Scottish Government to focus on low pay and zero hours

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The Scottish Government yesterday, Tuesday 6 October 2015, formalised its commitment to making Scotland a fairer place to work with new statutory guidance for public sector procurement.

The document represents the first time any administration has gone as far, and ensures that public sector procurements can take account of the fact that employers whose staff are treated fairly are likely to deliver higher quality services. Those bidding for public contracts will now be expected to adopt fair work practices, which may include –

  • paying the Living Wage
  • no unnecessary use of zero hours contracts
  • giving workers an active voice in the workplace

The Scottish Government is prevented by EU procurement law from making the Living Wage mandatory in contract agreements, but the new statutory guidance means that companies who want to secure business with public bodies are now obliged to sign up to these fair work conditions for anyone working on the contracts.

Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown will launch the new guidance in his speech to the Procurex national procurement conference in Glasgow this morning.

He said:

The commitment to making Scotland a fairer place to work is a key tenet of this government, and our new statutory guidance for public sector procurements sees us nail our colours to the mast.

Our model of procurement, putting the social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainability at the heart of all we do, remains the foundation of our approach.

Employers must now recognise that they cannot adopt exploitative practices in relation to their workers and expect to be rewarded with lucrative contracts in the public sector.

If you want to do business with the public sector in Scotland, you have to be a responsible employer and value your workers. You have to do your bit to make Scotland a fairer and more equal society.

We will continue to do everything in our power to promote that ethos.

The news has been welcomed by those representing workers throughout Scotland.

Grahame Smith, General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) said:

The STUC welcomes the Statutory Guidance on Fair Work Practices being introduced by the Scottish Government, a move that once again highlights the different approach taken by the Scottish Government in tackling poor employment practices and low pay in the Scottish economy.

The Scottish Government has taken the lead in driving forward the real Living Wage as have local authorities and we believe it is right that companies wishing to receive public contracts should demonstrate that they treat staff fairly by paying a living wage, recognise the benefits of trade unions and collective bargaining and treat their workers with the dignity and respect they deserve.

The Fair Work Agenda and the approach taken by the Scottish Government to promoting positive industrial relations as being key to economic success is thankfully at odds with attacks on trade unions at UK level and these statutory guidelines provide public bodies the opportunity to ensure contractors understand what is expected from them, as part of the public procurement process, and their role in delivering fair work and good terms and conditions for Scottish workers.

Fair Work Convention Co-Chair Anne Douglas said:

The Fair Work Convention believes it is vital that work which provides individuals with opportunity, fulfilment, security, respect and effective voice and balances the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees. In doing this we can generate real benefits for individuals, organisations and for society more widely.

It is therefore important that the Scottish Government uses all its levers to promote fair working practices and the Convention welcomes these being reflected in statutory guidance.

Linda Urquhart the Convention’s other Co-Chair continued:

The Fair Work Convention is currently engaging across Scotland, with business, employees, union, third and public sectors as well as society more generally to help evidence fair work and the basis from which the Fair Work Framework for Scotland will be created.

Following the publication of their Framework in March the Fair Work Convention will welcome an opportunity to work with the Scottish Government to further this approach.

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