Crystal Palace FC must pay a real living wage to all its staff

By - Wednesday 20th September, 2017

The club can afford it, so why are the young discriminated against?

Following his recent Twitter spat with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Steve Parish risks tarnishing Crystal Palace’s Premier League status if it fails to pay all staff a real living wage.

Over the last three years, I have been known to my family and peers as a proponent of local community activism that has vigorously shaped local politics, both here in Croydon and across Greater London. I had joined Citizens’ UK, a non-partisan organisation, on a protest of change and democracy to influence the mindset of local politicians and employers on issues previously neglected. Citizens UK initiated the living wage campaign back in 2001 to address the low pay that was leaving working families struggling to make ends meet. Citizens UK then created the Living Wage Foundation which today calculates the rate and accredits more than 3,400 businesses and organisations as living wage employers.

The challenge now is not entirely about calculating a recommended hourly wage of £9.75 in London to reflect the increased cost of living in the capital, but rather the failure of local employers like Crystal Palace FC (CPFC) to pay all people working there the so-called real living wage. Citizens UK launched a ‘Low Pay League Table’ to highlight the wealth of clubs who pay their staff poverty wages, while millions of pounds are spent on players in the Premier League. Crystal Palace can afford to pay all their staff a real living wage, and astonishingly had a turnover of £102 million in 2015-16.

There was no financial help for hospitality staff; no guarantee either that a set uniform would be provided and required us to purchase personal items

I was a hospitality waiter for CPFC in its 2016-17 season, paid £7.20 per hour to waiter clients in its executives’ boxes and suites (for VIPs including the leader of Croydon Council, councillor Tony Newman) but was treated appallingly by its own senior staff. Nevertheless, the significance of Citizens’ UK and the Living Wage Foundation work remains immensely impactful and prevalent to youth activists like me who are refreshing our political landscape. This goal now is to get football fat cats to pay the real Living Wage.

Following the Mayor of London’s letter to all Premier League clubs calling on them to pay the London Living Wage in January, Steve Parish engaged in a Twitter spat with Sadiq Khan, claiming his club paid all his ‘full-time’ staff a London Living Wage – despite forgetting clubs like Chelsea and Everton pay all their staff a living wage, including casual staff like me on zero-hours contracts.

I worked at CPFC for ten months, but only received a wage of £7.20 per hour that had to cover my cost of living as a student studying, working, and living in London. Cut-off dates meant wages were not paid in full, and this intensified the stress of saving enough money to pay bills and finance an expensive cost of living. There was no financial help for hospitality staff; no guarantee either that a set uniform would be provided and required us to purchase personal items. The struggle to save for my cost of study and living made it especially exasperating to be a young adult in a monopolised economy of zero-hour contracts.

Wage rates for the youth remain unaddressed by the government

The issue of low pay among the youth is more prevalent than ever – we are severely disadvantaged and marginalised by the government’s discriminatory National Living Wage, which only applies to over-25s. Wage rates for the youth remain unaddressed and hugely overlooked by the government’s legal minimum and local council’s poor oversight. National government has fail to adequately enact policies that help to support the prospering lives and futures of young people.

Locally, Croydon Council attempted to address this idea through introducing a Croydon Good Employment Charter to support the streamlining of a London Living Wage. It promised to promote a ‘long-term vision’, fusing the productivity, creativity, and sustainable growth of workers which in turn would aide a strong local economy and community, with benefits flowing throughout the borough. So far, the council’s charter hhas not persuaded one of the borough’s biggest and wealthiest employers, Crystal Palace, to sign up. The club’s various local initiatives have produced great results for young people. But paying all its staff poverty wages is stunting all further progression as club executives and players earn thousands a week.

One former colleague for the stadium’s bar and fast-food retail outlet, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a local 19-year-old college student. A explains: “It’s not fair that CPFC are paying less for someone who is younger and doing the same job as the other person where agency workers are paid close to the living wage”.

The local Premier League club does not set a good example

Advertising these zero hours contracts suggests Steve Parish is content with a monopolised local economy of cheap labour, unregulated contracts, poor standards, and an eroded local reputation. The government, through its silence, seemingly sides with executives and managers, ignoring the need to address such problems. Croydon Council should be deeply concerned that its local Premier League club clearly does not set a good example in its community. Zero hours contracts inadequately reward hard work and punish many with uncertain wages resulting from working hours and HR bureaucracy.

Crystal Palace can be Eagles who lead the local economy. But the council must exhibit a can-do attitude when expanding the living wage and Good Employers Charter, persuading all wealthy local employers to become accredited to both.

Daniel Deefholts

Daniel Deefholts

Daniel is a life-long Croydon resident, and regularly campaigns for London Citizens (Citizens UK) to address community issues within London and across the UK. He is studying at university towards a BA (Hons) in Politics and International Relations, and is a committed party member of the Conservative Party.

More Posts - Twitter - LinkedIn