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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.

Friday, 4 May 2018

If you want quality you have to pay for it


The Minister for Childcare made a statement to parliament this week about the extra funding for local authorities childcare expansion plans.

Disappointingly she is still boasting about guaranteeing the Living Wage as if this was a reasonable wage for a highly skilled and qualified workforce. As I said when the trade unions met with the Minister: the Living Wage is the bare minimum to live on it's not a wage that will help with the recruitment and retention challenges the sector faces.

The Minister's statement is worth watching. This week's announcement, about agreeing funding with local authorities to pay for the expansion was, I assume, prompted by Audit Scotland's report which highlighted a range of issues with the government's planning. The most headline grabbing being the difference between their and local authorities estimates of the cost. While the agreement has been reached, the funding still seems to be short of what will be needed. Particularly as they still don't seem to have got on top of the staffing issues.

There still seems to be little acknowledgement of the fact that many of the current and new staff will work part-time and that therefore the estimates of staff numbers needed are too low. Even with their own estimates the number of training places the minister states in her answers falls short of the numbers needed.

More significantly this notion that the Living Wage is an acceptable rate of pay for childcare workers is ridiculous. There is constant reference to quality being the key to closing the attainment gap, to a highly qualified workforce but no commitment to appropriate pay for those (mainly women) who they expect to deliver.

It is true that for some outwith the public sector nurseries this will mean a welcome wage rise. This is because they are shockingly underpaid. They deserve a much more substantial pay rise.

In order to deliver the aims of the policy we need a qualified workforce. You cannot expect workers to study for HNCs and then degrees for the promise of £8.75 an hour. The reality is that those who don't pay wages that reflect the skills of workers will continue to lose staff to those who pay more.

Why would you work for £8.75 an hour in a nursery when you can make the same on a supermarket checkout without the responsibility of educating young children, child protection and report writing or Glasgow City Council will pay you approx £19,000 for 38 weeks of the same work?

I know I keep repeating this but we can't have a system that keeps some women on poverty pay in order to create free childcare for others. Done properly lives will be transformed but there is a lot more to do to make sure that the result is reduced poverty and the end of the poverty related attainment gap.

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