Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Staff at new Streatham Leisure Centre won't be paid Living Wage

Despite a promise that all its staff and contractors will be paid a Living Wage, when Lambeth Council's new Leisure Centre opens in Streatham on 18th November it seems some staff may be earning as little as £5.61 an hour.

The advert here from contractor Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) shows, Assistant Customer Service Advisors at the new Leisure Centre being recruited for £5.61 to £7.66 an hour. The bottom rate is just two thirds of the Living Wage rate, currently set in London at £8.55 an hour.

It has already been established that Lambeth Council didn't even try to negotiate a Living Wage for employees at the new Tesco megastore, which is also part of the new hub development. But it seems that even staff contracted to run the leisure services won't be paid a Living Wage.

Streatham has been without a leisure centre for four years, after years of under investment led to the roof falling in and its closure in November 2009. Lambeth then negotiated a £26 million deal with Tesco to build a new leisure centre on the site of the Ice Rink, with a colossal Tesco superstore being built on the site of the old leisure centre. The store now towers above the new leisure centre along with 250 apartments which are being marketed at overseas buy-to-let investors, under the slogan "come to live, come to invest".

After pressure from Greens, Lambeth finally agreed to extend the Living Wage to contractors at the end of 2012. (This covers contractors like Greenwich Leisure Limited, who will run the new Leisure Centre in Streatham).

When Lambeth Council became a Living Wage employer, Lambeth Labour Party were quick to claim that it would mean:

"Labour in Labour can make sure that staff who are employed by contractors on the Council’s behalf will now also benefit from the wage rise".

But Labour has form for making false claims on the Living Wage. In the same press release Labour stated:

"Lambeth Council has been paying the London Living Wage to all staff that it directly employs since 2006"

But as its own council report stated clearly, even six years later - in October 2012 - it wasn't paying it to some trainee social workers, cleaners, staff it directly employed in schools, not to mention apprentices.

In 2012 Lambeth decided to apply for formal Living Wage accreditation. As part of this it promised to negotiate a Living Wage with contractors. I raised the issue, at a public meeting to discuss the new leisure centre with Lambeth councillors, Lambeth officers, representatives of Greenwich Leisure. who said they were fully aware of this commitment. But it appears that they have not stuck to it.

The role of Assistant Customer Service Advisor, which is being advertised at a rate which is just two thirds of the Living Wage, is an outward facing one. The successful applicant will be:

"Responsible for delivering an excellent service to all customers by answering telephones, providing customer information, handling transactions, managing customer access, responding to sales enquiries and converting them into sales, and dealing with customer complaints, mainly within the reception and sales areas."

This is precisely the kind of job that the Living Wage should benefit, boosting morale, making staff feel valued and enhancing the quality of their work, and so benefiting everyone who comes into contact with them. It won't just be the employees who will the be poorer for the absence of the Living Wage from the new leisure centre, but everyone who visits.

The new leisure centre will open on 18th November just after National Living Wage Week.

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