Paul Stewart (left), Prospect National Trust Branch President, and colleagues at the National Trust. Photo © National Trust.
Paying staff fairly should be part of our national heritage
Rent, food and clothing are not priced according to the age of the customer so basic minimum salaries should not be allocated according to a person’s age. To have a pay system that discriminates against any section of society according to their age is unjust yet that’s what we have in the UK with different minimum wage rates for those under and over 21. This is true in the charity sector, which is facing a particularly tough time at the moment. As a result, a large proportion of employees are paid the National Minimum Wage and a significant number are younger than 21.
Despite the economic climate, however, the National Trust has performed relatively well due to the hard work and dedication of its committed workforce. The people who work for the National Trust are passionate about the work they do which, as well as offering vital protection to the nation’s cultural, natural and built heritage, also provides a significant contribution to the economy through tourism.
Like many charities and voluntary organisations, the National Trust attracts highly qualified and passionate individuals that have a real interest in and dedication to their work. Unfortunately, dedication and loyalty for what they do can sometimes lead to employees being taken for granted. That’s why Prospect is actively working with the National Trust to guard against low pay and long hours which can creep in when people are passionate about their remit. After all, an organisation’s success is built on its people and offering financial reward and good terms and conditions for those people will reap rewards for the whole organisation in the long run.
This year Prospect negotiated an overall 3.25% pay envelope for National Trust employees, a proportion of which will be used to abolish the two tier pay system for staff on the minimum wage. This means that those under 21 will no longer be paid less than colleagues who are older than them but doing the same job. In fact, at negotiations, the National Trust recognised that although perfectly legal at present, paying under 21s a lesser rate for doing the same job was institutionalised discrimination.
Whilst removing the two tier system is a step in the right direction, the battle is not over yet.
A colleague recently pointed out to me that nothing says ‘we don’t value you’ more than the minimum wage. The message is that we would pay you less if we could.
That’s why we’re campaigning for the introduction of the Living Wage and hope that the National Trust will take that next step and become a leader in a different but just as important part of our national heritage: social advancement. By introducing the Living Wage the National Trust will add to the growing number of high profile employers that are helping to put an end to low pay Britain and continue to attract skilled and passionate employees in years to come.