Living Wage in Scottish Football

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at on 8 September 2016.

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Photo of Ruth Maguire Ruth Maguire Scottish National Party

I congratulate my colleague James Dornan on bringing to the chamber this debate on the living wage in Scottish football.

The social case for the living wage is clear. It is simply unacceptable that working people find themselves having to turn to food banks or build up unsustainable debt just to get by. Ensuring that everyone has a decent income for the work that they do, and that people can access the goods and services that most of us would deem necessary to live on and in order to participate in society, is something that I am sure every member in the chamber can get behind and support.

I put on record that my interest in the debate relates not only to the very important fair work agenda but to my position as a Heart of Midlothian season ticket holder and Foundation of Hearts member. Hearts was indeed the first club in Scotland—and in the UK—to introduce the living wage. As a fan, I am proud of how my club has conducted itself in the matter and in the investment that it has made in its staff, and of how it has been working with the Foundation of Hearts to make fan ownership a reality. I am grateful to James Dornan for acknowledging the good work of Hearts in his speech—along with the speeches from other members—even if the motion does not quite capture it.

In a football club, many of the staff who will benefit from the living wage will be involved in match-day hospitality. In North Ayrshire, where my own constituency is, around 3,500 people are employed in hospitality. It is an industry in which, unfortunately, far too many people are struggling with low pay and a lack of regular hours. During my time as a North Ayrshire councillor, I chaired an inquiry into non-standard lending and heard evidence from individuals who were employed in hospitality about just how tough it was surviving week to week on a minimum wage with no set hours.

The social case for fair work and the living wage is well rehearsed, but there is also an important business case to be made. Independently conducted research on employers who have introduced the living wage has shown increases in productivity, as a result of living wage employees contributing a higher level of effort and being more open to changing job roles in the organisation. That brings businesses cost-saving opportunities through increasing staff retention and reducing sickness absence.

The value of improved levels of morale, motivation and commitment from staff right across the pay distribution can have a hugely positive effect on the success of a business. As more and more people choose to consume fair trade products and look to spend their hard-earned cash with ethical businesses, it can provide a real competitive edge.

Hearts showed real leadership, and the chair Ann Budge was quoted as saying that the club was

“simply doing the right thing”.

Hearts has sent a very clear signal to other clubs, and to its employees and customers and its supply chain.

Ambitions for growth are not incompatible with acting to create a fairer society. The action that Hearts has taken benefits not just the club and the immediate community but wider society. I commend Ann Budge and Hearts for doing the right thing and I urge others to follow suit.