Scotland’s businesses support regime, which hands millions of pounds in taxpayers’ cash to multinationals such as Amazon, should be reviewed, MSPs have said.
It has emerged ministers have no control over these grants which now lies with enterprise agencies and this should now be looked at again, according to a report by the Scottish Parliament’s economy committee.
The call was backed by union leaders who said it was “unacceptable” that taxpayers’ cash should go to firms which some say deny workers’ “basic rights”. Amazon has a huge distribution centre in Dunfermline employing 700 people, along with bases in Edinburgh and Gourock, which were backed by more than £4 million of Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) and training awards.
But the firm has come under fire over staff conditions at its centres, with reports claiming employees can walk up to 11 miles a shift and face punishing deadlines for retrieval of items.
The committee report states: “We request that the Scottish Government review the process for high value awards in order to consider whether changes may be required to ensure that recipients comply with these policies.”
Jane Martin, managing director of Customer Operations at the national economic development agency Scottish Enterprise said it was seeking to work with the firm to “address these concerns”.
Cabinet secretary for fair work, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, said she expected “robust internal discussions” about the issue of funding for firms such as Amazon whose employment practices have come into question.
RSA grants do not need to be approved by ministers, but they may be discussed with the Scottish Government.
Gary Smith, secretary of the GMB union in Scotland, said: “Taxpayers money should not be going to bad employers.
“The early feedback we had was that people were treated like battery hens, they were frightened to go to the toilet, only getting paid wages when they actually work – zero-hours contract arrangements.
“It’s just not acceptable that we’re giving out Scottish taxpayers’ money to companies that don’t afford their workers proper contracts of employment and basic rights at work.”
Amazon’s website stated that it did not employ people on zero-hour contracts.