The Living Wage is a step in the right direction

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.

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The level of wage rates in the Manned Guarding sector has been a significant cause of concern for many years. The advent of TUPE has prevented wages going backwards at a contract change but it has done nothing to help improve many wage rates.

It is not uncommon in the South East to see many examples of customers insisting on wage levels of £10.00 per hour plus. However we still see far more examples of security officers receiving the National Minimum Wage (NMW), especially the further North you travel in the country. When bidding for a contract, to comply with TUPE you have to maintain the wage levels currently paid, even if it is at NMW level.

It is a sad fact, but true, and it is not helping our cause to improve the image of the security industry. Ultimately wage rates are driven by what the customer is willing to pay, either directly or indirectly.

Over recent years, greater attention has been paid to the Living Wage, a campaign that was launched by members of London Citizens in 2001. The founders were parents in the east end of London, who wanted to remain in work, but found that despite working two or more National Minimum Wage jobs they were struggling to make ends meet, and were left with no time for family and community life.

The current Living Wage is 21 per cent higher than the National Minimum Wage at £7.85 an hour and this rises to £9.15 an hour in London. With a great deal of publicity being given to it, including endorsements from high profile figures such as the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, it’s an idea that is growing in popularity. So much so that during 2014 the number of accredited Living Wage employers more than doubled, with over 1,000 employers across the UK having now signed up.

As a consequence we are starting to see more and more customers looking at ways to pay the Living Wage and improve the incomes of their manned guarding personnel. Companies are increasingly viewing their participation in the Living Wage as a ‘badge of honour’ and the campaign has, very cleverly in my opinion, drawn on their desire to demonstrate high levels of corporate social responsibility (CSR). They aren’t always doing it for purely altruistic reasons either – they realise that there are negative connotations in paying the National Minimum Wage, especially if profits are high. This is particularly the case in industries like the financial sector, which has some very high earners. How would the public feel if these companies were paying people National Minimum Wage to protect their people and property, while giving other personnel hundreds of thousands of pounds in bonuses?

Increased staff motivation and retention rates, reduced absenteeism and recruitment costs are common benefits reported following implementation of the Living Wage. These are all issues that directly affect the security industry and we all need to look at the long-term benefits of buying into this idea.

Sceptics might suggest that moving to the Living Wage from the National Minimum Wage simply means paying the same people more money for doing the same job. Although in the short term that’s perfectly true, it would also mean that those same people take greater pride in their work, feel more valued, are better engaged and are more committed to their roles. For employers, it means less staff churn and the ability to make a more worthwhile investment in training, as people are less likely to leave the company.

Looking longer-term, better pay also means that the industry becomes more attractive as a career and higher calibre people will want to join our ranks. Increasing the professionalism of the industry has been a focus of mine for some time and I think that this would be a great way to help achieve this objective. Ultimately, the Living Wage makes sense whichever way you look at it.

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3 thoughts on “The Living Wage is a step in the right direction

  1. Bringing in the ‘living wage’ benefits both employees and employers and it would be great if this could be our start up point for contracts negotiations. However, as mentioned by you Peter, pay rates are dictated by the clients and it’s impossible to bid for a contract with rates that you actually would like to be paying to the officers as it’s a given that the competitors will get in there by simply offering a lower pay. Yes, there are other aspects that matter to the potential clients and our heritage and culture is a strong bidding element I believe, however ultimately the overall cost is what in most cases matters the most.
    It seems like we (security providers) are going in circles, aiming for the same goals, hoping to pay our colleagues more but then by bidding for contracts on such low pay rates, consequently stopping ourselves from achieving what we would like to achieve.

  2. I agree that the gap in the NMW and the Living Wage is enormous! 21% could mean a huge difference to the well being of a family unit or indeed the single person.
    I work for Corps having transfered from London on a fantastic wage working in the West End; I now live in Scotland. I have gone from over £13ph to the NMW, a 50% drop.
    You could argue that the cost of living is alot cheaper in Scotland as opposed to Central London and in some cases this is true. House prices are lower, renting is cheaper and so are utilities if you shop around but, the day to day things are not cheaper. Groceries, transport, fuel, childcare; these are all at a national average.
    I am all for a Living Wage and feel there should be more done in the North of England and the rest of the UK before London becomes like other EU cities like Paris where we have the richest at the center and the poorer tryung to climb over the wall the wealthy have built.

  3. It is good to see that you are all for the improvement of the security industry by increasing the standard of pay. I have often looked at leaving the industry to earn more. However the rates of pay are only going to increase once the security companies all get together and agree not to under cut each other when it comes to bidding for contracts. Having worked for Securitas in the past it has been their aim to see security personnel being paid £15 per hour. This wont happen until the fly by night and one man and his mate security companies, with lower overheads than the bigger reputable companies that are dragging down and diluting the quality of services provided, are removed form supplying security or made to comply with certain criteria.

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