Pay rates for trained staff

Check out this job advert:

Grower - Horticulture
Recruiter: Millgarden
Location: Dorset
Salary: £15,000 - £20,000 DOE
Closing Date: 04 Feb 2017
Find out more & apply »

These guys are advertising for a 'grower'. By definition, this person will be trained at the very least. And, to be confident enough to take on their role, they will have to have experience. £15-20K???  Can you raise a family on that? Can you afford a reasonable - REASONABLE - lifestyle on that sort of money?  Frankly; NO!  £15K is £7.21/hour on a 40 hour week or £7.79 per hour on a 37 hour week.  That is floor sweeping money. You can't legally pay much less.

This is just an example of the long-standing disdain that the horticultural trade is held in.

Today, in a world where very few people are prepared to get their hands dirty, practical skills are becoming rarer.  Surely now the time has come for practical, skilled tradespeople to assert themselves on the market.  Any business is only as good as the staff it employs. If you employ unskilled, clueless staff your product will suffer.

I strongly feel that this sort of pay grade is barely defensible in today's economy, regardless of your trade or profession. But to require someone to have skills and experience and to settle for such a crippling wage is simply exploitative.

If you are a horticultural graduate I would urge you to shun this sort of 'opportunity'. If you are an employer I strongly urge you to look to your business model. You aren't doing your business any favours and you are casting your business in a very bad light. Your clients would be appalled to know what you are paying skilled staff - I know; I have had to have the uncomfortable discussions with clients on behalf of a previous employer myself.

Our market is divided between expenditure bands. The nationwide companies, cutting grass on a 3% margin and employing seasonal staff can get away with paying 'living wage' or less - although your middle management will spend a stupid proportion of their time firefighting and handling complaints - maybe that's the role you've given them, but it's hardly productive.

If you're catering to the private sector your clients are probably expecting more. You won't get anything from someone who's content to work for minimum wage. You need people with drive and ambition. AND skills. £7.70/hr to, at best £10.39 per hour for a 37hr week? Think about it,

If you consider that your client base would choose not to afford the fees necessary to pay your staff according to their skills then maybe you shouldn't be attempting to work for them. Would you, as a sole trader, work for peanuts? Not unless you were content to live in poverty, work yourself to early decrepitude, and stay exactly in that hopeless, futureless position to the day you retired to your sheltered accommodation.

Our trade needs to pull itself up to the paying rank of all the other practical trades. The skills are different and many people think they can do it. However, they are paying us to do work they don't want to do. Furthermore, as any knowledgeable tradesman will be able to tell you, there's a world of difference between (for instance) being able to use a pair of secateurs and knowing how and when to prune a particular shrub/fruit bush/fruit tree.

Pay trained staff decent, incentivising pay. Our entire trade will benefit, from the individuals at the coal face to the trade's attractiveness to intelligent, driven applicants. Our output will improve and the paying clients will eventually respect skill and knowledge.

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  • PRO

    I agree wholeheartedly with this post, the pay rate for most (I'm talking growers sector here) is not enough. I have a retail nursery in my family and often watch with disbelief when someone looks at a 7-10 year old tree at say £40 and says 'that's expensive'. What?! Thats £4 a year to get it to that stage and it'll be there for the next 50-1500 years! 

    In some instances, it's us undervaluing ourselves in the industry. A very good customer (Financial advisor) of mine is always telling me 'If you don't value yourself highly, no-one else will'. 

    Unfortunately, in the retail sector, there is discounters willing and able to undercut by means of lower overheads, smaller margins, larger buying power, reduced buying costs, reduced quality etc. etc. and some growers will race to the bottom to please the customers that want to pay the least. 

    With plant prices so low, the nurseries have to keep their overheads low, their main costs being staff, so although, yes the rate of pay is unfair, I do genuinely believe that if they were to pay what might be fair (£10 ph? more?) they simply would not be in business. 

    The blame here I lay with discounter chains bringing prices down and consumers buying lower quality plants from such places, to make what I believe a driving factor in the value the industry puts on itself. 

    • I fully understand your dilemma. The big chains, usually with no background in horticulture but opportunistically cashing in on a market, are killers with their purchasing tactics and marketing clout.

      However, they do cherry-pick. Annual bedding, for instance, is almost a waste of time now for the smaller grower unless you're selling direct through your own outlet.The 'bread and butter' ranges of garden shrubs, especially those that are readily propagated, are also too easily undercut.

