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Scots Council Set to Introduce Living Wage for Low-Paid Staff
The Herald - Scotland
Gerry Braiden

November 9, 2010
View the Original Article


Hundreds of low-paid workers at a Scottish local authority could see their salaries rise as councillors hold a special meeting today to discuss the introduction of a £7-an-hour living wage.

Amid growing political consensus on a statutory living wage for local government workers, West Dunbartonshire Council is on the cusp of introducing the scheme.

Opposition Labour councillors have failed on two occasions to force it on to the council’s agenda but with Alex Salmond voicing support for a scheme, the SNP-led authority appears more receptive to the idea.

The council has around 400 workers on less than £7 an hour, twice as many as was the case in Glasgow when it became the first authority to introduce the scheme in Scotland, following the lead set by former London Mayor Ken Livingstone in 2005.

The living wage did not go ahead in West Dunbartonshire because of budgetary reasons and concerns other staff members could legally challenge the raise.

Although the issue has political support, unions, think-tanks and local government observers question how realisable a national living wage is against the backdrop of cutbacks and services being outsourced to the private sector.

David McBride, Labour spokesman on finance in West Dunbartonshire, believes the living wage would cost the council an additional £120,000 a year, claiming that is affordable.

He said: “Our job is to stick up for the vulnerable and assist the low paid. It will be tough in the coming years but we can’t shy away from paying this.

“The SNP leadership of this authority now seems more receptive to the idea after Alex Salmond voiced his support.

“But this is something we’ve campaigned long and hard for and know it is affordable.”

Council leader Ronnie McColl said: “Before we decide on the living wage motion it is important we are fully informed of the impact and risks associated with implementing such a change. Officers are currently assessing the impact and risks.

“It is important to recognise this council has made significant inroads into addressing low pay through the introduction of the Single Status Agreement.”

The living wage was launched in March 2009 by former Glasgow City Council leader Steven Purcell in a bid to tackle “in-work poverty” and support those struggling to survive while carrying out low-paid work.

More than 100 Glasgow-based firms later signed up to the scheme.

But last month unions claimed attempt to introduce it were being undermined by councils transferring work to private firms paying less.