It came to our attention yesterday that our Vice Chancellor Don Nutbeam has accepted a £17,000 (5.7%) pay rise and now earns a whopping £294,000 per year. This is on top of £39,000 per year that the university pays into his pension pot – without him having to contribute a penny . Other benefits including a gated house (guarded by university security guards) and a £900 Christmas tree in his garden. Merry Christmas!
This pay rise comes at a time where he recently described a 1% pay (a real term pay cut and well below increases in costs of living) increase for university staff as “fair and generous”. Now we are in a situation where 140 members of university staff – predominately catering and cleaning staff – are on poverty pay (below living wage) and, according to the UNITE and UNISON unions, some are reliant on food banks. These are the people that keep the university open and functioning on a day-to-day basis, how many of you even know what Don looks like?
Tired of injustice
We don’t know about you but we think this stinks.
At a time when students are struggling to buy course text books, when SUSU is campaigning against student poverty in light of the rise in living costs and trebling of fees, this massive increase in pay seems somewhat outrageous. Undergraduate students in their first and second year of undergraduate study are paying £27,000 (not including course text books, compulsory course trips and living costs etc.). Surely by investing this amount in our education we would expect our staff to be paid fairly. Moreover, we would expect the quality of our education to be improving – unfortunately, as the graph below shows, the university’s world rankings have declined year on year since Don was hired in 2009 – despite it being his stated aim to get Southampton into the top 50.
A University spokesperson on Thursday defended Don’s pay increase to the Daily Echo: “The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with over 23,000 students and 5,000 members of staff. It is appropriate that the vice-chancellor of such a large, complex and international institution should be competitively remunerated.” Excuse us but is Don saying that he works 22 times harder than the lowest paid full-time member of staff? And deserves a pay rise six times higher than the lecturers and researchers who’s research outputs (e.g. journal articles/books/reports etc) and teaching are the bread and butter of the University? Is he saying that it is not worth ensuring that the cleaners, caterers and security staff who ensure that he works in a nice environment don’t deserve to have their pay rise with inflation? Come on. It seems he is being rewarded for our declining position in the league tables and squeezing the wages of those people who are the back bone of this university.
A group of students have decided that enough is enough. We don’t want to see our lecturers, the people that clean the lecture halls, keep us safe on campus and staff our food outlets being placed under pressure and not being remunerated for it. The University have cleverly announced Don’s pay increase the day before the end of term and as students are heading home for Christmas in the hope that students will forget about it. Our new year’s resolution, however, will be to stand up to what we see as gross injustice.
If you want to learn more or get involved then please join this group on Facebook and find out about our first meeting and what you can do to help. Our first aim is to get Don to donate his pay increase to the 140 members of staff he – as of yet – doesn’t think deserve a living wage. This is not an outrageous demand considering the Vice Chancellor of QMUL donated his £50,000 pay rise to the student hardship fund. We wants students and staff to stand together and ask ‘where’s our money gone, Don?’