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Date: Tuesday 13 May 2014

Proposals to introduce living wage through procurement shows light at the end of tunnel, says UNISON

UNISON, Scotland’s largest public service union, today (Tuesday) welcomed proposed amendments to the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill that would see the living wage introduced for the first time.

This key legislation, which will be debated at the final stage in the Scottish Parliament today, will govern how the public sector spends around £11 billion annually on goods and services. Today’s debate provides MSPs with an opportunity to put social and environmental justice high up the public procurement agenda, including, crucially, rolling out the Scottish Living Wage to all those working on public contracts.

Although UNISON would prefer making the living wage mandatory, the Scottish Government approach means public bodies can include it in their procurement strategies in a way that makes it clear to contractors that, for relevant procurements, bids will be evaluated taking employment policies, including the living wage, into account. It would then be included in the contract and can be enforced through contract performance.

While Scotland leads the way in the UK with the implementation of the living wage across almost all of the public sector, a two tier workforce exists as many public services are outsourced to the private and voluntary sectors – including vital areas such as social care.

Dave Watson, UNISON Scotland’s Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, said: “Rolling out the Scottish Living Wage to all those working on public contracts is a very practical and effective move to boost the pay and living standards of thousands of low paid workers in Scotland. Procurement offers a way to ensure that companies involved in blacklisting and tax dodging are not eligible for public contracts.

“These proposals show there’s light at the end of this very long tunnel, but we believe the Scottish Government should go further and make paying the Scottish Living Wage a mandatory condition of bidding for public contracts. The Scottish Living Wage makes a big contribution towards tackling in-work poverty and promoting sustained economic growth. Using Scotland’s substantial public procurement spend will be a big step forward.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

For more information see our briefing at:
· http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/MSPBriefing_ProcurementReformBillStage3_May2014.pdf

Further information can be found in the briefings section of our website, listed below:
· http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/ScottishLivingWageProcurementBriefing_Mar2014.pdf

· http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/MSPe-briefing_ProcurementReformBill_Feb2014.pdf

· http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/b042_BargainingBrief_ProcurementReformBill_Oct2013.pdf

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.

One in five Scots are paid below the living wage of £7.65 an hour.

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.

Six 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.


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