Hibs fire back at SNP councillor over living wage petition

Leith Walk SNP Councillor Lewis Ritchie. Picture: contributed
Leith Walk SNP Councillor Lewis Ritchie. Picture: contributed
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A LEITH councillor who launched a petition calling for Hibs to pay the Living Wage has been left red-faced – after club bosses revealed they already did.

Councillor Lewis Ritchie wrote to club chief executive Leanne Dempster demanding his local side pay their staff £8.25 an hour.

But Ms Dempster hit back and revealed the club, that while not a member of the Accredited Living Wage scheme, had been paying the amount to staff for more than a year and quizzed Cllr Ritchie, who represents Leith Walk for the SNP, on how he handled the issue.

She said: “I should say that everyone at the club is surprised that a locally elected official chose to go public before allowing any opportunity to respond.

“You sent me an email on February 22 which arrived in my inbox at 4.12pm. Your Facebook ‘petition’ was launched on the same day at 3.59pm, in which you said you had written to me and in response to comments gave the impression that reasonable time had been allowed for a reply.

“Had you chosen to wait for our reply, particularly given that I assume a local councillor would understand that the club is in the middle of a particularly arduous run of fixtures, then we would have been able to provide you with some information that may have assisted.

“Hibernian took the decision some time ago to pay the Living Wage. All of our contracted staff now earn the Living Wage and that has been the case for more than a year.

“You are correct in saying we have not become accredited via the accredited Living Wage initiative. I don’t think that is something that exercises the mind of our hard-working dedicated staff and it is not a priority for us. It is fair to say we are very surprised at the way you have chosen to go about this.”

Cllr Ritchie was criticised by Hibs fans on social media for his blunder and has now written to Ms Dempster to apologise.

In his letter, he said: “My intention had been to create some level of public interest on the issue, so that my request to meet with me and representatives from the Accredited Living Wage initiative might have met with more success.

“This approach has been criticised, with many suggesting that I should have waited for a response from the club before actively campaigning on this issue. As someone with nothing but respect for Hibernian and their supporters, I agree that this would have been a better approach. While there was no intent to mislead anyone regarding this campaign, I do believe that I should have contacted you privately before making this issue public.

“I therefore apologise unreservedly for any upset caused, wish the club well and hope that Hibernian will re-examine the issue of Living Wage accreditation in the near future.”

Leith Labour councillor Gordon Munro admitted he had some sympathy for Cllr Ritchie.

He said: “There are some who would say that this approach has been taken for publicity. However, I would like to think that he has been badly advised or it may just be naivety.”