No new Scottish Government subsidies for businesses which don’t meet ‘fair work criteria’

Ben Wray

Fair Work Criteria will be part of assessment for business subsidies from April 2019

THE Scottish Government has confirmed that there will no longer be business subsidies for companies which do not meet a new “fair work criteria” included in the Programme for Government two weeks ago.

The move is set to end Scottish Enterprise Regional Selective Assistance grants going to the likes of global distribution giant Amazon, which has received £3.5 million in RSA grants since 2007 despite widespread criticism of its employment practices.

The Programme for Government stated that as part of its Fair Work Action Plan:  “We will introduce fair work criteria, including paying the Living Wage, excluding exploitative zero-hours contracts and being transparent on gender-equal pay to business support grants through RSA and other large Scottish Enterprise job-related grants, starting with grants offered in 2019-20.”

The Plan will also include working with small businesses to offer advice and support in how they can meet the fair work criteria.

The change will be implemented from April 2019. It is unclear whether the Fair Work Criteria will also be in place for public procurement policy, which includes over £3 billion worth of contracts to private sector providers. The SNP’s 2016 election manifesto contained a commitment for the living wage and no blacklisting firms to be part of the procurement selection criteria.

READ MORE: Patrick Harvie calls for “corporate kleptomaniacs” to be cut off from public funding 

Peter Kelly of Living Wage Scotland told The Sunday Mail [16 September] that the new policy should mean that Amazon get no new RSA grant funding “until it starts paying the living wage”.

Kelly said: “That pledge can only be taken seriously if the SNP refuses to give Amazon any more money until it starts paying the living wage. The Scottish Government’s approach on fair work has been to identify issues such as the living wage, then look at the levers it has to have it introduced by employers.

“Regional Selective Assistance is one of the key ways the Government supports inward investment and the development of local economies, so we are going to wait and see what happens in practice, but we are upbeat about the impact this could have on many companies.

“We have been aware of discussions within the Scottish Government about Amazon and so, if this has the effect that workers will finally be paid the Living Wage, that will have a huge impact on the living standards of hundreds of people.”

READ MORE: Better Than Zero campaign calls for strikes against Amazon to extend from mainland Europe to UK

In December 2016 Amazon said they would voluntarily sign-up to be a Scottish living wage employer, meaning paying all workers no less than £8.75 an hour, but nearly two years later they have still not done so.

In the same month the Courier reported that Amazon workers were sleeping in tents near the Dunfermline warehouse next to the A90 in order to save on travel costs.

There is currently 1254 living wage accredited employers in Scotland.

Amazon is the second most valuable company in the world (behind Apple). It’s founder Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest man, with a net worth of £123.7 billion. 

Picture courtesy of Mathieu Thouvenin