Monday, 11 February 2013

Union welcomes South Lanarkshire Living Wage uprating - but 'council funded scandal' on contractors' pay

11 Feb 2013

UNISON has welcomed the announcement that South Lanarkshire Council will uprate the Living Wage for their employees to £7.56 and that they will also ensure that all workers paid below £21,000 (for a 37 hour week) will receive an above the national pay award pay rise in April.

South Lanarkshire Branch Secretary, Stephen Smellie, said, “The Council, and Council Leader Eddie McAvoy, are to be congratulated on this decision to recognise the need to protect and improve the pay of their low paid staff. These workers, who are mostly women, include cleaners, school catering staff, home carers, school crossing patrollers, care assistants and clerical staff, all of whom deliver crucial services to local communities and who have been hit hard by low wages and high prices.”

This is the third year running that the Council have made efforts to protect the lowest paid. In 2011 they introduced the Living Wage and gave a pay rise of £250 to the low paid when there was a national pay freeze. In 2012 the Living Wage increased to £7.20 and again the low paid received £250 whilst the pay freeze continued. Now in 2013 the Living wage is increasing to £7.56 they are consolidating the £250 into salaries and intending to pay the national pay award of 1%.

Stephen Smellie said, “A few years ago we decided to campaign locally for the Living Wage and to highlight how the lowest paid were suffering most due to years of below inflation pay awards and the pending pay freeze. We lobbied all Councillors and argued our case. In 2011 we negotiated the introduction of the Living Wage and the £250 for the low paid. Having won that case we have continued to work with the Council to maintain and develop this policy.

The benefit to the low paid workers is obvious but it also has a benefit to the wider community. It is well known that better paid staff leads to better and more reliable services. It also provides a boost to the local economy as the additional money is mostly spent locally. The final benefit is that some of these workers now come off benefits saving the tax payer money.”

There are thousands of workers in Lanarkshire who do not benefit from the Living Wage in the private and voluntary sector where the National Minimum Wage of £6.19 for over 21 year olds is the going rate. This includes companies who are contracted by the Council to deliver services on their behalf. UNISON recently highlighted this in a letter to South Lanarkshire Council’s Leader and Chief Executive.

Stephen Smellie said, “The Council recently invited tenders to deliver home care services. The companies who currently do this pay their staff just above the poverty rate of the National Minimum Wage and most of them do so whilst offering only zero-hour contracts. So these staff not only get very poor wages when they work but they have no guaranteed number of hours that they will be asked to work.

“This is a Council funded scandal. We wrote to the Council asking that they ensure that companies who they will contract to deliver services are required to pay at least the Living Wage. Unfortunately they replied that they are unable to do so as, according to advice from the Scottish Government that to do this would be in breach of European law.”

UNISON believes that Councils are able to ensure their contractors pay the higher rates of pay and have sought their own legal advice.

Stephen Smellie continued, “We are working with a number of trade union and community groups locally to organise a campaign to take up this issue of extending the Living Wage beyond the Councils and NHS. We would appeal to workers in the private home care companies to contact us to discuss how we can build a moral campaign in Lanarkshire for economic justice.”


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