We’re making Edinburgh a Living Wage city - Kate Campbell

Fair work. You’d think in Scotland in 2021 we wouldn’t need the ‘fair’, just the concept of work in one of the most prosperous, developed and progressive nations in the world – it should just include a presumption that work will be fair.

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 10:05 am
Councillor Kate Campbell, Convener of the Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work committee

But sadly, that isn’t the case. We’ve too many workers in our city paid the minimum, not the living wage – that’s around 38,000 people who earn less than £9.50 per hour. Many don’t have job security or guaranteed hours. Many have little or no access to training or development and lack any form of representation through trade unions.

I’m not going to pretend that Edinburgh Council alone can fix this. We can’t. But there are some things we can do.

First, we’re going to make Edinburgh a Living Wage city. Step one is to acknowledge all the fantastic employers in our city. We need to champion the people and organisations who recognise the value of their staff. And the benefit of investing in them. And we need to come together to promote those benefits.

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We’re setting up a group of existing living wage employers across different sectors. We’ll work together to understand the barriers that prevent organisations becoming living wage employers, and how we can break down those barriers. And then we’ll put together an action plan.

It’s clear that in Edinburgh tourism is a major employer, and we know that hospitality is one of the areas that has historically struggled to pay the living wage.

But hospitality businesses have also been hit hard during the pandemic – reduced capacity due to social distancing, closure due to lockdowns, outbreaks and the need to self-isolate. This has been compounded by what is increasingly emerging as a chaotic and damaging Brexit.

As we begin to unpick the entwined strands of the impacts of Covid and of Brexit, we start to see the real damage that Brexit has caused. Supply chains weakened, especially food and perishable goods, and the painful loss of so many people – fellow citizens, contributors to our economy and desperately needed workers.

As labour shortages arise from Brexit there will be a need for businesses to offer more to retain skilled staff. Fair work and the living wage will be absolutely key.

Over recent years we’ve seen customers ask more of businesses – sustainability is a good example.

People want to spend money with organisations that they believe are contributing to saving the planet, or at least working hard to mitigate any negative impacts from their activity. It costs more, but customers value sustainability so it pays for itself.

So, it’s important that as customers we are asking for the same ethical values of fair employment – because as citizens we will all benefit.

The pandemic has hit many hard but people on the lowest wages, and small businesses, have undoubtedly borne the brunt. Let’s all be part of the recovery to a better city. It’ll be hard for some businesses to make the leap to becoming living wage employers - so let’s make sure we support and

encourage them.

Cllr Kate Campbell is Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work convener