STUC argue for a Scottish Living Wage at Labour Conference

March 2nd 2012

Today, (13.00 Friday 2 March) at the Scottish Labour Party Conference in Dundee, Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) General Secretary Grahame Smith will address a meeting to promote the Scottish Living Wage Campaign.

STUC is also releasing a letter (attached) it is sending to Margaret Mitchell MSP criticising her position on the Living Wage as "fail(ing) on the criteria of fairness, accuracy, economic good sense and even on the criteria of consistency with what is apparently your own party’s position"

At the Labour conference, Smith will argue that evidence supports the view of the Scottish Living Wage Campaign that inequality is a barrier to growth, is profoundly inconsistent with the good health and well-being of society and communities, and if nothing is done to reduce poverty and income inequality the problems we currently face will just re-occur. Because lessons are not being learned.

He will say

“The Living Wage enables us to do a number of very important things.

“First and foremost, if it was universally applied it would put more money into the pockets of over half a million low paid, mostly women, workers who tend to spend a disproportionate amount of their income than the higher paid which would stimulate demand and help the economy grow.

“Focusing on the living wage enables us to point out that any business that can’t pay its workers enough to ensure an acceptable standard of living standard shouldn’t be in business at all.

“It also means turning the spotlight on some apparently very successful companies - those who make big profits for their shareholders but pay less than the living wage and who are in fact having their business models subsidized by us the taxpayer who pick up the tab through tax credits and in-work benefits to give workers a basic income.”

He will add

“Focusing on the living wage also provides the opportunity for business and for public sector employers to take voluntary steps to improve pay and conditions and we should congratulate those that do.”

ENDS

For more information on the Scottish Living Wage Campaign go to http://povertyalliance.org/slw-home.asp

For further information contact Dave Moxham 0141 337 8100

Letter to Margaret Mitchell MSP

Dear Margaret,

I was disturbed in the extreme to read the Scottish Conservative Party press release “Forcing businesses to pay living wage would be counterproductive.” Your position fails on the criteria of fairness, accuracy, economic good sense and even on the criteria of consistency with what is apparently your own party’s policy.

On the question of fairness, I have not seen any public statement from you, or the Scottish Conservative Party, that takes issue with the method of calculation of the Scottish Living Wage or that it in any way exceeds its aim of providing a ‘low cost but acceptable’ standard of living for those who receive it. Why on earth would public sector bodies charged with maintaining the health and happiness of its citizens wish to pay wages at a level that undermine well-being?

On the question of accuracy, your release implies that the Living Wage campaign has a mandatory element. It is a straight forward fact that whilst the minimum wage is mandatory (despite the best efforts of your party to block it whilst in opposition), the Living Wage is a voluntary undertaking whereby employers are encouraged to recognise the benefits in terms of employee happiness, improved job retention etc. It is a matter of record that an increasing number of private sector businesses are taking this approach.

On the question of economic good sense, it has been clearly established academically that putting money into the pockets of lower paid people has a disproportionately positive effect on local economies through increasing demand. The small businesses which you seek to ‘protect’ from paying the living wage are precisely those which can benefit from the payment of living wages to local people.

Finally, your position seems to be at odds with some of those in your own party. Not only does Boris Johnson continue, apparently enthusiastically, to implement the London Living Wage, but your own Chancellor, not known for his magnanimity towards poorly paid public service workers, has at least shown some recognition of their plight. When he announced last year a two-year pay freeze for public sector workers from 2011-2012 he also said that those earning £21,000 or less would receive an increase of at least £250 a year. Aside from the fact that this promise has been patchy at best in terms of delivery it does at least seem to include a recognition that a case can be made for uplifting the pay of lower paid public sector employees. A view you do not seem to share.

Yours sincerely,

Grahame Smith General Secretary STUC

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