Labour and Green councillors won a narrow victory in securing an investigation into low pay for cleaners, care workers and dinner ladies at Camden Council.
In a disputed decision, the Tory/Lib Dem run council will now research the issue of low pay at Camden Council in time to discuss the tendering of part-time worker contracts in July 2009.
Cllrs Linda Cheung (Lib Dem, Hampstead Town) and Cllr. Nick Russell (Lib Dem, Kentish Town) voted against reviewing low paid contracts and the possibility of introducing the £7.60 an hour London Living Wage at Camden, while Cllr. Theo Blackwell (Labour, Regent’s Park) and Adrian Oliver (Green, Highgate) voted in favour. The decision to go ahead with 2-2 was made by the casting vote of the Chair. No Conservatives were present at the meeting.
Chair of the Committee and Opposition Finance spokesperson Cllr. Theo Blackwell said:
“It doesn’t surprise me that the Lib Dems are against the London Living Wage, they also oppose the National Minimum Wage.”
“The council outsourced residential caretakers and now wants to privatise Talacre sport centre staff. They are doing so without a commitment to pay people a decent London minimum. Everyone knows if you depress wages at the bottom it impacts on wages higher up the scale. If you carry on like this pretty soon you’ll have a recruitment crisis, or no local people will be there to do these jobs.”
“It’s clear that the view from on high is that the council doesn’t want to open what it sees as a can of worms. The council legal advice is suspect. They say it can’t be done, despite other councils committing to this and the Mayor of London seeing the higher London rate as good morally good and for morale and productivity.”
In the 2009 Budget Labour proposed an amendment to stop bonuses for senior council staff (totalling £300,000 a year) until the issue of low paid had been addressed. They also argued against proposals that 3 Lib Dem backbench councillors should be paid an extra £5000 a year for their work.
Cllr. Blackwell added:
“High wages and bonuses are no problem for the council, but when they consider low pay it suddenly becomes all to expensive. Camden’s own figures for school cleaners, cooks and low paid carers show that this would cost £1 million, about 1% on council tax. Last year Camden made a surplus of £13 million through cutting services and higher charges for the very services they continue to pay people poorly.”