SNP Blocks Living Wage

Friday, March 14th, 2014 @ 11:47AM

400,000 people in Scotland are working for less than the minimum wage. That’s more than the entire population of Iceland – working for an amount which is less than they can afford to live on. And yet, last week, SNP MSPs failed to take action to tackle the rising wage problem.

At the second reading to the Procurement Reform Bill, SNP members blocked a Labour amendment to deliver the Living Wage, for workers employed by private companies on public contracts. Even more shamefully, every SNP MSP who voted against the amendment had previously, publicly, voiced support for the Living Wage. The introduction of this measure would not only have boosted earnings for minimum wage workers by over £2000 a year, it would have shown a real commitment to equality.

Because the reality is, low pay is hitting marginalised groups the hardest – of all those working for less than the minimum wage, almost 70% are women. Clearly, we still live in an unequal world. So many more women than men are working low-paid, low-skilled jobs, and the workplace remains a gendered environment. But our government will not take even this simple step towards closing the pay gap. How can families afford to pay for childcare on such a low wage? And without affordable childcare, how can women get back to the workplace? Women are trapped at the bottom of the pile and by doing nothing; the government is only encouraging this inequality.

And what about our young people?  Over 150,000 16 to 24 year olds are working for below the adult minimum wage. By ignoring the needs of our young people, we are failing to invest in the future of our communities and our economy, and the Scottish Government should be doing everything it can to deliver better, fairer wages for them to ensure a better, fairer future for us all.

The government needs to set an example – if they won’t commit to fairer pay, then who will? We have made real progress in Scotland, with a commitment to the living wage for employees in the public sector, but we need to make this a fundamental part of our economy and society.  The amendment will be voted on by the full chamber at a third and final reading soon - let us hope that this time, the Government will recognise the true value of the Living Wage.

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