College support staff paid below Living Wage

Cleaners, caterers and security staff employed through agencies receive less than £9.30 per hour, warns Unison

Julia Belgutay

College support staff paid below Living Wage

Two Glasgow colleges are the last FE institutions in Scotland that pay some of their support workers less than the Living Wage, support staff union Unison has said.

The union is calling on the Scottish government to intervene and force Glasgow Kelvin College and Glasgow Clyde College to pay all staff at the least the Living Wage of £9.30 per hour.  But both institutions told Tes they were Living-Wage employers and it was a small number of staff employed by agencies used by the colleges that were paid at a lower rate. Glasgow Kelvin College said it would be retendering in the new year for its remaining contracted services where this was the case. 

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Colleges paying the Living Wage

According to Unison, the two Glasgow institutions are the only colleges among 20 national bargaining colleges where some staff’s pay falls short of the Living Wage – with the staff affected including cleaners, caterers and security staff. All other colleges are now Living Wage-accredited and workers in outsourced services are also paid the Living Wage.

Collette Bradley, chair of Unison Scotland’s further education branch, said that for two of Glasgow’s colleges to be “bottom of the class” in terms of paying the Living Wage was a “damning indictment of their commitment to the fair work agenda and speaks volumes about their attitude towards low pay and women workers”. She added: “It is clear that these colleges are paying no heed to their paymasters in the Scottish government and need to be brought quickly into line.”

Chris Greenshields, branch secretary of Unison Scotland’s further education branch, said the Scottish government wanted Scotland to be a fair work nation by 2025, but unless serious changes were made, it was difficult to see how this would happen.

According to John Gallacher, Unison’s Scottish organiser, the Scottish government “couldn’t have been clearer over the last few years about its commitment to the Living Wage and what was expected of colleges”. “These two colleges have managed to find a way of turning what should have been a good news story in Living Wage Week into yet another embarrassing headline for the further education sector in Scotland. We have fairly new principals in both of these colleges and we are calling for them to take immediate action to right the wrongs of their predecessors,” he added.

Contracted staff

A spokesperson for Glasgow Kelvin College said the college was an accredited Living Wage Employer and pays all of its employees accordingly.  It was also keen to ensure similar status for any external contract staff who support the students’ learner journey, said a spokeswoman. 

"Two external organisations with whom the college contracts have now established a Living Wage for their staff who are employed to work at the college," she added.  "The college will be retendering in the new year for its remaining contracted services and have given a commitment to ensure that any organisation who delivers a service on behalf of the college pays their staff the living wage. This is in line with the process of 'phased implementation’ set by the Poverty Alliance and the college is fully compliant with their accreditation requirements." 

A spokesperson for Glasgow Clyde College said: “Glasgow Clyde College is an accredited Living Wage employer.  We received accreditation in 2017 and the Poverty Alliance have recently confirmed that we are continuing to meet the requirements of the accreditation.  All of the college’s employees are paid the Living Wage.

 We use two external contractors for cleaning and catering requirements at two of our campuses.  Cleaners and catering staff employed by subcontractors are not college employees.  We are supportive of the Living Wage and have milestones within our accreditation, which we will fulfil.”

A spokesperson for the Glasgow Colleges Regional Board said GCRB, and the three colleges in Glasgow, were Living Wage employers and were committed to paying the Scottish living wage. 

"We support the two colleges in the steps they are taking to ensure that all contractors employed by the colleges also pay their employees the Scottish Living Wage," the spokesperson said.


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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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