Not so Proud to be an FM

(Originally published on my old blog)

On Monday 16th March British MPs from all parties and representatives from organisations like the Fair Pay Network met with some of the wealthiest Premier League football clubs to discuss the widespread poverty of many of their FM staff as part of the Relegate Poverty, Pay Fair campaign.

 The Living Wage is defined by the Family Budget Unit as, “a wage that achieves an adequate level of warmth and shelter, a healthy palatable diet, social integration and avoidance of chronic stress for earners and their dependents.”  For many workers, especially those who live in more expensive areas such as London, payment of the statutory minimum wage leaves them below the Poverty Threshold. The Living Wage is set at 15% above this point to provide a modest level of comfort and protection.

The 20 football clubs in the Premier League have a combined income of £1.9 billion and spent £600 million of footballers last season. Despite this, the cleaners, caterers, grounds staff and security teams without whom no game would take place are struggling to support their families on poverty wages. A league table published by the Fair Pay Network shows that some of the wealthiest sporting teams in the world are paying the lowest wages to their support service staff. In the FPN Fair Pay ranking of UK Premier league clubs, mega wealthy Chelsea FC is bottom of the table while Aston Villa takes the top spot for good pay rates, followed by West Ham, then Tottenham Hotspur.

That old scapegoat outsourcing can’t be held to blame either. Some of the worst paying clubs, including Chelsea, self deliver many of these services rather than contracting them out.  While the players live a celebrity lifestyle those who manage the FM function are condemning their frontline staff to a life of working poverty.

The Relegate Poverty campaign is awarding a “Hat Trick Standard” to clubs who achieve the following minimum criterion: Employees should be paid at least £7.45 per hour in London – the London Living Wage according to the Low Pay Unit of the Greater London Authority – and £6.80 per hour in the rest of the country.  They will also have to sign up to a fair full-time pay agreement, equivalent to £13,100 or £12,376 a year for a full-time working week, the right to a minimum of 25 paid days of annual holiday, and paid parental leave. All of this must apply equally to all staff whether directly employed or contracted.

Unfair pay is not just an issue in Premier League where the contrast between rich and poor is so evident nor is it restricted to the FM sector.  57% of British children living below the poverty line in Britain live in households where at least one adult is in work.  However cleaning, catering and other support services roles are more likely to be paying statutory minimum wages than any other. The recession will make the situation even worse. As unemployment increases and organisations place an increased focus on cost reduction, facilities overheads will come under even greater pressure.

It seems to me that this situation cannot continue without the collusion of professional facility managers and the FM industry. Setting wage levels for directly employed staff or specifying rates for contractors is a management function. If we award contracts to suppliers who pay below the Living Wage then who is to blame? More ethical suppliers should not be disadvantaged merely because they treat their “operatives” as human beings.

Who should take a lead on issues like this in the FM World? Where is our Hat Trick Standard? The various bodies that represent FMs including the RICS and BIFM are always silent on anything controversial that might upset sponsorship or “corporate membership” deals. The trade press are already struggling for advertising revenue and rely heavily on the goodwill of the supply side. Perhaps this can only be dealt with by a grass roots movement of concerned and ethically motivated FMs who are ashamed that our sector is the leading cause of working poverty

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