Why the living wage matters: Hugh Baird College

Sue Parry, the branch secretary at Hugh Baird College in Merseyside, says that the living wage made a big difference to UNISON members there when it was introduced last year, before being consolidated in January and then raised this week to £7.45.

“It had a big impact, no question. A lot of the members told me about the difference it was making in their lives. We’ve got a new principal, Yana Williams, and she’s pretty determined to see the wage spread throughout our community.

“Of course, as prices go up, the living wage needs to keep pace, but I’m absolutely certain that we’re better off with it than without it.”

Collette Gorton is a security guard at the college. “My pay went up from about £6.50 an hour to £7.20 in January this year, backdated to August 2011,” she says.

“At the time it made a lot of difference. When bills came in I could pay them more easily and I didn’t worry so much doing the groceries. I could sometimes get myself a little treat.

“But now with the increase in the cost of living I’m back to where I was before. I don’t get any treats in my shopping basket anymore.”

Yana Williams, the college principal, explains: “All staff across the college have at least a living wage and we are looking at paying the same to apprentices.

“We’re trying to set a trend for reasonably big organisations to follow.

“We are trying to work with companies we contract to encourage them to pay the living wage to their staff but it is difficult for some because they are quite small.

“We are hoping to lead by example and listen to their concerns and support them where we can.

“People on less than the living wage sometimes struggle to afford even to get to work, so hopefully the living wage will give staff less to worry about.

“We hope staff see us as a good place to work. We have had an increase in applications especially from the local community – they know that our staff are paid an acceptable minimum salary and that we do other things to promote a good work-life balance.

“We have increased holidays for business support staff, have introduced more flexible working for staff with additional responsibilities outside work and increased our staff development budget.

“We are also looking to see what help we can offer for childcare and transport.”

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