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Scotland: ‘Living wage’ campaigners call for more to be done

December 7, 2011
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Campaigners are expected to call on ministers to set up a special body to promote the living wage across Scotland.

An estimated 15,000 public sector workers have already benefited from the introduction of the living wage, currently £7.20 an hour. The Scottish Government has adopted the wage for staff it employs directly, as well as for the NHS, while seven of Scotland's 32 local authorities also pay it.

But the Scottish Living Wage Campaign (SLWC) has said an estimated 350,000 workers are paid less than that, with many of them women working in retail and hospitality. The SLWC, together with the trade unions Unison and PCS Scotland, are now calling for a Scottish Living Wage Unit to be set up.

Representatives from the three organisations will speak about the issue at Holyrood's Local Government and Regeneration Committee. In a submission to MSPs, the SLWC argued that such a unit could play a "crucial role" in advising employers on adopting the living wage. A new unit could also carry out "essential" work to promote the living wage to the private sector.

It said: "As the numbers of workers receiving the living wage increases and interest in living wage policies grows among workers and employers outside the public sector, we believe that a Scottish Living Wage Unit would have a key role."

It added: "Establishing a Scottish Living Wage Unit will support the development of the living wage in Scotland and, crucially, promote the benefits to employers in the private sector."

In its submission Unison said it would like the Government to set up the unit, similar to the one established within the Mayor of London's Office. The union argued: "This unit, as well as promoting the living wage across all employment sectors in Scotland, could be responsible for ensuring that the living wage level is annually reviewed and updated."

Meanwhile PCS Scotland said establishing such a unit would be a "step forward".