Saturday 17 March 2018

Sodexo plans to boost workforce by 1,000 within a year

Boss supports higher minimum wage for Dublin

Margot Slattery
Margot Slattery
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

Outsourcing business Sodexo will add around 1,000 jobs within a year, according to chief executive Margot Slattery.

The French company plans to bump up its Irish workforce by 50pc in 12 months, lesbian, gay and transgender (LGBT) activist Slattery outlined to the Sunday Independent.

Sodexo, a listed multinational, provides companies with outsourcing services, from catering to security and facilities management.

Its Irish division, headquartered in Dublin coastal suburb Blackrock, grew turnover by €11m last year to €90m.

In 2015, this should rise to €120m, Slattery said.

It is bidding for several large public private partnership contracts, including the contract to build and run new court buildings in partnership with building firm Sisk and Australian bank Macquarie. The group have already won the contract to run a number of State-funded schools. It also has just won a contract to provide outsourcing services for Diageo's St James's Gate Distillery, including an emergency response unit. It has also signed up several new large pharmaceutical client and technology companies.

This pipeline of new business will necessitate adding around 1,000 employees, swelling numbers to 3,000, Slattery said. The demands of pharmaceutical and technical clients mean higher-skilled staff in engineering and health and safety positions will be recruited alongside lower-skilled staff.

The jobs will be located around the country at client facilities.

Some 48pc of its Irish workforce still earn the minimum wage but the company is trying to move away from the minimum wage, Slattery said. However, its ability to pay more is limited by a very competitive market, she said.

The current national minimum wage, at €8.65 per hour for adults over 19, is set at the right level, she said, adding that the high cost of living for Irish people should be addressed by the Government before it raises the national minimum wage.

Slattery supports the concept of a "weighted pay model" whereby workers in cities like Dublin and Cork would be entitled to a higher minimum wage.

Dublin was ranked the 21st most expensive city in the world to live in by last year's Worldwide Cost of Living survey, published by The Economist Intelligence Unit. The average rental cost of a two-bedroom unit in Dublin city centre was €1,345 a month at the end of 2014, compared with €682 in Limerick city centre.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton recently set up a working group to review whether the national minimum wage should be increased annually. Members of the Low Pay Commission include Maxol chief executive Tom Noonan.

But finding staff for higher-paid, higher-skilled roles is very difficult, Slattery added.

"We are seeing a definite tightening of the labour market in Dublin and in Cork to a lesser extent. Finding people with the right skills is very challenging; lots of engineers, for example, leave Ireland.

"We recently had to hire a health and safety expert and it was incredibly challenging - it took much longer than I would have thought."

Sunday Indo Business

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