Coronavirus grants should only be paid to businesses that pay the real living wage and do not use zero-hour contracts, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has said.
In a parliamentary debate about Scotland’s tourism and hospitality sectors, Mr Leonard said grants should be conditional on “businesses which receive them respecting their workers”.
MSPs passed by 67 votes to 53 the Scottish Labour motion calling for the Scottish Government to review business grant eligibility and to provide additional support to prevent job losses in the tourism and hospitality industries.
It received the backing of Tory, Green and Lib Dem MSPs, who united to defeat a government amendment that would have removed the call for grant criteria to be reassessed.
Opening the debate, Mr Leonard said: “We all recognise the unpredictability of current circumstances but the government’s response to each wave of this pandemic has been imposed without a clear exit strategy, leaving businesses and workers fearful for what might come next.
“Time after time we have seen a complete failure to communicate, a complete failure to consult to share the evidence, a complete failure to respect the business community and the workers affected.
“Businesses cannot be turned on and off like a tap and they should not be treated as though they could.”
Mr Leonard said the government should make additional grants conditional on following Unite the union’s “Hospitality Charter” which includes paying the real living wage of £9.50 per hour, rest breaks, no siphoning of tips and minimum hours contracts.
Responding for the government, Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing said £2.3 billion had been invested in helping businesses during the pandemic.
Mr Ewing added: “The Scottish Government has, from the beginning, recognised the scale of the impact [of coronavirus] and the need to provide adequate support for business survival.
“It has not been possible, as Mr Leonard appeared to imply, that we could simply replicate every pound of revenue that business has lost.
“It is practical to provide lifeline business support – sufficient business support – to help businesses survive and that realistic target is the one that we have pursued.
“I am absolutely confident that businesses recognise that objective is one that is both realistic and also our determination to deliver.”
Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie said hospitality and tourism sectors have a “very long track record of endemic low wages and exploitative working conditions”.
He said: “We need to be realistic about the need to drive up standards and not see those who’ve taken on a responsible approach with issues like the living wage, becoming the ones who get tipped over the edge and be the employers that get lost.”
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