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Trades Unions Take Living Wage Campaign to Neston

Author: Ray McHale Published: 19th September 2017 12:04

Ray McHale, Secretary of the West Cheshire Trades Union Council, talks about their campaign for schools in the Neston area to pay the Local Living Wage.

With not a single school in the Neston area paying the Local Living Wage (minimum) of £8.45 per hour, trades unionists from West Cheshire Trades Union Council (TUC) decided the opening of the new building at Neston High School would be the ideal opportunity to raise their campaign.

So, as the public arrived to look around the new building the point was made with placards and leaflets, high-lighting the High School's failure to implement the Living Wage for its staff.

Living Wage demonstration at Neston High SchoolDemonstrators at the recent Neston High School open day.

Although the figure is creeping up, only around 50 schools in the Borough have adopted the Local Living Wage, as recommended by Cheshire West and Chester Council in February 2016 - that is about 30% of schools. Governors at the other schools have refused to act on this recommendation. Only four secondary schools have adopted the Living Wage. This leaves around 600 school staff not receiving the Living Wage, affecting caretakers, welfare assistants, midday assistants, clerical staff and technicians, as well as cleaning and catering staff.

Many schools use contractors to undertake cleaning and catering - the main one being Edsential, a Community Interest Company jointly owned by CWAC Council and Wirral Borough Council, both of which pay their own staff the Local Living Wage.

Probably less than 10 schools out of 170 across the Borough have agreed to also pay the Local Living Wage to these contract staff - as an option in their contract. That leaves another 600 staff based in schools earning below the Living Wage. Indeed, not only have CWAC not required their own company to pay the Living Wage - at a time when they urge private companies to sign up to the CWAC Living Wage Accreditation Scheme - but they have allowed the pay of many Edsential staff to be cut to below the minimum pay rate for all council workers.

Unfairly, Wirral staff are paid more for doing the same job because that Council introduced the Living wage before these staff were outsourced. But those staff too have fallen back, and are now paid well below the Living Wage.

The new Labour Council had a manifesto commitment to implement and spread the Living Wage - yet most of their staff who work in schools or who work for their company Edsential are still not receiving this after more than 2 years. It is no good the Council pressing other employers to implement the Living Wage if they are not doing it with their own staff. They need to set a clear example if wages are to be driven up across the Borough, and the local economy to be boosted.

The TUC's West Cheshire Living Wage Campaign is taking its message to secondary schools across the Borough as they hold open evenings for next year's new intake of people.

Living Wage demonstration in Ellesmere PortCampaigners also took their message to Ellesmere Port.

If you would like more information, you can contact the West Cheshire Living Wage Campaign Facebook group or email ray.mchale@btopenworld.com.


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At 17:10 on 20th September 2017, Denno commented:
Surely the Nat.Living Wage is the same as the Nat.Min. Wage which I thought was £7.50 PH for over 24 year olds.So where does the £8.45 come form,please?
Scott Morein
At 19:24 on 20th September 2017, Scott Morein commented:
"With not a single school in the Neston area paying the Local Living Wage (minimum) of £8.45 per hour,.."

I would have thought the local teachers would have protested long before now; elsewhere average teachers pay equates to around £20 per hour.
At 22:53 on 20th September 2017, rayred57 commented:
The Government deliberately confused things when it introduced what it called the National Living Wage - which is £7.50p per hour, but only payable to those 25 or older. The "Living Wage" of £8.45p / hour (£9.75p / hr in London) is calculated and set by the Living Wage Foundation supported by the Rowntree Trust (see their website for methodology). They accredit organisations paying the appropriate amount i.e. enough to live on if you work 40 hours, and had been around for many years before the Government randomly plucked a figure from the air and called it the "National Living Wage" - in effect a new name for the Minimum Wage , except lots of young people get less - as little as £5.60p per hour.
CWAC Council adopted the Living Wage for their own staff, but because they only pay it as a non-consolidated top-up to staff pay, rather than giving an on-going contractual commitment, they are not yet accredited by the Living Wage Foundation. So they introduced what they call a Local Living Wage at the same level as that set by the Living Wage Foundation. They began paying this to their staff in April 2016 and they urged schools to adopt this as the minimum level of pay too. School support staff in community and church aided schools are Council employees - however, a legal anomaly means that school Governing bodies are the "employer", and they can choose to ignore the Council - although they risk being subject to equal pay claims. Many school Governing bodies have chosen not to implement the Local Living Wage, even though the cost would only add £5 k - £10k to the budget of a primary school, and £15k or £20k to the budget of a secondary school (actually probably much less than these figures). The main beneficiaries would be low paid, part-time women workers who are cleaners, catering assistants, midday assistants, clerical assistants, welfare assistants and lower paid care-takers and non-IT technicians. Obviously teachers, teaching assistants , maintenance staff and administrative and business support staff are paid above this level and not affected. Many midday assistants work for just one hour a day, cleaners often only for 2 - 3 hours. The Church of England Synod has called on C of E schools to pay the Living Wage since 2012, and this is also supported by the Catholic Church. Yet so far not a single school in Neston, Parkgate, Burton or Willaston has adopted the Living Wage. (Ray McHale)
At 23:44 on 20th September 2017, Denno commented:
Gosh! How complicated.But so long as a firm pays over 24's a min.Living Wage of £7.50 ph then they are within the law because the £8.45 recommended by the Rowntree Trust is not recognised by the government.Right? So what is the point of picketing? Surely the way to get the £8.45 recognised is through our MPs in parliament who are supposedly working for us. (Or is it just themselves!)
At 13:14 on 21st September 2017, Dan commented:
The protests took place outside the schools when they held their open days ? That sounds a bit harsh to me - these young people aren't making the wage decisions for support staff and many are anxious about the move to a new school already. Are they the right target audience for these protests ? I don't think so and if anything that damages the credibility of the protest.

