Unite, the UK’s leading union is demanding that Liberal Democrat led Portsmouth council takes immediate action to ensure that outsourcer Colas, who operate highways and street cleaning services, pays its workers a fair wage.

Low pay

Unite, which represents over 40 of the Colas workforce has discovered that many of the workers are only receiving the national minimum wage.

The low pay rates are especially concerning as Portsmouth council has made great play of its commitment to become a national living wage employer. In order to qualify as a national living wage employer the council has to ensure that not only does it pay the real living wage, but that all its contractors do as well.

Frontline workers facing poverty

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The actions of Portsmouth council and Colas are outrageous. Both are ultimately guilty of forcing vital frontline workers into poverty.

“The fact that this has been allowed to occur and that there are no plans to resolve it during a cost of living crisis makes the situation even worse.”

The national living wage currently stands at £10.42 an hour but the real living wage which is the minimum amount that it is calculated that a worker can adequately live on is currently £10.90 an hour.

Colas challenged

Unite has raised the problem of low pay directly with Colas, which is paid over £28 million a year by Portsmouth, under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal to provide services to the council, but the company has refused to discuss the matter with the union.

Unite is now undertaking a membership drive and is committed to moving towards industrial action if the poverty pay rates aren’t swiftly resolved.

The ultra-low wages rises serious issues about whether the council is genuine in its commitment to pay the real living wage or whether Colas is failing to pass on pay to its workforce.

Council and Colas on notice

Unite regional officer Richard White said: “Unite never takes a backward step when fighting for its members’ jobs, pay and conditions. Unite is putting Portsmouth council and Colas on notice that they are on a highway to hell if this matter is not swiftly resolved and workers don’t receive a fair pay rise.”


Notes to editors

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is the UK and Ireland’s leading union fighting to protect and advance jobs, pay and conditions for members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.