24th July 2008

Minimum wage plans could hit London conference venues hardest

Aside from insolvency firms and, most recently takeaway chains benefiting from growing numbers of Britons opting to dine. . .

<p>Aside from insolvency firms and, most recently takeaway chains benefiting from growing numbers of Britons opting to dine in rather than dine out, almost all businesses are now starting to feel the pinch on the back of the recent slump in the global credit markets. </p><p>The corporate conferencing sector is certainly no exception, with organisers now looking to streamline their budgets as far as possible without jeopardising on quality, while many business managers are starting to think twice about sending their employees away to any event which is not guaranteed to be beneficial. </p><p>Now it looks like the financial difficulties facing both venues and organisers in the capital are set to be exacerbated before the busy Christmas period as London mayor Boris Johnson outlines his plans to raise the minimum wage of workers in the hotel and leisure sector. </p><p>Coming after sustained pressure from London Citizens, a group comprising community leaders and workers' unions, Mr Johnson will announce plans to raise the minimum pay for the lowest ranked workers at City Hall, as well as at organisations under the umbrella of the London Development Agency, to £7.40 an hour. </p><p>Notably, the mayor has also confirmed that he plans to legislate to make London's leading hotels – in which some of the city's best conferencing facilities are housed – follow suit and go beyond the government's national minimum wage increases due to come into effect in October and introduce a 'living wage' for its workers. </p><p>"If he [Johnson] gives a lead at City Hall we can see this policy cascading down across London with thousands of low-paid workers benefitting," commented Neil Jameson, head of London Citizens. </p><p>Though in most parts this will only amount to an extra few pounds an hour being paid to conferencing venue staff, the move comes at a time when most are already having to take action to deal with soaring fuel bills and dwindling confidence within the business world. </p><p>Some conference industry leaders have argued that the measures may prove counter-productive and won't achieve the desired knock-on effect of raising professional standards in time for the 2012 Olympic Games, with some pointing to the larger advantages of a more efficient system of accreditation for workers in the sector. </p><p>Despite these reservations, it looks likely that venues and conference organisers will have to increasingly factor in such wage increases over the coming months and years, though the Federation of Small Businesses has recently stated that this may not have the negative effect many fear it will. </p><p>"What's more significant at the moment is the cost of fuel and the downturn in the economy, which is certainly having somewhat of an impact on small businesses that don't have very big profit margins – which is a lot of them," Simon Briault a spokesperson for the organisation explained. </p><p>Indeed, for the time being at least, arguably the best means of the conferencing industry combating the economic downturn and rising costs is to become more energy efficient, with venues urged to ensure their halls are well-insulated, while even energy-saving light bulbs can save a tidy sum – often more than enough to offset the cost of paying waiting staff an extra pound an hour. </p><p>As Hugh Jones, a director at the Carbon Trust, concluded: "If companies are starting to feel the bite from the economic downturn, the first place to look for cost savings should be their energy bill. There are literally millions of pounds going out of the window every day, across the UK."<img alt="ADNFCR-1753-ID-18699639-ADNFCR" src="http://feeds.directnews.co.uk/feedtrack/justcopyright.gif?feedid=1753&it..." /></p>