As someone above said, no laws are being broken - the living wage is a recommendation, therefore the correct person to approach is Justin Madders asking for the legally binding "minimum wage" to be increased not some kids and their parents moving to a new school.

At 14:16 on 21st September 2017, rayred57 commented:
I am sure Justin Madders fully supports the campaign for people to be paid a Living Wage. However, this Government is not yet inclined to implement such a measure via legislation. Local Government staff have - because of Government pay freezes and pay caps fallen 14% behind inflation levels since 2009. (You may recall that George Osbourne original indicated he would protect the lowest paid - because we were "all in it together". This did not continue after the first 2 years.) Our elected council adopted a policy of implementing the Living Wage, but it is the Governing bodies of schools - like Neston High, and local primary schools - that are ignoring this. The church schools even ignore the calls from their own religious bodies who recognise paying the Living Wage is a moral issue. The schools have been written to by the Council, and by the local Trades Union Council - but have so far failed to act. West Cheshire maintained schools had a total budget surplus of around £10m last year(more than 5% of their budget), and the same seems to apply to Neston - with a budget surplus of £450k. In this context the payment of a fair wage to the small number of low paid staff, at an additional cost of £10k - £20k is not an unreasonable demand. Saying the school is paying at least the legal minimum is not a great endorsement. Open evenings are evening largely aimed at parents - the open day on Saturday was aimed at the local community. We, as local trades unionists see no reason why we should not bring to the attention of the parents and the community our concerns about the pay policy adopted by the school - at a time when they are "selling themselves" to parents and the community. In general we have received a strong positive response from parents and from staff - and even being joined by 6th Form students at one school protest.
At 08:50 on 22nd September 2017, Denno commented:
Well said Dan and we certainly do not want the Liverpool Disease here.That can stay where it is with the RMT strikes which also are a disgrace especially when Merseyrail have had their Risk Assessment for driver only trains approved by the H&SE.To indoctrinate 6th Form students seems very Corbynistic.
CO Jones
At 09:32 on 22nd September 2017, CO Jones commented:
We still live in a democracy don't we New User?

Try getting a mortgage (or even a rental agreement in some cases) on a zero hours contract.

I did a YHS in the 80s. It took me until many years later to realise that most of them were not far removed from slave labour and a unemployment figures massage.

History is repeating itself in many many ways.
At 09:47 on 22nd September 2017, Dan commented:
On the flip side there are many people who like zero hour contracts, mainly students or those looking for additional work because the zero hours contractual obligation works both ways. If the government banned them completely it would help one group of people while impacting another. Some sort of balance needs to be struck there, like the ability to "opt in" for a zero hour contract rather than mandating they can't exist at all.

There was a good case in the press recently with a certain branch of McDonalds that came under pressure because all its staff where on zero hour contracts. The owners of the franchise offered everyone a fixed contract and only a small percentage actually requested it.

Maybe thats the answer to that particular problem, Make it mandatory for employers to offer fixed hour contracts, but give the option for the employee to opt-out if they prefer a zero hour contact as many in the "gig economy" do.
CO Jones
At 10:46 on 22nd September 2017, CO Jones commented:
It would help if there was an option to choose most certainly as it may help the exploitation that currently takes place in some McDonald's franchises (and elsewhere) where they clock people off when the store / shop is quiet and ask them to clock back in when people require service.

