At last Thursday’s meeting of the full council, elected members agreed that the local authority should implement the Scottish living wage to improve the wages of their lowest paid staff, but not by April 2012 which was requested in the Labour motion.
Instead, councillors voted in favour of the SNP’s Douglas Campbell’s amendment which recommended that the wage increase being introduced in a structured manner after discussions with the trade unions.
Labour group leader, John McDowall, was pleased that the motion was recognised but still believed there were issues with the amendment that was voted for.
He said: “I am delighted that both Conservative and SNP groups on the council have now accepted Labour’s call for the introduction of the Living Wage for all lower paid employees of South Ayrshire Council and supports a living wage for the lowest paid in society.
“However there remain weaknesses in councillor Campbell’s amendment which are of concern. Firstly there is no date specified by which the Living Wage is to be introduced, whereas Labour’s motion would have implemented this by April next year and, secondly that any amendments to the council’s pay structure are contained within the existing pay budget.
“This would imply that other employees would suffer a wage reduction in order to fund this, whereas Labour’s proposal would have increased earnings, ie. the whole point of introducing a living wage in the first place.”
Councillor Campbell’s said his amendment recognised the need to introduce the living wage for staff.
He said: “We want to pay a living wage – which currently sits around £7.20 an hour – and the best way to do that is to have £7.20 as the starting point of our wage system.
“It does mean another look at our pay and grading structure, but by doing it this way, the staff will know it is in their pay packet every month, every year.
“A pay supplement – as proposed – could be challenged, or stopped and would have to be reviewed every year. The council would also need to seek advice on whether a supplement would count towards pension on retirement. It’s better to take a bit of time now and get it right.”
Council Leader Bill McIntosh noted the council’s current pay and grading model, which exceeds the national minimum wage at grade one, and recognised any change to pay scales will require a review of the pay and grading structure of the council.
Speaking after the decision, Councillor McDowall added: “I am pleased that the concept of the living wage has now been agreed by the council and it will be subject to further negotiation between the council and trade unions and the Labour group will continue to press for its early implementation.”