MSP seeks to extend Living Wage to public sector contractors
By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 20 August 2012
A Holyrood consultation has been launched today on a proposed Member’s Bill to extend the ‘Living Wage’ to all public service providers.
The £7.20 hourly minimum has been guaranteed since last year to public employees in Scotland. Labour MSP John Park’s Proposed Living Wage (Scotland) Bill calls for it to apply also to those working for government contractors.
The Bill has attracted strong support from anti-poverty campaigners and trade unions but is opposed by the Scottish Government, on the basis of legal advice that it could contravene European Union competition law. This view has been challenged by employment law specialists Thompsons Solicitors, which says it believes the Bill to be ‘entirely compatible’ with EU law.
Patrick Maguire, a partner in the firm, said: ‘We would urge the Scottish Government to re-evaluate its current approach to the legality of the proposals and embrace the EU’s move towards an appreciation of the principles of decent pay and the protection of workers’ rights.’
Park added that failing to legislate on the Living Wage would be a ‘missed opportunity’. He said: ‘I believe that if we do not take action on this issue then we are letting down thousands of low-paid, hard-working Scots.
‘We have seen a commitment from a range of public sector bodies to pay their employees the Living Wage but I believe we must go further. Over half a million Scots still do not earn the Living Wage and it is time that changed.’
Dave Moxham, deputy general secretary of the Scottish Trade Union Congress, said the inclusion of a Living Wage clause in public procurement contracts would ensure that public money was not used to pay poverty wages. John Dickie of the Scottish Child Poverty Action Group said improving the pay and conditions of low-paid workers were ‘crucial weapons’ against child poverty.
But the Federation of Small Businesses opposes the extension. It recently told Holyrood’s local government committee that the guaranteed wage would discriminate against smaller suppliers, who lacked the ability of larger firms to cross-subsidise additional wage costs on public contracts.
The consultation on the Bill runs until December.