Campaigners urge Swinney to strike living wage deal

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FINANCE Secretary John Swinney was today urged to use his funding deal with local authorities to ensure councils pay their employees the national living wage.

The Scottish Government already pays the living wage – currently £7.20 per hour – to its directly employed staff and NHS workers.

Seven councils in Scotland, including Glasgow, also pay the rate, which is based on how much is needed to provide an acceptable standard of living for workers and their families. But most authorities, including Edinburgh, do not.

An estimated 1800 council staff in the Capital are currently paid less than £7.20 an hour. And the council has said it has no plans to review its pay policy, claiming the move would cost around £3.3 million a year.

In evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s local government committee, the Scottish Living Wage Campaign (SLWC) – led by the Poverty Alliance and the STUC, and supported by Oxfam – said: “We believe that, as a living wage employer negotiating a settlement with local government, the Scottish Government are in a prime position to build on their support for the living wage by ensuring that it is part of that settlement.” Mr Swinney was due to announce this afternoon how much each council will get from the Scottish Government next financial year.

Council chiefs in Edinburgh will be expecting him to fulfil the SNP’s election pledge of ensuring no council falls below 85 per cent of the average, which may benefit the Capital by around £22m a year.

The SLWC aims to establish the living wage for everyone but is focusing on the public sector first. It says studies show the introduction of the living wage helps improve morale and motivation and benefits the economy in the local area because workers have more money to spend.

Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said Mr Swinney could demonstrate his commitment to the living wage by making it part of the deal with councils for next year’s funding package.

She said: “John Swinney has said it’s not for him to tell local authorities what to do. But if he was really behind the living wage he could say it was a condition of the council tax freeze.

“He could insist that councils paid all their directly employed staff at least £7.20 an hour.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While pay and staffing is a matter for individual local authorities and the appropriate trade unions, we support the SLWC and all bodies covered by our public sector pay policy must pay the living wage of £7.20 per hour.”