Below living wage for 250 at university

About 7% of University of Otago's full-time equivalent staff are paid less than the ''living wage'' of $18.40 an hour, figures show.

Figures released to the Otago Daily Times under the Official Information Act showed ''around'' 250 full-time equivalent staff were paid less than $18.40 an hour.

Of those paid less than the ''living wage'', 51% were students.

The figures were from 2012, because full-year numbers for last year were unavailable, when there were 3755 full-time equivalent staff employed by the university.

All up, the university paid 10,636 employees in 2012, the vast majority of whom were based at its Dunedin campus.

Staff salaries are expected to cost the university $340 million this year.

The release of the figures comes after it was revealed late last year that 634 Otago University staff members were paid more than $100,000 in the 2012-13 financial year.

Tertiary Education Union (TEU) Otago University organiser Shaun Scott said he was not surprised about the numbers earning less than $18.40.

''A lot of those will be students employed in places like the student union, the shops and at halls of residence.''

However, having people at the university earning less than $18.40 was an ''issue'' the union - which was part of New Zealand living wage coalition - would likely discuss during bargaining this year.

''It is an issue. There is a lot of evidence about the disparity of incomes and the bad outcomes that has for individuals and society as a whole.''

Discussions with the university would likely centre around improving pay rates for the lowest paid staff at the university.

The number of staff earning more than $100,000 at the university did not necessarily have any relevance in discussions about the living wage, Mr Scott said.

The university's role as a ''critic and conscience of society'' was about academics discussing issues of public importance in the public domain as opposed to ''putting an onus on the employer'' to pay staff a certain rate, he said.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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