THE SNP has made a fresh call for the national minimum wage to be devolved to Holyrood after new data suggested that a failure to ensure earnings matched rising inflation had cost workers in Scotland thousands of pounds in pay.
Scottish Parliament figures showed that if the level of the minimum wage had risen by the Retail Price Index (RPI) since 2009, a full time worker earning that rate would be nearly £3,000 better off.
An SNP MSP said the findings showed Westminster has failed to use its power over the minimum wage, which stands at £6.50 for over 21s, to keep earnings in line with the cost of living.
The report from the commission chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin, which set out a new package of powers covering tax, welfare and borrowing for the Scottish Parliament, rejected SNP demands for responsibilities over the minimum wage to be devolved.
New data from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) suggested that increases made to the national minimum wage by UK governments during the last five years had failed to keep pace with inflation - a cost of £2,948.34 to the average pay packet.
Opponents of devolving minimum wage powers have warned the move would lead to a “race to the bottom” with different statutory rates of pay for workers in different parts of the UK.
The Scottish Government has launched a “Fair Work Convention” aimed at examining issues such as low pay, industrial relations and employment rights.
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However, SNP MSP Sandra White said an “abject failure” by Westminster to close the gap between pay and inflation showed the need for the transfer of more powers over employment to the Scottish Parliament.
Ms White said: “These figures are damning evidence of how both Labour and Tory Westminster governments have let down low-paid people in Scotland.
“While people at the top are getting richer, workers earning the minimum wage are losing out to the tune of almost £3000.
“It’s clear that Westminster simply isn’t interested in standing up for working people – in addition to their failures on the minimum wage, George Osborne’s latest round of welfare cuts are hitting 600,000 working families.
“The Westminster parties have shown that they simply can’t be trusted to stand up for low-paid workers. It is vitally important that powers over employment and the minimum wage are transferred to Scotland – to allow us to ensure that everyone in Scotland receives a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and to lift thousands of working people out of poverty.”
She added: “In contrast to Westminster’s abject failure, the SNP has a strong track record of standing up for working people under the limited powers currently in Scotland’s hands – delivering the living wage in the public sector, guaranteeing no compulsory redundancies and setting up the Fair Work Convention to champion better pay and good industrial relations.”
However, Labour accused the SNP of double standards and of failure to use Holyrood’s existing powers to extend the living wage - a voluntary rate of £7.85, that is currently paid to those employed directly by the Scottish government and councils on top of the statutory minimum wage.
The SNP controversially used its overall majority in the parliament to prevent a compulsory living wage for workers who carry out work for the government, but are employed in the private sector
Scottish Labour’s fair work spokesman, Neil Findlay, said: “When the Scottish Government had the opportunity to advance the living wage during the Procurement Bill they bottled it.
“But now we see the SNP calling for more powers when they have dragged their feet on employment issues for years. Scottish Labour will use powers at all levels of government to ensure dignity in work for all.”
John Park, assistant general secretary of the Community trade union, said: “This call from the SNP is one of the craziest ideas I’ve heard, as all it would do is create competition between workers in Scotland and England, with employers getting away with paying dismal wage rates.”
Tory MSP Alex Johnstone said that devolving the minimum wage, which is set by the UK government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), would damage Britain’s integrated economy.
He said: “The priority should be to get wages up across the UK in an integrated economy, rather than finding ourselves in a race to the bottom, which is exactly what the SNP’s approach would lead to.” SEE ALSO
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