John’s Question on Minimum Wage for Young Workers

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Ind):

To ask the Scottish Government what representations it has made to the United Kingdom Government about equalising the minimum wage regardless of age, given the impact on youth employment. (S4O-03427)

The Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment (Angela Constance): The Scottish Government believes that work should be fairly rewarded. With independence we would ensure that the minimum wage would rise by at least inflation and establish a fair work commission, which, along with assessing the minimum wage, would be asked to consider the appropriate minimum wage for young people and apprentices.

The Low Pay Commission’s call for evidence for the 2015 minimum wage rate asks specifically for information on the minimum wage for young people, and the Scottish Government welcomes views on that issue, prior to submitting our response.

In response to the call for evidence in 2014, the Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism raised the importance of the national minimum wage for apprentices and called for it to be continuously assessed to ensure that it keeps pace with the rising costs that are faced by our young workforce.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I call Neil Findlay. Briefly, please.

Neil Findlay (Lothian) (Lab): Why does the minister not support using the powers—

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I am sorry; I meant to call Mr Finnie.

John Finnie: I thank the minister for her response, although it sounded as though she was saying that we have made no representations. I encourage her to make representations.

In 1998, the UK Government made the national minimum wage law in order to ensure that employees in the UK are provided with

“decent minimum standards and fairness in the workplace”.

Any discrimination, including age discrimination, is unwelcome and I would encourage the minister to make those representations and to make a commitment to eradicating such discrimination in an independent Scotland.

Angela Constance: I encourage Mr Finnie to read the Official Report of today’s session.

In principle, people who are doing the same job should get the same rate of pay. That is an important principle. I believe that, in an independent Scotland, Mr Finnie and I will be on the same side and the fair work commission will have an important role. I am on record as supporting the Scottish Youth Parliament’s one fair wage campaign.

Although I recognise that employers expect to pay people who are in training a different rate from those employees who are time served or fully qualified, we have a lot to learn from the European experience. In some European countries those differentials are not too great, while in others they are quite stark. I believe firmly that people should get the same rate of pay for the same job.