9 April 2015
Last month support services provider OCS Group became yet another FM operator to gain recognition as a Living Wage-paying organisation.
The Living Wage Foundation awarded the accreditation to the company, which employs 91,000 people worldwide and 26,000 across the UK. It will pay the Living Wage to all staff directly employed at its UK headquarters. It also plans to offer a Living Wage bid in proposals to all new prospective and current clients alongside its market rate bid.
Employers are starting to see the benefits of paying the Living Wage. Brent Council has gone further by agreeing to become the first local authority in the country to approve new business rate incentives to pay the Living Wage.
Rhys Moore, director of the Living Wage Foundation, said OCS's take-up of the Living Wage "will help to set a new standard for recruiting and retaining quality people in FM. The benefits the Living Wage brings to staff and business are clear. FM is an important sector in the UK in terms of the value it adds and the number of people it employs."
OCS's recognition follows in the footsteps of other FM organisations, such as ISS Facility Services, Julius Rutherfoord, Principle Cleaning Services and now also Incentive FM (see page 13). The Living Wage is calculated annually by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University. The London rate is set by the Greater London Authority. The current rates are £7.85 an hour in the UK and £9.15 an hour in London.
More trust needed
Chris Cracknell, CEO at OCS Group, told FM World that there should be more trust between clients and their outsourced service providers.
"The failure by some poor-quality operators on the fringes of the industry to invest in training - and, in some cases, to resist paying the minimum wage - undermines trust and harms the image of the FM market," says Cracknell. "These poor - and illegal - practices also contribute to the lingering image of support services as a menial industry, which is wrong. OCS has become a Living Wage Service Provider because all the evidence from studies carried out in organisations that have implemented the Living Wage is that the Living Wage improves employee loyalty. This, in turn, translates into high levels of retention, lower absenteeism and better quality of service to our clients. Well-trained and well-motivated people are critical to our business."
Says Cracknell: "Management guru Tom Peters, author of In Search Of Excellence, captured this well some years ago with the observation from an airline CEO that if passengers see a stain on their seat, they think the airline does not do its engine maintenance correctly.
"In the case of hospitals and catering, high standards of FM can be critical, with patients at risk of illness or even death if professional standards of cleanliness are not met."
But he recognises that there are pressures on private and public sector to cut costs at a time when the absolute costs of provision are going up - mainly because of the high proportion of labour costs in services.
"So along with passing the pressure to cut costs to suppliers, clients have also chosen to reduce the level of service they buy or the frequency with which they buy recurring amenities such as refuse collection. From weekly collections being the norm, councils such as York, for example, are now considering a move from collections every two weeks to every three weeks."
Yet these cuts in provision have risks and consequences. There are reports of rat infestations rising by 50 per cent in some areas of the country, with pest control experts blaming infrequent bin collections as the cause.
He says: "FM should be more confident and show how it adds value. Facilities services providers survive by providing value. Our clients want value-for-money solutions that work and solve problems in managing their properties and other assets. Moreover, clients want to deal with well-trained people who can solve their FM problems in creative ways that add value to their own operations."
He believes that a way of doing this is by FM "pull[ing] together in a more unified way to increase the provision of apprenticeships in the sector and show its contribution to society".
"This is an important step which will also help to show that FM sector offers a compelling career path for bright, capable young people. More widespread and formalised apprenticeships would also demonstrate the increasing professionalism of facilities services and give extra visibility of the contribution that FM makes to society."