TALK­ING POL­I­TICS Fo­cus on real liv­ing wage to build a brighter fu­ture

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser - - Talking Politics -

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

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