THE LOWEST paid staff at the University of Southampton are being given a wage boost in a bid to ease tensions during the ongoing industrial dispute.

The university has announced it is giving its lowest earning employees an increase of up to £740 per year to bring them in line with the so-called ‘living wage’ rate.

In total some 286 employees will benefit from the move.

It comes as industrial action by both lecturers and support staff continues.

A series of walkouts have been staged as staff strike in a national row over pay.

In an email to staff, university bosses have said that: “The university has committed to paying a fair wage to its lowest paid employees.

“During the current industrial dispute, as a sign of the university’s goodwill, it will take an interim measure to supplement pay with an allowance to bring the income for its lowest paid staff into alignment with the current living wage rate.”

Janice Donaldson, university director of human resources, said: “We don’t feel it is fair on our lowest paid workers to have to wait for the national dispute to be resolved, so we are doing something now.”

The deal has been negotiated locally with union representatives and campaigners who have welcomed the offer but have said it does not go far enough.

University and College Union representative Eric Silverman said: “This is not a rise in the salaries but a supplementary payment so things like sick pay and pension contributions are not covered. It is not enough to call off any strike action which is still ongoing as a national dispute.”

Emily Rainsford, Movement for Change organiser for the Southampton Living Wage campaign, said the offer was not enough given the salaries awarded to university bosses.

She said: “I was under the impression the living wage included sick pay, holiday pay, fair pension contributions and overtime. This ‘allowance’ does not. In recent months we have also discovered that the vice-chancellor, Prof Don Nutbeam, has received another inflation-busting pay rise so that he now earns £296,000 per year – well over £1,000 per day.

“I call on the university to explain why they are able to find money for huge pay increases at the top, but cannot find the money to pay proper living wage for the lowest paid staff at the university.”