Joe Cullinane

Scottish Labour Councillor for Kilwinning

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We are making progress on the Living Wage but there is still room for improvement

As Living Wage Week approaches Joe sets out the gains he has achieved through his campaigning.


 

Next week (1st-7th November) is Living Wage Week, a week when we are able to promote the virtues of paying the Living Wage and encourage more employers to do so.

Recent statistics showed that 8000 jobs in North Ayrshire are paid below the Living Wage. That’s 8000 workers in our local economy going out to work but not earning enough to cover the cost of living. It’s a startling, and quite frankly, appalling statistic.

Under Labour control North Ayrshire Council became one of the first local authorities in the UK to pay the Living Wage. We did so before it became part of national pay deals, it was simply a political decision that my colleagues made to ensure that work paid for our own Council staff.

Three years ago, during Living Wage Week, I wrote for this paper about the need for North Ayrshire Council to do more to support the Living Wage. My argument then, as it is now, was that to support the Living Wage means more than simply paying it; it means actively working to increase its payment across North Ayrshire.

Three years on there has been some progress made through the work of the Council’s Living Wage Working Group that I helped establish.

Whilst SNP Councillors, following the lead of their MSPs in Holyrood, have voted down my calls for the Living Wage to be a mandatory condition of all Council contracts we have managed to change our procurement rules so its payment is taken into account. Our message to all contract bidders is now clear – do you want to miss out on the contract simply because you won’t pay your staff the Living Wage?

In addition next week the Council will be using social media to support Living Wage Week for the first time whilst the Business Development Team and Business Gateway now, as standard, discuss the benefits of it with all businesses they actively support.

Next week will also see the annual uplift in the Living Wage announced. With it calculated against the cost of living the annual uplift ensures that the Living Wage remains at a rate which allows people to enjoy a reasonable standard of living.

The Tories plans to cut tax credit, which this week received a blow when Labour Lords won a vote which could delay them for three years, will see 6600 of the lowest paid workers in Cunninghame South lose, on average, £1300 a year. It has been suggested that, in order to compensate for this cut in in-work benefits, the Living Wage may need to increase to £12 an hour. That’s £4.15 per hour higher than the current Living Wage.

I’ve asked North Ayrshire Council to analyse how much a £12 per Living Wage would cost the Council. The sum is £2,146,062 extra per year. That would have a huge impact on an ever decreasing budget. That’s why we must do three things to protect the lowest paid – oppose austerity, oppose the Tories Tax Credit cuts and continue to support the payment of a ‘real’ Living Wage.

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