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Scotland: Hundreds working for government-funded bodies earn below living wage
Scotland on Sunday
Tom Peterkin

July 24, 2011
View the Original Article

NEARLY 1,000 people who work for Scottish Government-funded public bodies are earning less than the "Living Wage" of £7.15 per hour, new research has revealed.

The number of workers employed directly by quangos earning less than £7.15 stands at 517 while a further 417 are employed indirectly by public bodies through contractors.

The numbers have been calculated through a series of Freedom of Information requests submitted to all of Scotland's 45 quangos.

Several public bodies admitted paying people below the Living Wage, despite guidelines produced by the SNP Scottish Government earlier this year which said workers should be paid above the threshold.

At the SNP conference last year, First Minister Alex Salmond pledged that all government staff would be paid above the Living Wage, a pay-packet that is beyond the statutory minimum wage of £5.93 but which is defined as the minimum required to provide an adequate living standard for a worker and his family.

According to the Freedom of Information responses, the tourist authority VisitScotland employed 291 staff who were paid below the Living Wage.

VisitScotland's response disclosed that 269 of these were visitor service advisers in VisitScotland Information Centres. The remainder are cleaners and administrative staff.

Highlands and Islands Airports employed 117 people who get less than £7.15 per hour. HIA said wage negotiations were currently being held.

The Scottish Prison Service employed 60 people at less than the Living Wage.

When it came to contractors used by public bodies, the research showed that there were another 417 workers below the threshold. The Scottish Court Service had 307 contracted employees below the living wage. Of those, 205 were employed by the facilities management specialists Turner Group. A further 34 were employed by Sodexo, the company specialising in cleaning, security, reception and foodservices.

The information was retrieved under Freedom of Information legislation by the Labour MSP for the Lothians, Kezia Dugdale. "Low pay plays a depressingly significant role in keeping huge numbers of Scottish workers and their families living in poverty," Dugdale said.

"We must make it our mission to lift all Scots out of poverty and ensuring a decent wage for the lowest paid in our society is a key way of achieving that goal.

"The Scottish government directly controls the pay packets of thousands of Scots through its various agencies, bodies and sub-contracting arrangements, yet they are failing to utilise the significant power they have. There is no excuse for inaction.

The Scottish government could absolutely do this, and they could have done it yesterday, but they just haven't bothered."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "It is only right that our lowest earners should see a salary uplift and we want to make sure that those who work for the Scottish Government and associated agencies including the NHS get paid a fair wage. There may be a small number of staff in associated agencies still to benefit from the Scottish Living Wage, but this is due to the fact that these agencies are still to conclude pay negotiations with members of staff and their unions this year and Scottish Ministers cannot intervene while these negotiations continue."