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Retailers singled out for criticism

Minister in clash with retail lobby over living wage call

David Lonsdale seriousA Scottish minister and the head of the retail lobby clashed today over calls for employers to pay workers the living wage.

As retailers claimed they were facing other cost pressures, Work and skills Secretary Roseanna Cunningham called on employers to make it their new year resolution to commit to the minimum rate.

She claimed that it improves morale and leads to higher productivity and lower absence rates, adding that more than 400 companies now paid the living wage. However, she singled out the retail industry for not being in line with others.

“Only a limited number of retailers have been accredited so far,” she said and urged consumers to “consider fair work practices in 2016, including shopping at retailers who pay the living wage”.

Ms Cunningham (pictured below) has suggested that at least one purchase a month from a living wage employer could be a New Year’s resolution for shoppers.

She said: “I am continually highlighting the benefits of the living wage to employers the length and breadth of Scotland and in a wide variety of sectors.

Roseanna Cunningham“Scotland now has well in excess of 400 Living Wage-accredited employers that recognise the benefits to their business of paying the living wage and the real difference it can make to people working in Scotland.

“However, for those not yet on board, I would simply ask them to consider paying their staff at least £8.25 an hour to be their New Year’s resolution for 2016.

“And in the same way that we have started to think about buying more local produce and the carbon footprint and ethical approach of who we buy from, it’s time for shoppers to consider how retailers treat their staff.

“I fully acknowledge that the idea of ‘buying living wage’ is easier said than done. Only a limited number of retailers have been accredited so far, but as we continue to push for at least 500 Scots-based living eage employers by March, this should become simpler with the passing of time.

“My ask of shoppers is relatively simple – to consider a New Year’s resolution of their own to make at least one purchase a month from a living wage employer. I think this is achievable, it’s something I’ll be doing myself and it will send a message to employers that this is an increasingly important issue for consumers.”

David Lonsdale (pictured top), director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “There ought to be a more rounded public conversation on this issue, one that takes into account total reward within the retail industry.

“For example, our survey published back in March revealed that 98% of retail employees earn above the National Minimum Wage and on average the total reward package was worth 29% more than the NMW.

“We fully share the aspiration for having more and better paid colleagues within the industry, however the key to raising pay on a sustainable basis will ultimately rest in increasing productivity.

“That’s made all the more challenging when employers are having to grapple with the cumulative burden of government-imposed costs including the new national living wage, rises in the national minimum wage, the new apprenticeship levy, statutory increases in employer pension contributions, increased business rates, and a mooted £86.4 million Scotland-wide deposit return scheme for drinks bottles and containers.”

> Small firms still hiring despite national living wage 

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