Brother Walfrid’s Resolution
Brother Walfrid created Celtic football club in 1888 as a funding conduit to lessen poverty in the east end of Glasgow: “A football club will be formed for the maintenance of dinner tables for the children and the unemployed.” Poverty, in whatever shape or form, was abhorrent to Brother Walfrid’s innate sense of decency. It is this core value that runs through our very veins and has been the beating heart of the Celtic diaspora, passed down from one generation to the next. We are a family because we care for each other and for those less fortunate than ourselves. For that, we are indebted to Brother Walfrid. At Celtic’s AGM, in this our celebratory 125th anniversary year, Celtic turned its back on Brother Walfrid when it rejected Resolution 11.
The demand set out in Resolution 11 was one that could have been penned by Brother Walfrid himself: that Celtic – and I do not separate club from company because we are one and the same, legally and morally – pay their low-paid workers an hourly rate that lifts them above the poverty threshold. Brother Walfrid’s Poverty Resolution, for that is what it was, fell on deaf ears and was defeated. Stunned silence does not convey the shock of that decision.
The Working Poor
Celtic is legally entitled to pay a wage that keeps a section of its workers in “working poverty”. That sum is given the formal name the National Minimum Wage. It has a number of rates depending on an employee’s age. An employer can legally get away with paying its employees as little as £2.68 an hour (for an apprentice), £3.72 (for someone under 18), £5.03 (18-20) and £6.31 (21 and over).
The wage that raises workers above the National Minimum Wage, and out of poverty, is called the Living Wage. It is currently set at £7.65 an hour, a sum calculated annually by The Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University. London has its own Living Wage (£8.80), determined by the Greater London Authority. The amount is based on meeting essential utility costs and the average price of a basic basket of goods. The number of workers at Celtic Park who are paid the National Minimum Wage at some level, and so below the Living Wage, total 178.
Paying the Living Wage is the right thing to do because the alternative is to be an accomplice to poverty and that is a working practice associated with slum-dwelling Victorian Britain. A rich employer that can afford six-figure bonuses but still refuses to add a few pounds to the salary of its own working poor is an affront to a civilised society.
The moral case for paying a wage that allows staff a degree of dignity and provides for a decent standard of living is impregnable but those employers who have become Living Wage employers also recognise the business case. Dominic Johnson, Employee Relations Director at Barclays Bank (http://www.livingwage.org.uk/calculation): “This is not only the right thing to do, but good business. Early research on the impact of the Living Wage for cleaners on Barclays’ contracts shows our suppliers have a 92% retention rate versus an industry average of 35%. This means we can gain a better quality and more reliable service from colleagues who feel committed and valued for what they do.”
Other employers up and down the country have also sought Living Wage accreditation. KPMG, Lloyd’s, Deloitte, Lush, PWC, Bartons Solicitors, Bootstrap Company, Corgi Home Plan, Direct Plastics, Harlow Council, J. P. Morgan, Legal and General, National Portrait Gallery, Rathbones, and many more.
The movement to replace a low wage with a living wage has even crossed the pond to reach the shores of arguably the most capitalist country in the world, the United States of America. Sea Tac in Washington, with a population of just over 30,000, is voting to make the whole town a Living Wage town. The vote is to raise the legal minimum wage to $15 (£9.40) an hour, a 60% increase from the current minimum wage of $9.19 (£5.76) an hour.
If the Living Wage is right for other employers, why is it wrong for Celtic?
The Celtic Board’s Position
“Paying the Living Wage is not just an important part of our values, our people strategy and our award winning corporate responsibility agenda: it’s critical.” That is not the Celtic Board’s position, but that of KPMG (http://www.livingwage.org.uk). This is the Celtic Board’s position:
- Extremely Rich Men’s Excuse 1
“For many this is their second job”.
For many on the Celtic Board their directorship is a second job (or even third or fourth) and one for which they are extremely well paid and not subject to the same logic that necessitates poverty remuneration. However, for the lowest paid at Celtic Park, their second job is not a life-style choice. The low-paid have two jobs because they are struggling to make ends meet with just one low-paid job. If the comment by the Celtic Board is meant to suggest that “for many” this second job is for money to buy sweeties, and not to cover essential living bills, then it is a suggestion that does not merit a dignified response.
- Extremely Rich Men’s Excuse 2
Celtic’s Investors in People status is evidence of “our commitment to the development and success of our people”.
