take strike at the University of Arts London’s High Holborn headquarters over a dispute for wages to be raised to the London living wage of £8.80 an hour. The date and time of the picket were already set, when the great news finally came in.

The GMB informed the cleaning contractor that cleaners at the University’s Central Admin Unit had voted “Yes” in an official industrial action ballot held on the 28th April. Today on the 9th May, the Vice Chancellor of the university released an official statement confirming the living wage would be paid to cleaners by the end of 2014 and to all other contracted staff when the contracts are up for tender.

UAL protest signs

The campaign claims “justice” for UAL staff [Facebook: SUArts]

UAL joins a long list of London universities that are bowing to pressure from the campus trade unions and students in implementing a living wage for all staff on campus.

Nigel Carrington, Vice-Chancellor of the UAL, said in his official statement:

“I know this has been an important issue for colleagues and the Students Union so we are delighted to be able to take positive action on LLW before the end of the year. I’m sure that colleagues welcome our positive stance on this issue.”

Whilst the university has given absolutely no mention of the GMB in its public statement, it’s relevant to assume that members getting organised, protests from students, hundreds of petition signatures and finally the threat of industrial action is what has secured a nearly 40% pay rise for the lowest paid workers at the university.

Nadine Houghton, GMB regional organiser said; “To be paid a living wage should be a right, something unquestionable and immediate. That workers have to fight to win this right in institutions like universities that pride themselves on being just, moral and principled employers is abhorrent. But fighting and winning is exactly what workers are doing and at the University of Arts London they have done just this.

“The university has agreed to pay the living wage to cleaners by the end of 2014. The cleaners who are the most well-organised into the GMB who have ensured a date is set for the pay rise instead of waiting for the cleaning contract to come up for tender is indicative of the strength of the GMB and the fact that our members were ready for the fight. We will, of course be talking to the other contracted staff about how we can ensure they get the living wage too.

“With industrial action planned at the University of Arts central Admin Unit the Chancellor was faced with a simple decision. Give the workers what they are entitled to, what they should have had all along or deal with a strike of the lowest paid workers in the very office where he is based. He finally made the right decision.

“Campaigns like these and the many other campaigns that are winning real gains for workers show exactly what trade unionism is about. Making demands on the employer, having a clear strategy to win those demands and ensuring members are organised enough to have the industrial strength to see that strategy through should be at the heart of all that we do.”

Shelly Asquith, SU President, posted a victory tweet:

“Living Wage victory at @UniArtsLondon! I am soooo happy for these amazing women workers, so inspiring!”

Shelly tweet

UAL SU President Shelly Asquith celebrates the cleaner’s living wage victory.



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