By Danny Gazzi, AGM activist

Luckily I arrived in good time for the William Hill AGM in London, because my proxy appointment letter had been delayed in the Bank Holiday post, and the registrars couldn’t find any mention of me. A quick phone call, and ShareAction HQ sprang into action, and I was emailed a copy. By the time it arrived, the registrars had found their letter. Note to self: remember that ShareAction is AKA “Fairshare Educational Foundation”.

I am particularly interested in inequality and the Living Wage campaign. In 2016, ShareAction asked an AGM question about whether William Hill would consider becoming an accredited Living Wage employer. The reply then was that they had gone further than the minimum wage requirements in paying at least the adult statutory minimum (which the government has rebranded as the “National Living Wage”) to their under 25s as well as to older staff. Since then, the company has got a new chairman and CEO, and I asked for an update on its position.

The chairman started by saying that all their staff over 18 get at least the National Living Wage. When I objected that this was not what I asked, he admitted that he realised that. The chair of the remuneration committee then described how staff also have benefits such as a bonus scheme (see below) and a pension. However, this is really no more than most other companies provide. So it seems that very little has changed in the last two years.

I was also referred to the Director, UK Retail, whose division covers the betting shops and employs practically all of the lower paid staff, and I had a good long chat with her immediately after the meeting. She emphasised the financial problems that they have in retail (like all retail, but with the added current uncertainty over the limit on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT)s; the result of the government review came out shortly afterwards). She didn’t have a business card on her, but promised that she would contact ShareAction to discuss having a follow up meeting, so that was a good result, and all the discussions were very friendly.

In 2016, ShareAction asked an AGM question at the bookmakers on the Living Wage, but it seems that very little has changed in the last two years.

Some other interesting points came out of the AGM. The chairman admitted that the gambling industry could have handled the FOBT consultation better. Over half of the betting shops’ income came from these. Since the AGM the maximum stake has been reduced from £100 to £2, every 20 seconds, in order to try to help people with a gambling addiction.

They company is planning an increase in the number of Self Service Betting Terminals, which will presumable reduce the number of shop staff.

I hadn’t known that in America sports betting was illegal. A Supreme Court ruling was expected soon after the AGM, and in fact the ban has now been lifted. William Hill hopes to be able to exploit this market from its toe hold in Las Vegas.

There was quite a bit of discussion and disquiet about the CEO’s total remuneration package of over £1.3 Million, including bonus, and 30% of the shareholdings voted against the remuneration report, compared with less than 2% last year, which is quite a rebellion. Let’s see how much effect this has in future years.

NOTES: The voluntary Living Wage, as calculated by the Living Wage Foundation, is currently £10.20/hour in London and £8.75 outside, for all over 18s.

The Minimum Wage (“National Living Wage”) is £7.83/hour for over 25s, and less for younger workers.

From the William Hill annual report, their median hourly rates are £8.66 for males and £8.17 for females. The median annual staff bonus is £202 for males and £166 for females. For comparison, the CEO’s bonus was £575,400.

So they have a long way to go yet!

Thanks Danny! To learn more about our campaign to get companies to pay a fair wage to all workers, click here