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Spending priorities 'need to change'

MSPs call for halt to rise of poor quality jobs

Murdo FraserA rise in poor quality jobs since the financial crash has prompted MSPs to demand changes to working practices in Scottish companies.

They believe public sector spending could be better directed to help improve the way employees are treated and in turn raise the level of productivity.

An inquiry into the issue of work, wages and wellbeing by the economy, energy and tourism committee has led to calls for an adjustment to the priorities of the Scottish Government’s enterprise agencies, an enhanced Scottish Business Pledge and a stronger emphasis on fair work practices through public procurement.

The Committee was told of an increase in poor quality jobs and low paid exploitative zero hours contracts since the start of the 2008 recession.

Convener of the Committee Murdo Fraser (pictured) said: “We heard from people across Scotland that they not only want a job that uses their skills, but also to work in an environment that is supportive, where they have a voice, and are respected.

“All the evidence we heard suggests that there has been a decline in job quality in recent years and our Committee wants to see this trend reversed. Whilst employment statistics point to an increase to those in work, if we look beyond the figures, we have uncovered a worrying trend in poor quality employment.

“We concluded that to start to reverse this trend, we need to ensure that public money used to develop businesses supports an agenda that paves the way for a fair, sustainable economy.

“Millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money is spent every year supporting business development by our enterprise agencies, and on public procurement. It’s vital that this is spent in a way that encourages businesses to drive up employment standards.”

During the course of the inquiry, the committee heard evidence that poor working practices had a detrimental effect on the economy. The committee also heard of its negative impact on people’s health.

Deputy convener Dennis Robertson said: “There is no doubt that the Scottish Government has made a public commitment to tackling poor working practices, particularly in their focus on implementing the Living Wage.

“We heard during our inquiry that poor quality work has a significant impact on people’s health and wellbeing. This has no place in modern day Scotland.

“By improving people’s quality of work we not only improve people’s health and wellbeing but also their productivity.”

The Committee issued a call for views in June. It received the written views from 42 organisations and individuals. It also issued a survey asking for views from members of the public, which received over 600 submissions. The inquiry took evidence from June – November and heard oral evidence from almost 30 organisations.

Roseanna CunninghamIn response, Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training Roseanna Cunningham (right) said: “We welcome the committee’s recognition of the actions we are taking to promote fair work, in particular through the Living Wage and Procurement guidance.

“While employment law remains reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government is doing everything we can to drive up employment standards and promote good working practices with the powers available to us. This includes publishing the practical guidance on public procurement that includes better promotion of fair workplace practices and discouraging inappropriate contracts through the Scottish Business Pledge.

“We now have more than 440 Living Wage-accredited employers, which shows businesses are recognising the benefits of fair work and better pay. Similarly we share the desire of the committee to promote fairer working practices which is why we appointed an independent Fair Work Convention, who will publish its framework in March.

“The Convention recognises that trade unions are an effective part of fair work which is why the Scottish Government is opposed to the UK Government’s proposed restrictions to trade unions through the Trade Union Bill and we are working with the STUC to discuss what more can be done to block it.

“Latest statistics show our policies are making a difference in Scotland with rising employment, a fall in unemployment and youth employment is at its highest August to October figure since 2008 but we will continue to use every power at our disposal to remove any barriers to the jobs market that may remain.”

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