TALKING POLITICS Focus on real living wage to build a brighter future
This week is Living Wage Week, so now is a good time to focus on how we best rebalance a system, where the richest one per cent in Scotland own more personal wealth than the whole of the bottom 50 per cent.
The real living wage is the amount of money workers need to actually live on. In Scotland today, there are around half a million workers who are paid below the living wage of £8.45 an hour.
Twice as many women as men earn below the living wage. This affects not just their bank balances, but also their home life, health and our society as a whole. We must end the scourge of poverty pay.
All my life, as a trade unionist and as an MSP, and now as a contender for Scottish Labour leadership, I have fought for the right for working people to receive a fair rate for the job they do, and so receive the full fruits of their labour.
Workers should not have to rely on food banks or go to legal loan sharks just to get by: yet my experience of visiting local food banks is that more of them do.
The Scottish Government should lead by example.
So for a start we should only award public contracts to those who take corporate social responsibility seriously.
These expectations are that organisations would not operate on zero-hour contracts; are not blacklisters; create quality apprenticeships; work to tackle occupational segregation which causes the gender pay gap; recognise trade unions; assess pay ratios of the average worker and senior management; are fair tax mark accredited and pay at least the real living wage.
It is a straight forward principle that not a single public pound should be spent by the Scottish Government on a contractor that does not care about their workers and delivers anything less than the best for the communities they serve.
The Scottish Government is currently failing to make the most of their £11 billion of purchasing power. I shall constantly challenge the SNP to make full use of procurement to improve workers’ pay and conditions – locally and nationally.
This is no time to tinker around the edges. We must transform the system that creates poverty and inequality in the first place.
Transforming our society requires a fundamental redistribution of our country’s wealth.
The narrow focus on income tax in the recent debate, ignores the untapped wealth of individuals sitting on millions of pounds worth of wealth.
If we are serious about tackling the deepseated problems facing Scotland then the time has come for a wealth tax.
Focusing only on income will not solve the problems facing Scotland.
To invest in and grow our economy and provide sufficient resources for our NHS, education, social care, and to enable us to fund a decent pay rise to our public sector workers and properly resource local government services, demands radical action including full consideration of a wealth tax.
Now is the time for a once in a generation discussion about tax and the kind of society we want to build and it is a debate I am prepared to lead.
That is why I am calling on the Scottish Government to use the powers of the parliament and seriously consider the introduction of a wealth tax on those with over £1 million worth of wealth, to rebalance our economy and invest in, rather than contract our public services.
I have consistently spent my political life fighting for the rights of workers; to get firms to pay their workers a living wage; fighting to make sure women get the same pay as their male counterparts; for the rights of trade unions to represent workers, and for a fundamental redistribution of wealth that will benefit the many not the few.
Rest assured, as Scottish Labour leader, I will not be deflected from this fight: quite the opposite, I will redouble my efforts and lead from the front. And I will always be guided by what is best for all of our people and not just a privileged few.
To invest in and grow our economy demands radical action including full consideration to a wealth tax
Richard Leonard Delivers a keynote speech in Edinburgh as Scottland Labour leader contender