300th company due to sign up
Cunningham hails Scots pledge to ‘real’ living wage
Roseanna Cunningham, Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training, says that Holyrood’s hourly rate of £7.85 for staff aged over 18 is a true living wage and that the number of companies that have signed up shows there should be no barriers to raising low pay.
Her comments are clearly designed to claw back the initiative on low pay after Chancellor George Osborne unveiled his national living wage in the Summer Budget.
He set the new minimum at £7.20 next year of those aged over 25, rising to £9 in 2020.
Ms Cunningham said: “Much has been made of the higher national minimum wage announced in the Chancellor’s budget but, despite a cynical attempt to call it a living wage, there should be absolutely no doubt that this figure is not a living wage.
“For the majority of households it will also not be sufficient to offset the cuts to benefit income announced in the budget. Poorer households are likely to see the greatest losses and there is a real danger that inequalities will increase.
“The actual UK Living Wage figure of £7.85 is supported by the Living Wage Foundation and, unlike the new higher minimum wage rate, is worked out based on need. This is the rate at which both the UK and Scottish Living Wage Accreditation Schemes recognise and it is the figure that the Scottish Government is committed to encouraging as many employers as possible to pay.”
She also noted that the new higher minimum wage rate only applied to those aged over 25.
“Younger workers will still only be legally entitled to a far lower rate and for apprentices that rate gets absolutely ridiculous – there is no way any young apprentice could live solely on the legal minimum the UK Government support, even if working full-time,” she said.
“The whole approach of the UK Government to pay is unacceptable and irresponsible. We have raised the issue of low pay generally – including how apprentices are treated under the current system – on a number of occasions with the UK government to no avail. But we will continue to fight for everyone’s right to a basic level of pay that allows people an acceptable standard of living.
“Our continued commitment to encourage employers across both the public and private sector to pay the £7.85 Living Wage is aimed at tackling low pay and ensuring nobody misses out – 81.4 per cent of Scots employees now received the Living Wage or higher.”
However, Mr Osborne was applauded by some in business, particularly small businesses, by not imposing higher wage demands on them that they would struggle to pay. Some critics continue to argue that a minimum wage puts jobs in jeopardy.