      Unfortunately, the buying public seem to just follow the marketing leash. However, there are always the enthusiasts and the horticultural connoisseurs who are looking for 'different'. I consider that the big chains have almost carved out a rather boring, mass-market niche for themselves. 

      Catering for the better informed, pricing appropriately and, perhaps most importantly, trumpeting the excellence of one's range can't be beaten by the big guys. Your market may be smaller, but your rate of return will be so much higher, arguably allowing you to pay more and to spend less time playing catch-up.

      That said, this is a landscape group and, although that job advert was about growing, I was really talking across the board about exactly what your financial advisor was saying; we need to value ourselves more highly.  It needs to start with the pay we offer newcomers to the industry. And perhaps it needs to filter through to what we charge.

      • ...and I apologise for the simplistic, broad sweep of some of my comments. Obviously the details of our market places are far more complex than may be dismissed in a few sentences. I'm just trying to get a point across about the strategic place of good pay in improving our industry.

  • PRO

    We can't castigate an individual Employer for wider socio-economic issues that they can not be held liable for, but do agree with the overall sentiment. It has always been a hot, hot topic on LJN.

    As individuals, take a step back from  and consider what you do as a 'consumer' when you go shopping for produce - Where do you shop?, What's your main buying criteria - Quality inter-mixed with Price ? Do you focus on Supermarkets offering all those cheap BOGOF deals? Who 'funds' those deals ? If I said to you - "Pay more for those vegetables at the Tills and I can raise my guys pay by 50p per hour" - are you willing to fund that ? What would be most people answer ?

    It's a long, long complex chain, with us (consumer, employee, employer, retailer etc) each only able to affect a small section of it.

    Same in the Amenity Hort sector. Income / pay is restricted by your marketplace and how people perceive your offering. Ie they will pay what they think it is worth to them.

    Hence why it is imperative to have industry representation covering the whole marketplace  and offerings, forget "Awards & Shows", present our industry & ourselves as Professionals, make our offerings on quality, benefits, image, status etc, root out bad practices and rogue traders, give consumers confidence and reasons to purchase our services............

    Let's be honest, until resources such as LJN came into existence, our industry had been let down by industry bodies whose main aim seemed to be to protect status quo. They are still struggling to catch up and leave a lot to be desired.

    As a start; work to remove the purchase on price, downwards spiral mentality...

  • PRO

    Worth looking a little deeper at this job - the full details state :

    "Training will be given but this person will need to be enthusiastic and practical, and have some experience in growing, nurseries, horticulture or agriculture. Attention to detail and high standards are essential."

    So is this an entry level job ?

    Suspect yes as they also have a vacancy for a Head Grower (trained & qualified) at £28-£30k+ bonus pa

    • PRO
      Gary, so this is entry level, I didn't pick that up in the first instance.

      So we can expect salary for a head grower for this employee to be £28-30k, how can we compare this to another industry?

      Can we compare this to engineering where an engineering manager or chief engineer might expect £50-60k?

      There's a good number of jobs in different sectors that this could be compared to, in terms of knowledge needed, yet pay, in my eye, is comparatively low.
      • PRO
        The salary seems to sit within the 'accepted bands' but agree they are low and that, as we all know, is an industry problem hence you can't blame an individual employer.

        What we deliver is not perceived or as measurable as a 'valued product/service' that's the issue....

        I'd suggest were seen as producing 'utility or commodity' based services.

        An engineer may design a Car - that ends up being a tangible product that can be measured and is valued more..

        The industry does not value itself well enough, let alone get the support or profile it needs.

        May be a contentious points; but we are a relatively unregulated industry in many respects sometimes with a lack of recognisable qualifications so direct comparisons are hard to make.
      • My son has a masters degree in engineering and started his first job on 22k which then rose to 25k after a year. Some of the longer standing employees were on 35-£40k so I'd guess this isn't too bad a deal. Unfortunately, practical skills are not valued as highly as intellectual (for want of a better word) are.

  • PRO

    Lidl were in the newspaper recently for upping their pay rates. Average UK store manager rates are around £38k a year:

    • PRO

      If i remember rightly these positions were more mini regional manager -- as in control and responsible for 3 stores -- thats a lot of hours and pressure in a horrible industry 

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