Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made an impassioned plea today, calling on local authorities to support a new proposal that would see all care workers in the country paid the ‘Living Wage’ – the majority of whom are women.
Ms Sturgeon says a funding deal from Finance Secretary John Swinney, included in the draft budget as part of a range of measures designed to tackle low pay and inequality, would allow councils to pay care workers the current Living Wage of £8.25 an hour.
Councils have until February 9th to respond to the local government finance settlement for 2016-17, which also pledges a further £250 million per year investment to better support and integrate health and social care services.
The First Minister and SNP leader has met with care workers already paid the Living Wage at St Joseph’s Services in Rosewell, Midlothian, where she heard how the extra wages made a huge difference to their lives.
She also heard how the much-needed income boost allowed them to continue working in the care sector, caring for vulnerable older people and those with disabilities.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Government is committed to making Scotland a fairer place for all, and I can think of no better way to promote that ideal than by ensuring our care workers receive the Living Wage in return for the invaluable work that they do.
“The Scottish Government and local authorities have a shared aspiration to deliver and promote fairness in the work place and to work towards a living wage. The funding available in this year’s budget means that can now be achieved.
“Paying the living wage for care workers – the vast majority of whom are women – will help improve the incomes of these absolutely crucial workers, retain their talents in the sector and lay strong foundations for the future as the population ages and demand for their services increases.
“We recognise that there are pressures on budgets across the whole of the public sector, however the settlement set out in the draft Budget, and contained the offer made by John Swinney to councils is a good deal that will help some of those low paid workers get the boost to their incomes that they deserve.
“I hope that local authorities do the right thing and respond positively to our offer.”
Director of St Joseph’s Services Winnie Tuohy said: “A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work – that should apply to any type of work. It is very important that when people strive to better themselves it should be rewarded.
“The values of our organisation drove us to invest in the movement. Social care has been undervalued for years. The workers have been marginalised and their value not recognised. It’s about justice and equality.
“On top of this, this type of work is not always attractive, paying the Living Wage is a good way to promote that it is valuable work.”
Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Roseanna Cunningham, said paying care workers the Living Wage can lead to “significant” bonuses for employers, “including increased staff morale, reduced absenteeism and higher levels of productivity”.
She added: “From a handful of accredited [Living Wage] employers a little over a year ago, Scotland now has 460 organisations that have committed to paying the Living Wage.
“This marks excellent progress in our aim to have 500 employers signed up by the end of March, and today’s news is another significant step.”