Council introduction of “living wage” welcomed

Some of the lowest paid public sector workers in Deeside and Donside will see a boost to their pay packets as Aberdeenshire Council agreed to the introduction of a “living wage” for it’s employees.

The move will see council workers being guaranteed at least £7.20 an hour for their labour, up from the current national minimum wage of £6.19 an hour for workers over 21.

Councillors unanimously agreed to adopt the supplement at a recent meeting of the Council’s Policy and Resources Committee.

The increase will be introduced and backdated to 1 April 2012.

The estimated cost of backdating the supplement is estimated at around £147,000.

Provost Jill Webster said: “Aberdeenshire Council is committed to supporting its staff and the introduction of the Living Wage will provide an additional boost to the lowest paid staff who are very often at the front face of providing crucial services to our residents.”

She was supported by committee vice-chair, Cllr Martin Kitts-Hayes: “I am absolutely delighted this has come forward. We have been through two years of a pay freeze, a difficult time for staff. This sends out the right message to our staff, particularly those at the lower end of the pay scale.”

Councillors from the ruling Aberdeenshire Alliance coalition have previously stated that a reason for the council’s budget underspend is the inability to attract workers, thereby saving on wage costs.

The move won cross-party support with opposition Councillor Gave Blackett supporting it but adding that it was an SNP policy: “I am delighted that Aberdeenshire Council is implementing SNP Government policy and there will be more money in the pockets of hard working people - people who carry out essential tasks in our communities. It is not before time!”

Aberdeenshire Council will join 15 other councils across Scotland in having the pay policy, including Aberdeen City Council and Highland Council.

There are a further ten councils who plan to adopt it this year.

The living wage level differs across the country with Angus Council, for example, planning a rate of £7.45 an hour.

Consultations with Trade Unions representing council workers took place to determine the rate.

Public sector union UNISON was one of those consulted.

Inez Teece, UNISON Grampian branch secretary called the move a “Godsend”: “We are delighted that the council has listened to us and has agreed to introduce a living wage as soon as possible. With the cost of basics like food and fuel rising, this will be a godsend to our lowest paid workers.”

Kate Ramsden, branch chair added: “When you think that almost 60% of children who live in poverty have at least one parent in work, you can see how important the living wage is. This is good news for these workers.”