My name is Tansy and I am a senior team leader for a cleaning company called Noonan's. I am also a UNISON steward for my staff.
I work at Southampton Solent University and I have a team of 90 cleaners working across the whole of the University.
Last year, the University decided to fund the money for my cleaners to be given a pay rise up to the foundation living wage, over the following year in two instalments. This was widely publicised by the University- “Southampton Solent University is firmly committed to social justice and economic prosperity and in recognition of this, they are implementing a move to the payment of the Living Wage for staff employed by their main contractors”. All staff received a letter informing them of this, myself included.
In August of 2015 their hourly rate went from £6.63 to £7.34. The second increase was going to be in September 2016,from £7.34 to £8.25. As we moved nearer to the date of the second stage increase, my Branch Chair Tomasa Bullen started asking both Noonan’s and the University for confirmation of the pay uplift. Just six weeks before the uplift was due to take effect, Tomasa was told that the University had changed its mind. The reasons given were:
- The cleaners had had a pay rise last year;
- The University could not control the Foundation Living Wage rate; and
- The University could not afford it.
The University has spent £30m on a new building " The Spark" and have committed to spending several million on a new sports complex; but they claimed to be unable to afford to fund a pay rise for the people who they expect to clean the new buildings.
The University's annual income is about £122million; the cost of the pay rise is roughly £52,087. This works out at roughly about 0.04% of the university's annual income. The University’s aim is to make a “surplus” of 6% per annum and they regularly achieve it.
Whilst the University was quick to see the costs of the pay rise, it did not see the value of ensuring that staff received their promised pay rise and the potential damage not paying it would do to their reputation.
The cleaners were angry and so was everyone else. Tomasa and I organised a meeting and we came up with a plan of action which included contacting the local press and media, the Board of Governors, local councillors, protests with placards and leaflets outside working hours and a strike ballot. Tomasa stated that we could win this fight. I contacted BBC South Today who contacted the University. Our local Labour Councillor, Satvia Kaur contacted the Vice-Chancellor and the Chair of the Board of Governors. Within a week the University had changed its mind.
I recruited lots of new members and we learnt that by sticking together and standing up for what we knew to be right, we could be successful.
I would like to thank Southampton District Branch for their unflinching support and the support of individual members across the University.