There is an alternative view of Investors in People: that it is an expensive, self-congratulatory HR propaganda tool and is no substitute for paying a decent wage. A status symbol does not keep a house warm or fill a child’s stomach with food.
- Extremely Rich Men’s Excuse 3
“In April this year, we launched our annual Colleagues’ Attitudes and Opinions Survey”.
And they all answered no to the following questions:
Question 1. Would you like to see Celtic continue in the footsteps of Brother Walfrid and help remove poverty in the east end of Glasgow (Y/N)?__
Question 2. Would you like Celtic pay a wage to our lowest paid staff that is above a poverty wage (Y/N)?:__
Question 3. 178 of your colleagues, here in the east end of Glasgow, are on poverty wages (the ‘working poor’). This runs contrary to Brother Walfrid’s mission. Should we pay them a wage that takes them out of poverty (Y/N)?__
- Extremely Rich Men’s Excuse 4
“The Company operates an annual bonus scheme… in order to encourage out-performance, motivate and retain staff.”
Three points: 1) A bonus is an “additional good thing”. When it is used in conjunction with a poverty wage then it is not an “additional good thing”. If, on the hand, a bonus was available over and above the payment of a Living Wage, which is a good thing, then it would genuinely deserve the label bonus. 2) An employee should not need to depend on a bonus payment to pay basic bills. 3) It is not guaranteed. If a low paid worker fails to secure a bonus then that worker may also fail to put food on the table.
- Extremely Rich Men’s Excuse 5
“The Company takes into account remuneration packages within other comparable companies and sectors.”
To paraphrase: everybody is shafting the poor so why should Celtic be any different? Just because other football clubs are paying poverty wages to some staff does not mean that Celtic have to follow their example. Celtic’s wage structure for football players is significantly higher than any other football club in Scotland. Why not replicate that approach at the other end of the food chain? We break the mould for the rich so why not for the poor?
- Extremely Rich Men’s Excuse 6
“… key element of sustaining a robust structure that can withstand the economic pressures of the current football environment is responsible financial management for the long term.
Such an approach requires flexibility and control of costs.”
This is corporate gobbledygook. Why does the bugle call for flexibility and control only apply to the working poor? Is it because they are powerless and so easily controlled? Flexibility and control should not be linked to the working poor. Celtic is not in vigorous financial health because of the negligible wages paid to 178 staff – if they are then more shame on Celtic. Nor will paying those 178 staff a living wage send Celtic spiralling into a financial black hole. You do not hear KPMG or Barclays Bank or Lush or Legal & General complaining about loss of flexibility or control over costs.
At the next home game when you buy an expensive pie and Bovril you can cheer yourself up by reflecting that the pennies paid to the young workers behind the counter allow Celtic flexibility and control.
- Extremely Rich Men’s Excuse 7
It costs too much.
Celtic cannot afford not to because if the dark stain on Brother Walfrid’s legacy becomes permanent then the price to pay for the damage to Celtic’s reputation will be far greater. Celtic can afford to spend £1,409,744 on nine Directors but cannot afford to take cleaners, bar staff, fast-fast workers, stewards, and other staff, out of working poverty? The vast majority of these workers turn up for about four hours a week, 30 match days a year. That’s about £1.34 extra X 4 hours = £5.36 a day per employee aged 21 or over. Do the math. Any pay differentials will be at the bottom end of the pay scale. This is about choice, not means, and Celtic have chosen to adopt a business model that benefits those at the top and forces those at the bottom to seek tax-relief and in-work benefits. The State, in effect, is subsidising employers who continue to pay staff poverty wages.
More Than A Club
Celtic is a club like no other. Some have better football teams or more money or a bigger stadium or even more fans. We are different. We are not defined by our team, our wealth, our stadium or by the size of our fan base. We are more than the sum of our parts. Celtic is a cultural phenomenon built on an idea. An idea that was gifted to us by Brother Walfrid: that our club is founded on the bedrock of decency and a concern for the well-being of our fellow citizens. It is this idea that bonds us as a family, the Celtic Family.
Brother Walfrid’s humane vision does not shrink to enlarge a profit margin; nor does it demur to the vagaries of corporate benevolence. Celtic’s position over the eradication of working poverty under its own roof in the east end of Glasgow is untenable, both from a moral and a financial stance. When there exists tension between voting for one over the other it is the moral vote, Brother Walfrid’s vote, his ideals, his vision of us, that should always, always triumph. That is why we are more than a club.
Posted by JohnBhoy