I am with the youngsters and low skilled / low paid on virtually all their grievances. They get absolutely shafted and most ( not all ) folk who are "doing all right" just turn a blind eye.
CO Jones
At 10:49 on 22nd September 2017, CO Jones commented:
*may help stop the exploitation.
At 11:56 on 22nd September 2017, Denno commented:
I hear what you say CO Jones.I too struggled to get my first mortgage which was at 15% and IT was 33% under the Wlison gov.Surely,the way out of low paid jobs is to study for NVQ's.City and Guilds etc. but that takes a lot of discipline.Someone above mentioned teachers on £20 ph which they fully deserve but to get it they probably have massive student debt to contend with which is something I do not like to see and I hope that the Chancellor in his coming Budget will try to help them.
CO Jones
At 13:16 on 22nd September 2017, CO Jones commented:
Tell me about it. Personal sacrifice to achieve is not new to me. BSc and MA achieved whilst in the military in my personal time. Including an exam in Afghanistan whilst the base was under rocket fire.

What was the % calculation on your salary for a mortgage illustration? 3 times income maybe? what marvellous times they must have been.

My daughter is a newly qualified teacher who is about to head to New Zealand, possibly permanently, with 30k of student loans. she is going due to decimation of arts funding in UK schools.

Interesting that the mandarins deciding acceptable student fees were by and large educated through University for free under previous systems.
CO Jones
At 13:18 on 22nd September 2017, CO Jones commented:
key point being many many educated people in the UK cannot get off the low wage rung of the ladder. They get the degree, get the debt and cannot the job.
CO Jones
At 13:19 on 22nd September 2017, CO Jones commented:
But hey, at least when we are out of Europe, we will get our blue passports back....
At 13:54 on 22nd September 2017, rayred57 commented:
The notion that zero hours contracts work both ways is over stated. There is no equity of power. Many people report that when refusing hours they are offered the response of the employer is not to offer them again. If someone is sick or has a child care problem they can find their hours cut to nothing in response. It is true that stable businesses like MacDonalds can offer very stable hours even on zero hour contracts, and have large enough workforces to cope with change. But many simply choose to keep people on zero hours contracts for management convenience - OK when you are 16 perhaps, but not when you are applying for a mortgage. The practice of taking people off the clock during quiet periods was outlawed by tribunal. But there are clearly cases of people on zero hours contracts being phoned on their journey to work to be told they are not needed that day. In care work many are only paid for the time they are with clients. Often they have to be available 16 hours per day but only get paid for 3 or 4 hours work, and no travel time. Many of the kitchen staff in CWAC schools are employed on PVH contracts (Permanent Variable Hours). This means that - with notice they can be told they are not needed the next day or the next week. A proportion of catering staff in secondary schools have their hours reduced after Easter when the pupil numbers drop off as 5th and 6th years start to do exams, not coming in on days or leaving before the end of term. This can be OK with a fair employer, a good union and a clear understanding of good practice - but in legal terms they are in a weak position.
At 14:01 on 22nd September 2017, rayred57 commented:
While study and progression can be a way out of low paid jobs - the fact remains we need people to do those basic jobs like cleaning, serving school meals etc. The fact that there may be a way out for some is no excuse to pay those who have to do those jobs at a rate which they cannot live on. Ironically we as tax pays pick up the cost through paying tax credits and other in work benefits. More than half of the people defined as in poverty live in households where someone works. Low pay is often a subsidy to the profits of big business. Aldi and Lidl have implented the Living Wage. there is no excuse for other big employers, and certainly no excuse for public sector organisation, including schools.
At 14:03 on 22nd September 2017, rayred57 commented:
tax payers / implemented
At 18:53 on 22nd September 2017, Denno commented:
CO Jones - You are correct.Mortgages at three times salary,mine only but not my late wife's which meant that I had to change jobs for a higher salary to obtain a mortgage.Therefore,to say that times were marvelous is absolute nonsense with mortgages at 15% ( Less than 5% now) and income tax at 33% (20% now).
However,your daughter should do well in NZ because she has a vocational degree but Teflon B Liar's university for all system meant many unaffordable 'Mickey Mouse' degrees with no job at the end and high tuition fees leaving your daughter with a debt of £30k and my granddaughter with£25k but at least they are earning a living.As a commentator wrote in the Telegraph this week,our education system is a shambles which I believe is mainly due to Tony Crossland,Shirley Williams and Teflon Tony.Other than cutting the number of uni. places to vocational subjects only and cutting the sky high uni.chancellor's salaries,it will be difficult to rectify the situation so that our youngsters are not saddled with so much debt in the future.Corbyn thought that he had the answer until he was told that the cost would be £130bn!

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