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Thenue leads the way on housing apprentice pay

Feature by Ross Wilson. Originally published in The National on 6 February 2018.

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When Thenue Housing took on two “modern apprentices” keen to work in housing it had an important decision to make.

Would it pay its eager young apprentices what it is was legally required to do given that both are teenagers.

Or would it take the decision that workers, whatever age they, are should be paid what Thenue calls a “proper” wage.

For Charles Turner, Chief Executive of Thenue, and the Board of the housing provider based in Calton, Glasgow, the decision could not have been simpler.

Mr Turner said:

“There was never any doubt that if we brought apprentices into the Thenue team, they would be paid the Accredited Scottish Living wage. The Board were very clear that just because someone is young, this shouldn’t mean a diminished salary.”

Apprentices Shannon Meechan, 19, and Craig Bryson, 18, now have the best of both worlds – gaining a solid grounding in housing and a wage much higher than some other apprentices earn elsewhere since they joined Thenue in May last year.

Shannon is working in corporate services and Craig is based in housing services in the housing association, which owns around 3500 properties.

Both are currently earning £8.45 an hour and this will go up in April. Thenue is not just accredited to the Scottish Living Wage but is also a Glasgow Living Wage Employer.

Craig Bryson said:

“It really is quite something that Thenue took the decision to pay us a higher rate. I know we are both very grateful, and we are enjoying our work in housing. It shows that Thenue is an ethical employer.”

Significantly, Thenue requires its suppliers, such as the contractors that build its homes, to also show commitment to a living wage. Thenue says this sends a strong message to suppliers that it expects them to share its values.  

Thenue has a strong historical connection to the City of Glasgow. The association – which will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2019 – is named after St Thenue, mother of the city’s patron saint St Mungo.

Housing stock is scattered across many of the most socially-challenged areas of the city – notably Calton, Bridgeton and Cranhill as well as in Castlemilk.

Thenue has always had a strong focus on regeneration, because as Mr Turner puts it:

“It is not enough to build homes. You need to regenerate the area where people are living with support at many levels. After all, creating thriving communities where people want to live is a core objective of the housing association movement. Growing deep roots in communities show that it is about more than simply collecting the rent.

“The housing association movement has long been admired for its commitment to helping people through community-controlled housing. With that in mind, it would seem a natural fit to pay people decent wages. We believe it is something our tenants would expect of us.”

Thenue is currently spending £23.6 million – a large sum for any housing association – on three major housing developments in Castlemilk, Bridgeton and the renovation of the iconic former Monteith Hotel overlooking Glasgow Green, creating a total of 120 homes.

The work has been made possible with substantial financial support from the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council in the ongoing drive to increase the number of homes being built across the country.

Key to Thenue’s regeneration work in communities where it has homes is a project entitled Smart Communities, funded by around £100,000 a year over four to five years from the Scottish Government’s People and Communities Fund. This initiative involves Thenue encouraging people to get online and pick up vital digital skills and has been running since 2013. It has helped hundreds of people and it continues to operate.