London living wage (LLW) accredited councils have outsourced work to a leisure services provider that is “short changing” up to a 1,000 young people by not paying them the living wage.
A Unite investigation found that hundreds of 18-to-20 year olds working for Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) – an outsourcing firm that bills itself as a social enterprise despite employing most of its staff on casual contracts – are being paid £8.20 a hour instead of the LLW rate of £10.20.
GLL has contracts to run services, such as libraries and swimming pools, with nine councils accredited by the Living Wage Foundation under conditions that stipulate they must ensure firms working for them pay the living wage as well.
However, only 18-to-20 year old GLL staff in Greenwich, Hackney and Islington are being paid the correct amount, while those in Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Lambeth, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest are not.
“Unite’s investigations have exposed a running sore of a scandal that, we believe, has deprived up to 1,000 people working on zero hour contracts in six London boroughs of hundreds of pounds in ‘lost’ wages,” said Unite regional officer Onay Kasab.
“London is one of the world’s most expensive cities – yet GLL, that boasts it is a social enterprise organisation, is short changing young people. This must stop immediately.”
Kasab said that responsibility also lies with the councils, “who are supposed to write into their outsourcing contracts that the LLW must be paid to all employees aged over 18”.
He said, “Unite is demanding that the councils insist on this and that GLL honours the London ‘living wage’ in principle and also in practice.
“Unite has a written response from GLL stating that it does not pay the LLW to staff aged 18 – 20. This goes against the conditions under which GLL gained these contracts in all councils with accreditation status.”
GLL have also only been paying casual staff over the age of 21 the LLW since April this year, even though they should have been receiving it from the date the council had accreditation, which in some cases goes back years.
Around two-thirds of people working for GLL, which has contracts across the country and employs 10,000 people, are on casual contracts.
Unite regional officer for young members Mercedes Sanchez said, “Local authorities – proud to have the LLW accreditation – which do not check if contractors are in compliance have some explaining to do.
“Unite has been requesting access to council reports which set out the promised ‘efficiencies’ proposed by GLL. Access has been refused on so-called ‘confidentiality’ grounds.”
He added, “This is a poverty pay scandal hitting young people in London which must now be urgently addressed.”