Harper backs living wage bid

Robin Harper, Green candidate for Edinburgh East, today urged local candidates from the other parties to back a motion by the Scottish Green MSPs to set a living wage of £7 per hour – first for the public sector and then as a higher national minimum wage.
The Green motion calls for a clampdown on excessive salaries at the top of the public sector and for fairer taxation on high pay and financial transactions. The Greens also highlight the recent results of polling on pay and inequality which indicates that 91% of Scots support measures to tackle inequality.

Robin Harper said:

“Across Scotland, people are worried about their bills and about the state of the economy and Edinburgh is no exception. We have watched governments of all colours let inequality grow while thousands and thousands of the hardest working have been forced to scrape by on inadequate pay. Local government has been gravely at fault too. In Edinburgh we have seen a huge amount of waste by the city council but schools and local services are still being slashed.

“If the other candidates in Edinburgh back the Green proposals, we could for the first time see a real living wage across Scotland’s public sector. Will all the other local candidates stand up for the lowest paid in Edinburgh?”

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“The other political parties are getting ready to squeeze the public finances, but they must not be allowed to target the lowest paid and hardest working staff in the public sector. It’s extraordinary that a fifth of Scots working in the public sector are still not being paid a living wage after ten years of devolution. Ministers and most local authority leaders have refused to act.

“At the same time as the lowest paid are struggling to get by, those at the top still live in the lap of luxury at taxpayers’ expense. No administration can claim any credibility on tackling inequality while their own staff are treated so differently.

“But it’s not just public sector employees who are suffering. Across the retail and restaurant sectors, for instance, most staff are still paid less than £7 per hour. The minimum wage must be brought up to this level for everyone, and we need to rebalance the tax system so those who are paid the most in turn pay their fair share.

“Any well-paid politicians voting against these basic measures will be held in contempt by the overwhelming majority of Scots who want to see action to tackle inequality in this country.”

Notes to editors:

1. The motion debated on Thursday 29 April reads: That the Scottish Parliament recognises that unacceptable levels of poverty and income inequality continue to blight Scotland; notes the income of the richest 10% of people in Scotland is approximately the same as the total income of the poorest 50%; further notes that, amongst working-age adults, in-work poverty is still on the increase; believes that a more equal society would be a happier, healthier, safer and greener society, and that this must become a core objective of Government at all levels; and therefore calls upon the UK Government to commit to the immediate introduction of a living wage for all set at £7 per hour; and upon Scottish Ministers to bring in this living wage for all public sector workers and employees of public sector contractors, and for this change to be funded by tackling high pay in the public sector and by fairer taxation on both high pay and financial transactions.

2. Poverty Alliance figures: www.povertyalliance.org/campaigns_detail.asp?camp_id=7.

3. Angus Reid polled 1001 Scottish adults between 9am 14th April and 11pm 16th April 2010:

Which, if any, of the following measures do you support to reduce inequality?

62% Shift tax burden towards higher earners
44% Increase tax allowances
39% Absolute maximum pay for top management
36% Maximum ratio between highest and lowest pay within companies
25% Remove means-testing from benefits
9% Other methods
9% Do not support measures to reduce inequality