Welcome to the Public Works blog.

Public Works is UNISON Scotland's campaign for jobs, services, fair taxation and the Living Wage. This blog will provide news and analysis on the delivery of public services in Scotland. We welcome comments and if you would like to contribute to this blog, please contact Dave Watson d.watson@unison.co.uk. For other information on what's happening in UNISON Scotland please visit our website.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Extending the Scottish Living Wage through procurement - vital in social care



A new UNISON Scotland Briefing has been published explaining how public bodies can use procurement to extend the Scottish Living Wage to all those working in public services.

Nearly all public sector workers in Scotland are now paid the Living Wage, (uprated this month to £8.25 per hour) but thousands who deliver public services in the community and private sectors don't yet receive it, particularly in social care.

New Statutory Guidance from the Scottish Government sets out how the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 enables all public bodies to spread the benefits. Previous legal objections no longer apply.

Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown said that employers "must now recognise that they cannot adopt exploitative practices in relation to their workers and expect... lucrative public contracts."

The Guidance on Addressing Fair Work Practices sets out how public bodies can legally include payment of the Living Wage in contracts, along with other employment matters, such as trade union recognition and representation and no "inappropriate" use of zero hours contracts.

(The Living Wage is a voluntary level for over 18s, higher than the current statutory National Minimum Wage (NMW) of £6.70 per hour for over 21s. It is an independent calculation of what is required to cover the basic cost of living.

While the increased legal minimum announced by Chancellor George Osborne as a new National Living Wage (NLW) of £7.20 per hour for over 25s in his July 2015 Budget is welcome, it is in effect a higher NMW, not a real living wage. It is nothing like enough to compensate for cuts to tax credits. IPPR Scotland said for low and middle income Scottish families the impact is "vastly outweighed" by the cuts.)

It is vital to progress the Living Wage in social care, which is facing a growing staffing crisis. The Scottish Government, COSLA and care providers are currently involved in discussions about how best to drive up pay in the care at home/housing support sector, recognising the links between pay, quality of care, retention and recruitment etc.

An interim funding deal is likely, with work continuing on a more robust proposal for 2016/17, alongside analysis of the full financial impact of the NLW 2016 to 2020 announcement and the overall cost of residential and non-residential social care.

UNISON wants to see the Living Wage included in all social care contracts and will also press our Ethical Care Charter. However, we accept that this has to be fully funded.  We welcome the Scottish Labour party's proposal to pay the Living Wage to all those working in social care.

UNISON branches should study the guidance in detail and ensure that public bodies: revise their procurement strategy to include the Scottish Living Wage; specify compliance with the S52 guidance in procurement documents and the consequences for the LW; revise their tender evaluation procedures to take account of the LW and other employment and 'fair work' standards. These can include no zero or nominal-hours contracts, trade union recognition and the Ethical Care Charter.

Under the Act, public bodies are required to set out their general policy on the Living Wage in their procurement strategy. Bids can be evaluated against that policy and payment of the Living Wage can become an enforceable performance clause. For contracts with a strong workforce element, such as social care, there can be a significant weighting in the evaluation for workforce matters.

With a civil society coalition behind '10 Asks' on the legislation, we had called for the Living Wage to be mandatory for all those working on public contracts. The guidance does not go that far but is an improvement.

UNISON still believes that EU law would allow it to be set as a contract condition. Advocate General Mengozzi's opinion, given on 9 September 2015 in RegioPost GmbH v Stadt Landau (C-115/14), was that EU law did not prevent contracting authorities setting conditions relating to the payment of minimum wages.

Further Statutory Guidance later in 2015 will cover areas including the Sustainable Procurement Duty, fair trade and tax dodging. There is separate guidance on blacklisting.

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