Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Scotland calls for an end to the scandal of publicly funded poverty pay

#undc13 Delegates slammed the Coalition government’s “slash and burn” responses to the economic crisis, with attacks on pay and terms and conditions and growing privatisation creating a low wage economy, job insecurity and undermining employment rights.

It called for UNISON to stay at the forefront of the opposition to these attacks, with a range of measures including building on our living wage campaign.

Supporting Northern’s motion, Scotland Regional Delegate, Stephen Smellie moved an amendment calling for the living wage campaign to be extended, to press councils and the Scottish government to use their procurement policies to make sure that these employers also pay their workers the living wage.

Stephen highlighted the trend over the last 30 years of less and less of the wealth of the country being paid in wages to workers and more and more going to the profits and bonuses of bankers and investors.

“The lower rates in Scottish Local Government are around the national minimum poverty wage - a scandal which this union has to address with vigour and which in Scotland we hope to be leading industrial action on.

“The Living Wage campaigns are a significant start,” said Stephen, “but they only apply to in-house staff. We need to turn our attention to procurement for contracting. Councils are procuring services in the full knowledge that workers will be paid national minimum poverty wages, often on zero hours contracts. This is a publicly funded wages scandal,” slammed Stephen.

Scottish councils cite legal advice from the Scottish Government who cite European advice that they cannot determine rates of pay in external contractors. “This is nonsense,” said Stephen. “This is not a legal matter it is a political matter,” calling for fairness and justice for the lowest paid in society.

Aberdeenshire’s Susan Kennedy told delegates that Aberdeenshire branch has staved off privatisation and has successfully negotiated a Scottish 'Living Wage' for all local authority employees including Modern Apprentices and is looking to see this assimilate into the pay scales.

Susan said, “We believe we have achieved what we have now by being prepared to negotiate, by involving our members and being publicly visible. We've been seen to be keen negotiators by using all the tools available to us, making sure all our members know what it means to them and letting the public know how these changes can either benefit or disadvantage their lives.

“We applaud NHS Scotland for their success in achieving the 'Living Wage' across all 32 authorities, and believe that this amendment and its substantive motion will further help many more branches achieve the same.”

Jim Main of Glasgow City told Glasgow of his branch’s campaign, uniting their members with day centre users and carers to stop the closure of three day centres under the guise of personalisation; and supporting anti-bedroom tax campaigners.

But he warned, “We really need to raise our game, because if we don’t defend our members, give hope, things could turn to despair. We have to fight like tigers.”

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