UK’s richest family accused of ‘playing Scrooge’ under workers’ real wages | National Living Wage
The UK’s richest family have been accused of ‘playing Scrooge’ after allegations they refused to pay all UK workers the ‘real living wage’ as their own personal wealth ballooned by 11.5 billion pounds in a single year.
A company majority-owned by the Hinduja family, which was named by the Sunday Times earlier this year as Britain’s richest person, is refusing to offer its workers – who help run a crucial government service – a salary increase in line with inflation.
Some employees of Hinduja Global Services (HGS) – a contracting company used by the government to help run the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), which checks the criminal records of potential employees – are only paid £9.75 per hour.
The rate is above the legal minimum of £9.50 for workers aged 23 and over, but below the voluntary ‘Real Living Wage’ (RLW) overseen by the charity Living Wage Foundation. Calculated by what people need to live on, the RLW rate, which is paid by thousands of businesses on a voluntary basis, was last month cut from £9.90 to £10.90 for workers outside of London.
A company spokesperson said: “Any claim that all Liverpool-based staff are paid less than living wage is incorrect.”
HGS, part of the Hinduja Group, in April this year offered workers a pay rise of 3.25%. This is now well below the current inflation rate, which is 9.9% and is expected to climb even higher this month.
Workers running DBS’s contact center and back office functions in Liverpool said they had “enough” and planned to go on strike between October 17 and 29. This will be the third walkout since August.
Workers are demanding HGS commit to paying at least the actual living wage of £10.90 an hour, sick pay, 27-day annual leave entitlement, paid breaks and greater security employment.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, said: “It is disappointing that the multi-billion dollar owners of HGS are still refusing to give hard-working staff a decent pay rise. They have an estimated personal wealth of over £28.5billion, so they can certainly afford it.
“Our members are frustrated and angry at the reluctance to pay them fairly, and they are more than willing to commit to the long term. As Christmas approaches, the Hindujas are expected to stop playing Scrooge and offer the staff a pay rise.
The company said it had “attempted to discuss the demands made by the PCS union and its representatives and reiterated that HGS is unable to respond to unreasonable demands made.”
A longtime HGS employee, who declined to be named, said: ‘We are on the front line of the cost of living crisis, but they are offering us a pitiful 3.25 per cent pay rise when the inflation is 10% – that won’t even hit the sides.
“We are unhappy to work for an organization owned by the two richest people in the country, yet we are told there is no money.
“Every meeting we have [with management] we are told that it is difficult for everyone and that the company cannot afford it. But it’s outrageous, we belong to real billionaires.
A spokesperson for HGS said: “In August this year, 68% of the workforce were earning wages above the RLW rate of £9.90. The others were new to the business and earned at least £9.75 an hour. It should also be pointed out that this contract was not obtained as a true living wage contract, but HGS honored existing staff rates. To say anything other than that is a blatant lie.
“This year – from 1 April – staff have been offered 3.25% – a figure well in excess of any public sector pay for the majority of civil servants and this has not been funded by DBS or the taxpayer , but HGS itself.An offer that was accepted and well received by the rest of the company.
The company added that under RLW guidelines, employers have until May 14 next year to comply with the pay rise.
The spokesperson said the PSC was wrong to suggest the Hinduja family was directly involved in HGS. “The PCSU continues to work on the fact that somehow the Hinduja family is directly involved in HGS,” he said. “They are not. They are shareholders of HGS alongside a number of other institutional and private investors and the reference to the wealth of our shareholders has no relation to the negotiations with the PCS and shows a lack of understanding of the role of shareholders in listed companies.
A DBS spokesperson said: ‘The Disclosure and Barring Service, along with other public sector organisations, is supported by the Crown Commercial Service whose knowledge and procurement expertise ensures the better commercial transactions for the benefit of taxpayers. HGS was awarded its contract with the DBS to provide advice and support to customers following a fair, open and robust procurement process.
The Hinduja brothers have seen their combined fortune reach around £28.5billion. They have been thrust into the spotlight by revelations that they have been allowed to avoid planning rules that should have required them to build 98 affordable apartments for key workers and low-income workers in their new luxury 1-bedroom development. £.2 billion in London.