Edinburgh Council Becomes ‘Living Wage’ Employer

Over 2000 Edinburgh Council Employees will receive a ‘living wage’ of £7.50 per hour after a decision to allocate an extra £2.06 million to employee pay. The decision was voted for this afternoon and means that the lowest paid council workers will receive a boost of £1.04 per hour to their wage packets  from January.

It is estimated that mainly low paid women will benefit from the decision. A cook or cleaner, for example, with an entry level wage of £6.46 per hour working full time with a pension will see an increase in their pay by around £105 per month, or £1270 per annum.

A spokesman from Unison Edinburgh – the trade union body for Edinburgh City Council – said today: “this is a fundamentally important decision. It is a recognition that there needs to be a commitment from employers to move away from paying poverty wages. Hopefully this trend will continue across Scotland.”

Unison added that: “The next step is to campaign for the Edinburgh Living Wage to apply to a ll contractors and to convince businesses across the city of the benefits of paying their staff a living wage.”

Councillor Bill Cook, Vice Convener of the Finance and Budget Committee, said: “It is simply a matter of fairness. People should get a decent wage for working.

“It’s a strange logic that claims that it’s essential to give the rich more and the poor less in order for the economy to work. Where in fact, as is widely recognised, a fair wage strategy will undoubtedly stimulate the economy and have a positive effect socially.

“Our workforce is the most important asset we’ve got. It’s absolutely vital that we recognise the contribution that they make through their hard work to the welfare of Edinburgh’s people.”

The Living Wage is set by the Centre for Research in Social Policy each November and is currently £7.45 per hour for workers outside London.

A Labour and SNP ‘Capital Coalition’ committed to introducing the wage for Edinburgh Council staff following the Local Government elections in May 2012.

The estimated cost to the council of providing the living wage for a full financial year is £1.6m for staff employed directly by the Council and £0.46m for agency staff, bringing the total to £2.06m. The Capital Coalition claims that provision has been made for this amount.

Local business owners have expressed anxiety about the living wage being rolled out across Edinburgh. Grant McNeil, owner of Edinburgh pub chain McNeil/Greenan said : ‘I hope this is not the start of the council trying to put in a living wage for everyone. From a business point of view in times of austerity this would not be very easy for me.

“Although I am sympathetic for people on a low wage I would say the council should be paying the same as what the minimum wage is so that we are all on a level playing field. At the end of the day it is a customer facing job just like working in a bar.”

Listen HERE to what people in Edinburgh think about the Living wage