Thursday 5th January 2017
Neil Gray, Scottish National Party Spokesperson for Fair Work and Employment and SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts
We are living through a time of great uncertainty in the aftermath of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, and now, more than ever, there is a need to deliver stability for working families.
The SNP is clear that that can only be delivered for the people of Scotland – who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU – through continued membership of the single market.
Thanks to the volatility of the pound, coupled with stagnant wages and slow growth, the purse strings of working families have never been tighter. And the potential for a large inflation spike next year will present the even greater challenge of wages which do not match the considerable rise in the cost of living. The challenge for all of us, representatives and employers, is to steady the ship as best we can. For most, that means a steady income that is adequate to deliver for your family. The delivery of the fair work agenda is now more critical than ever and the SNP believes that the UK Government can do much more to deliver for workers.
The SNP has long championed the payment of the Living Wage and the benefits to our economy of treating people who work more fairly.
We do not accept that the UK Government’s National Living Wage is really a Living Wage – it is simply a Minimum Wage premium. The real Living Wage is independently calculated according to the basic cost of living and takes account of the adequacy of household incomes for achieving an acceptable minimum living standard. Employers do not need further complications in the National Minimum Wage structure, and it was completely irresponsible for the Tories to try and piggy back on the existing, well-known but totally different Living Wage campaign. They certainly could have done with better warning and consultation on the changes.
The UK Government is completely failing to deliver on fair work. The NLW does not benefit people under 25 as they still face lower rates in the NMW and direct discrimination as a result. Differential pay for young workers is not acceptable as younger people work just as hard as older employees and it is not fair that they should receive less money as a result.
In Scotland, the SNP Scottish Government continues to set the bar high on fair work. This October, the First Minister welcomed the increase in the level of the Living Wage to £8.45 per hour – which will benefit thousands of staff in Scotland – and urged more Scottish organisations to become Accredited Living Wage Employers.
And while that is good news for workers, paying the Living Wage makes sense for businesses, too. Evidence shows it leads to increased productivity, reduced staff absence and turnover, while sending a strong message to customers about fairness.
Thanks to the actions of the SNP Scottish Government, we have the highest proportion of employees paying the Living Wage and Scotland remains the best performing of all four UK countries.
A recent McKinsey report highlighted the huge economic potential that narrowing the gender pay gap would have if gender inequality, both in work and in society, was addressed. Scotland already performs better than the UK average on gender equality in work and in society.
The gender pay gap for full-time employees in Scotland has decreased from 7.7 per cent in 2015 to 6.2 per cent in 2016 but we know there is more to do. While Scotland compares better to the UK as a whole, there is no room for complacency and it is not acceptable, in 2016, for women to be discriminated against, under-represented in senior positions or subjected to violence or abuse in any form.
Equality for women is at the heart of our vision for an equal Scotland. The SNP and our Government in Scotland have an ambitious plan in support of women’s equality, including legislating for gender balance on public sector boards.
The SNP proudly campaigned for a Remain vote and we continue to believe that leaving the EU would be a significant setback for equality. European law provides a robust framework of guarantees which simply cannot be abandoned by the UK Government. In Scotland, we will do all that we can with the powers available to the Scottish Parliament to maintain those protections. Over the next few months and years, we will not stop fighting for equality and will always work hard to ensure that there is equality of opportunity in an inclusive, progressive Scotland.