MSP fears staff at Holyrood ‘earn less than living wage’

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SCORES of workers at the Scottish Parliament could be earning less than the living wage, it was claimed today – despite the commitment by both the SNP and Labour to promote the £7.20 per hour pay rate.

Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale was due to quiz Holyrood bosses on the issue this afternoon and call for the parliament to become a “living wage employer”, requiring companies that win contracts to pay the living wage too.

She said there was evidence that many people working in the parliament building, particularly cleaners, canteen and kitchen staff, were paid less than £7.20 per hour.

The living wage is calculated on the basis of what someone working a 40-hour week would need to reach a minimum acceptable standard of living. Research has suggested people on the minimum wage – £5.93 per hour – have to work longer hours to make sure they get by.

The SNP and Labour both backed the policy in their manifestos at this year’s election and Finance Minister John Swinney confirmed in his budget last week that the Scottish Government would increase its minimum pay rate to £7.20 per hour.

But that does not currently extend to firms that win contracts at the Scottish Parliament. Ms Dugdale said: “My concern is that the people who make the building tick – cleaners, cooks and others – could be on less than £7.20. If the people in the parliament are going to make bold statements on the living wage, the parliament needs to make sure its own house is in order.”

She said when budgets were tight it was even more important to protect the lowest paid.

“The whole argument about the government adopting the living wage is that it would start a trend across the private sector as well. If the government sets the tone and the Scottish Parliament and local authorities follow, you create a market for wages within Scotland and the private sector would quickly have to recognise that if it wanted the best staff it would have to pay decent wages.

“That’s what happened with the minimum wage. The private sector claimed it was going to cost hundreds of millions of pounds, but the reality was it didn’t add to costs, but it did improve the quality of the workforce, guarantee employees a better standard of living and give employers a more settled and happier staff.”

Fellow Lothians Labour MSP Neil Findlay said all parliament workers should enjoy decent terms and conditions. He said: “If sub-contracted workers don’t receive at least the living wage that’s a disgrace.”

The parliament said it could not comment ahead of this afternoon’s session.

iswanson@edinburghnews.com

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