Tackling low pay ‘should be a priority’ in Falkirk

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Looking ahead to May’s Holyrood election it’s clear that the prosperity of the electorate will play a major part in how people will vote.

It’s good news on that front in Scotland, apparently, with figures from a study by the Resolution Foundation showing the typical (median) pay of a Scottish worker went above those in England for the first time.

And it seems workers in the Falkirk area are earning more than they were a year ago with the median wage going up from £510 a week to £514.

Although this does not reflect the average weekly wage of most Falkirk residents, it does highlight that wages are creeping up. The figures are not an accurate reflection on what many Falkirk residents will earn as a high number don’t bring in over £500 per week, but they are an indication that the local economy is performing better.

The ONS statistics also show that Falkirk men are still earning a lot more than women with average wages of £548 and £457 for full-time workers respectively – up from £538 and £450 the previous year.

The number of people out of work has also fallen with a total of 2070 people claiming benefits in December last year, 460 less than was claiming in 2014.

But while the boost is being welcomed, Scotland’s unemployment rate remains above the UK average and the Resolution Foundation says problems relating to low pay will continue.

The think tank say one in five employees in Scotland is low paid and is calling for more people to earn the Living Wage as well as political parties to make the issue a top priority in their election campaigns.

Research analyst Conor d’Arcy said: “Changes in UK-wide policy will have varying effects on Scottish households in coming years. The National Living Wage should boost the pay of thousands of Scottish workers though will be less transformative than in many parts of the UK.

“The work incentives structure of Universal Credit may result in some workers reducing the number of hours they work and cuts planned to in-work support from 2020 will have a large impact on the incomes of many Scottish households.

“Alongside personal tax allowance cuts which will primarily benefit higher earners, it appears that UK tax and benefit policy is unlikely to act as a boost to the income of low and middle income Scottish families.”

Politicians pledge to fight for low income workers

Politicians from the two main parties vying for the Falkirk East seat in May have vowed to battle for higher wages for low paid workers.

Labour candidate Councillor Craig R Martin said: “The first thing a Scottish Labour government would do is only allow companies that pay a Living Wage to get government contracts.

“It should not be the case that you can get million pound contracts from the Scottish Government, make profits from that contract while your workers struggle to make ends meet.

“It is simple – pay the Living Wage first – then dish out profits. A more equal society is not only fairer, it does better in terms of economic stability and wealth creation.”

He added: “The care sector in Scotland also needs radical reform and one will be those who ensure our parents and grandparents are cared for are given a fair wage. It should not be that low paid workers are the second biggest users of food banks in Scotland.

“We in the Labour party are fighting against the anti-trade union bill that will further diminish the voice of workers, are looking at introducing pay ratios between those at the top and those at the bottom and stopping dividend payments by low pay companies.

Falkirk East MSP Angus, who is running for re-election for the SNP, said “The SNP is committed to promoting good employment practices and fair pay in Scotland. There were encouraging figures from the Resolution Foundation which showed that, over the last two decades, pay in Scotland has grown faster than any other nation or region in the UK.

“This positive news demonstrates that the work of the SNP in government to tackle low pay and promote good working practices in Scotland is continuing to make a difference in Falkirk district.

“While employment law remains reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government continues to do everything it can to further improve employment standards and promote good working practices, including the Living Wage of £8.25 an hour. I fully support the Living Wage campaign.

“We are taking action to lift those who are not receiving the Living Wage out of low pay. For example, in the care sector we are working to address low pay by encouraging care providers to pay the Living Wage, and are working with COSLA and care providers to further progress fair work practices.”