Calls for council to commit to living wage for subcontracted workers

Leeds Unison says caring is a sector at risk from low pay.
Leeds Unison says caring is a sector at risk from low pay.

A demonstration is set to take place this week, calling on Leeds City Council to ensure everyone carrying out work on the authority’s behalf is paid the national living wage.

The Leeds Unison trade union claims many people subcontracted through other agencies working for the authority earn much less than the living wage, currently £9 an hour.

Leeds City Council says it pays all of its staff above the national living wage, but claims it cannot legally insist that its suppliers pay above the national minimum wage, currently £7.83 an hour for workers over 25.

The union says workers and community campaigners will attend Civic Hall to lobby councillors meeting for Wednesday’s full Leeds City Council meeting to make sure they do more to ensure subcontracted workers, such as carers, are paid more.

Martyn Walker, secretary of Leeds UNISON branch said: “It’s great that the council pays the real living wage to directly employed staff, but there have been no guarantees to continue this in future years.

“Also, our members who include care workers and other staff who work for them via a subcontractor have been left out.

“This means their pay doesn’t cover the basic costs of living. The only way to give workers the dignity and respect they deserve is for the council to get accredited as living wage employer.”

Councillor James Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for resources and sustainability, said: “From April 2019 our minimum pay rate for all current council employees will rise to £9.18 per hour, 18p higher than the recommended rate announced earlier this month.

“Leeds is proud to invest in higher wages for low paid staff and is working with partners and suppliers to do the same. However, no council can legally insist that a supplier pays a rate above the statutory minimum wage.

“Local authorities don’t receive any additional funding to tackle low pay, so costs have to be met by reducing services and potentially jobs in other areas. We know that between different suppliers on the same framework some pay around the foundation living wage and others don’t, but we encourage all suppliers to do so.”