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Date: Tuesday 11 March 2014

Procurement is key to making decent pay the norm, says UNISON

UNISON Scotland is calling on MSPs to support an amendment to the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill which would make paying a living wage an essential condition of bidding for a public sector contract.

The Bill – which is being considered tomorrow (Wednesday) at stage 2 by the Infrastructure and Capital Investments Committee – will change how public contracts are handed out to businesses. Scotland spends approximately £10 billion a year on procurement and UNISON wants those employed in public contracts to be paid the living wage, currently £7.45 an hour.

While the Scottish Living Wage is working well across the public sector, many public services are outsourced to the private and voluntary sectors, including vital areas such as social care.

Cheryl McCormick, a support worker in Glasgow and vice chair of UNISON’s Scottish Community Service Group, said:

“There is an army of low-paid workers who care for the most vulnerable people in our society who earn less than the living wage, many less than the minimum wage when travelling time and sleepovers are taken into account; who are on zero hours contracts, and don’t have time to care properly.

“The people delivering these services are really struggling. A living wage would mean the difference between having to scrape by from month to month and worrying whether or not they can pay their bills, to being able to relax a little and maybe even have a little left at the end of the month.

“If decent pay is going to be the norm in Scotland, then procurement is the key to driving up employment standards.”

Currently, one in five Scots are paid below the living wage. UNISON’s Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, Dave Watson, gave oral evidence to the Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee yesterday (Monday) to express the union’s concerns over the impact of zero hours contracts on workers. He told the committee that the growth in casual employment is contributing to the growth of in-work poverty, damaging public services and the economy.

Dave added: “At a time when workers have experienced the longest  real wage squeeze since 1970, with inflation going up faster than pay for 43 months, this is the way to make a major step forward by boosting the income of many thousands more low paid families in Scotland.

“Companies are cutting corners in order to win contracts. Unless we opt for principled procurement these issues are not going to go away. We need MSPs to support the amendment to this Bill and make paying a living wage a stipulation for all public contracts, by including this in performance clauses.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

  1. For more information see our Scottish Living Wage Procurement briefing at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/index.html 
  1. Our briefing on the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill at the stage 1 debate is available here: http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/MSPe-briefing_ProcurementReformBill_Feb2014.pdf
  1. UNISON Scotland’s Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, Dave Watson, gave oral evidence to the Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee yesterday (Monday) to express the union’s concerns over the impact of zero hours contracts on workers. He told the committee of the growing use of these contracts in the care sector and how zero-hours contracts is not only bad for workers, but bad for the services they deliver and bad for economy. For more information please see his blog at http://unisondave.blogspot.co.uk/
  1. The Scottish Living Wage is currently £7.45 an hour and will rise to £7.65 next month.
  1. The Scottish Living Wage was one of ten asks for the Bill from a coalition of civil society organisations, including the STUC, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and SCVO. The asks include action on blacklisting and tax dodging, a sustainable development focus and measures on ethical/fair trade, employment standards and positive social outcomes.
  1. The Scottish Living Wage is good for workers as they benefit from higher pay, improved health and motivation; good for employers as it reduces turnover, improves productivity and attracts better staff; and good for the economy as it results in lower benefit costs and less stress on the NHS.
  1. 6 in 10 children who live in poverty have at least one parent working. 550,000 adults (mostly women) in Scotland earn less than the living wage.

For more information please contact:

  • Dave Watson, UNISON Scotland’s Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, on 07958 122 409
  • Trisha Hamilton, UNISON Scotland’s Communications Officer, on 0141 342 287


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