The hospitality sector must improve the way it treats workers - Lorna Slater
With the highest rate of Covid infections in Scotland, Edinburgh is not out of the woods when it comes to tackling the pandemic, and we’ve seen cafes, pubs and restaurants open up only to close again.
As the Unite union has pointed out, workers in this industry remain locked into low pay and poor working conditions as they return to work, and there is a real danger that we have learned nothing from the last 15 months.
Poor working condition and the theft of tips by employers was going on before the arrival of Covid-19, and we shouldn’t return to that.
Edinburgh is a wonderful place to live but it is also an expensive place to live, and it is unacceptable that people are paid poverty wages in the city.
The pandemic exposed how many people in this country are on insecure or poorly paid employment, and the recovery must be one that leaves no-one behind.
Securing a future for us all also depends on recognising where our economy needs to change to address the urgent climate crisis.
As we face the climate emergency, there are workers in the high-carbon industries that face an uncertain future and we need to plan for them.
It’s clear that a fair and green recovery must focus on job creation. That’s why the Scottish Green manifesto laid out plans to invest in renewable energy, warm homes, public transport and the restoration of Scotland’s nature, creating 100,000 secure jobs.
For high-carbon industries like in oil and gas, that means starting a just transition and securing the jobs of the future by investming in the alternatives, rather than waiting for the industries of the past to lead.
The recent court decision against Shell in Holland represents a massive turning point, not just for the fossil fuel industry but also for politics. The legal and political reality that the Just Transition from oil and gas needs to start now.
The STUC’s Green Jobs report, published in April, noted that a managed phase out of high carbon industry was inevitable. It called for a Scottish National Energy Company to drive change, and Skills programmes to address shortages and remove barriers to renewables jobs for oil and gas workers.
I agree. The SNP have talked for years about a national energy company, but they need to deliver one quickly if Scotland is to meet its energy potential.
But this isn’t just about energy. We need to secure new jobs everywhere. So much of Lothian’s housing stock is old and expensive to heat. A deep retrofit to make our homes warmer would cut the use of fossil-fuel heating systems, tackle fuel poverty and create loads of work for tradesfolk.
Improving and protecting our public green spaces also creates jobs and ensures our capital remains beautiful. Carving them up for commercial interests should never be considered.
By creating well paid and high quality jobs, these investments could also drive up pay elsewhere. Business confidence surveys reveal the hospitality industry is facing staff shortages, and no wonder. I expect Many restaurant, pub and bar staff left their jobs during lockdowns when they were not getting the support they needed.
And of course Brexit has also caused a steep drop in people travelling from Europe to work in the UK.
To attract them back, hospitality businesses will have to up their game.
Lorna Slater is a Green MSP for Lothian