Monday, 3 December 2012

Living Wage - Carmarthenshire Unison responds

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Plaid motion to support Unison's call to introduce the Living Wage for Carmarthenshire council workers was put on the back burner at the last meeting of the Executive Board. Discussion on the subject which arose at the last full council meeting was silenced with the excuse that the motion was on the Executive Board agenda.

Of course, at the Executive Board meeting, only the officer's opinion opposing the introduction was heard. The Executive Board, not known to ever disagree with the officers, shelved further discussion until some unknown later date. The Labour leader, who's socialist principles are, shall we say, hard to detect, gave in to the officer's recommendations without a whimper.

Unison have responded by writing this letter to all the Labour members on the council;

30th November 2012

Dear Councillor,

Re: Living Wage

We (UNISON Branch Officers) met with members of the Labour Group on 10th October 2012 along with UNITE and GMB.

At the meeting UNISON raised our demand for a Living Wage giving the Labour councillors present information justifying the case for a Living Wage.

We were informed that the Local Authority’s initial response from Paul Thomas 30th July 2012 had not been agreed with the Labour Group. The councillors present at our meeting stated that they were in principal supportive of a Living Wage but they were waiting for an impact report from officers and how the Living Wage could be financed.

To reiterate Carmarthenshire County UNISON Branch is campaigning for Carmarthenshire County Labour led Council to implement a Living Wage as part of UNISON’s national campaign. We want each Local Authority to implement the Living Wage as a minimum bottom rate for all public service workers this includes workers that work for private contractors carrying out for the Local Authority.

We have explained the justification for implementing a Living Wage and how we feel this would alleviate to some degree the poverty our members and their families’ experiences as a result of the Local Authority paying less than £7.45 to 2,800 employees and how this increased income would benefit the local economy.

Also given the disproportionate numbers of women and part time workers who earn less than £7.45 the introduction of a Living Wage is a welcome move in equal pay terms. This is because it should secure improved pay for women and narrow the gender pay group by 0.75%.

We would hope you would agree that it is unacceptable that the minimum wage paid by CCC is £6.38 and that 2,800 employees earn less than the Living Wage. It is particularly galling to many of our members that they are paid wages that condemn them to poverty when the Chief Executive earns 13 times more than them.

Making ends meet for many of our members is becoming more and more difficult – many members have more than one job in order to try and provide the basic necessities for their families. We have highlighted these issues to you in the letter we set to you on the 9th July 2012. The poverty our members are experiencing is also highlighted in our last newsletter “making ends meet” and this member earns more than the Living Wage!

We were disappointed with the information the Executive Board were provided with on the 19th November 2012 as is does not deal with the identified above concerns about employees receiving poverty wages and the impact this has on them, their families and their communities.

We also do not accept that the implementation of the Living Wage “could lead to a potential 88 job loses” as this is based on “average £20k salary cost” we question what average was used in this calculation as 70% of Local Authority workers earn less than £21,000 does the average £20k salary cost include corporate management salary costs? We strongly disagree that there should be any job losses or further cuts as a result of implementing the Living Wage. While we accept that there will be an initial cost of implementing a Living Wage and on-going costs the Local Authority officers have presented a one sided negative view of implementing the Living Wage focusing on the costs per hour and costs of implementation.

If CCC were to look at the whole cost of employment then the Living Wage is far less costly to the CCC than that claimed by management. As you can see from the examples below the Living Wage can pay for itself. We are asking Labour Led CCC to prioritise their employees who provide important services and to take the long term view in regard to implementing a Living Wage.

"In reality, the introduction of the Living Wage has not been the big drain on resources predicted by its opponents. When looked at over a two‐year period the expected budget for 2008/9 is almost identical to the expenditure spent on contract cleaners in 2006/7."
Queen Mary, University of London

“Many people see paying Living Wages as only something to worry about only when the economic cycle is buoyant. Such a perspective is extremely short term. A really motivated workforce is in many ways even more important when businesses are facing really challenging times.”
Guy Stallart, KPMG Europe

“Since adopting the Living Wage in 2007 catering staff retention rates have increased to 77% compared to an industry norm of 54%, and cleaning staff retention rates climb to 92% compared to the industry norm of 35%. Now when we train our staff we know that the money isn’t being wasted. They (staff) don’t want to leave and they no longer have to do two jobs just to survive.  Savings made on recruitment and training has offset the increase in the wage bill. Most of all, our workforce is now stable and reliable. Employers need to look at the whole cost of employment not just the cost-per-hour. We don’t understand why more companies don’t do this”
Wendy Cuthbert, Barclays Group

The above examples of employer’s quotes serves to demonstrate that the Living Wage can pay for itself. There is also research and evidence to demonstrate that implementation of the Living Wage can significantly reduce sickness absence in some cases by 25% and can improve productivity and staff morale.

We were expecting a response from the Labour Group in regard to the Living Wage following our meeting on 10th October 2012 and were as already stated disappointed by the outcome at the Executive Board meeting. Is this the stance of the Labour Group? Given the stance of leaders of the Labour Party and Local Labour MP Nia Griffiths we would have hoped that Labour Group would have supported our modest demand for a Living Wage.

Plaid Cymru group is supporting our demand for a Living Wage and we expect no less from the Labour Party UNISON is affiliated to.

While we are happy to negotiate how the Living Wage could be implemented for example we would prefer that the Living Wage to be paid as a supplement – this avoiding altering the grading structure we think waiting for the Welsh Government’s policy group to explore the introduction of a Living Wage in Wales is a delaying tactic.

Our members need a Living Wage now.

We call on the Labour Group to support our demand and implement a Living Wage.

Yours sincerely

Mark Evans
Branch Secretary
Carmarthenshire County UNISON Branch


Anonymous said...

UNISON need to get real. How dare they expect a Labour led council to implement socialist policies. They should realise that Carmarthenshire is in a parallel universe where the Labour Party is in cahoots with the pseudo conservatives known as the Indies.

To be serious, I am particularly disappointed in the Llanelli group of councillors. Considering they represent a solid working class area - a proud ex steel/coal town they should be ashamed of their supine response to what is a perfectly reasonable request. Remember the sort of people that will benefit will be the low paid -cleaners/drivers/caretakers etc. EXACTLY the sort of people that Labour should be helping. When they are happy for public funds to be given to a multi national multi million pound company to upgrade a sound system they shouold look at themselves and consider why they are in the party.

Some of them must read this blog - so I would say to every Labour councillor in Carms "Please reconsider your response to this issue - The living wage will benefit the recipients but also the wider economy. Do your duty and act as if you are a member of a SOCIALIST party".

Cneifiwr said...

Not only did Kevin Madge not make a whimper, he did not even have time to attend the meeting of the cabinet he presides over when the subject came up for discussion.

Anonymous said...

very convenient!