Scottish Greens welcome move towards 'living wage'

By staff writers
28 Sep 2010

The Scottish Green Party has welcomed Labour's move towards a 'living wage' for public sector workers, having campaigned on the issue for some time.

The party says the pressure is now on the Scottish National Party, which leads the country's government, to act on low wages in the public sector.

The developments follow the announcement this week by the leader of the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament, Iain Gray, that he would would back a £7 an hour living wage.

Green MSPs previously brought the issue to a vote in Holyrood in April 2010, where it was supported by Labour. But Conservative, Liberal Democrat and SNP MSPs united to remove the minimum wage commitment.

The £7 an hour figure is based on research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Poverty Alliance, who estimate that 20 per cent of public sector staff earn wages below that level, and that three quarters of these low-paid public sector staff are women.

Across all sectors, at least 370,000 Scots earned less than £7 an hour in 2009 - again, mostly women.

Churches and trades unions are among the other civic groups who have backed the living wage concept, rather than a minimalist minimum wage which still keeps a significant number of people in poverty.

Last year the Scottish Greens commissioned polling on pay and inequality which indicated that 91 per cent of Scots support measures to tackle inequality, with 62 per cent favouring a shift in the tax burden towards higher earners, and 39 per cent supporting absolute maximum pay for top management.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie commented: "Labour's decision to commit to the living wage campaign across Scotland is a significant move, and one which will hopefully shift the debate on poverty and low pay in other parties."

He continued: "Green MSPs will work in Parliament with Labour to help deliver this policy during this session and next, and whoever wins next May's election. The minimum wage was a step in the right direction, but the research shows that where work pays below £7 an hour, people struggle to make ends meet, especially where they have family responsibilities."

"Setting a budget for Scotland which helps to reduce inequality in society in the face of swingeing LibDem/Tory cuts will be a huge challenge. But now that Labour has endorsed the principle of a living wage, which we proposed to Parliament in April this year, there is a strong chance of seeing hundreds of thousands of low-paid people benefit," he added.

"The pressure is now on the SNP to follow suit, and ensure that, starting in the public sector, poverty pay becomes a thing of the past," said Harvie.

[Ekk/3]

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