The September meeting of the Dundee Fairness Commission took place in the Finmill Centre in Fintry. There were two presentations and we also had a helpful NHS 'Inequality Briefing' paper before us.
Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance outlined the 'Living Wage' and 'Stick Your Labels' campaigns. The Scottish Living Wage Campaign is driven by a coalition of trades unions, faith groups and voluntary organisations and believes "that all workers deserve a wage that gives them the chance to achieve a decent standard of living for themselves and their families."
The 'Stick your labels' campaign has 3 pledges:
- poverty is not inevitable
- Attitudes matter
- Actions change attitudes.
This Fairness Commission is about Dundee and what we can do here to make ours a fairer, more equitable city. At the end of Peter's presentation questions and discussion focussed on Dundee. We had been told that only two Scottish local authorities had signed up to the Living Wage campaign. Why not Dundee, was what we wanted to know.
Dundee City Council wants to be an accredited 'Living Wage Employer' we were told and are "wrestling with the challenge, not ducking it." Social care costs appear to be the biggest impediment to achieving accreditation. "Why is it" asked Alison Henderson of the Chamber of Commerce, "that we keep hearing that social care, hospitality and retail are a problem?" Small businesses are showing the way. Poverty is a problem that has solutions, we should not be talking about the inevitability, we should be talking about solutions.
On the 'Stick Your Labels' campaign, the Commission recognised that using language that dismisses and diminishes is a serious problem. This was clearly illustrated in the use of the term 'disabled people' in the second presentation. I myself had to point out that people with disabilities are not 'disabled people' but persons of other abilities who happen to have a disability. 'Myth busting' is another crucial element of the campaign to change attitudes.
Jim McCormick of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation talked about the Changing Face of Work.
The number of semi-skilled jobs has fallen dramatically in recent years. The 'revolving door' rather than the 'escalator' is the experience of many low wage earners; that is to say there has been a loss of expectation to advance from your low paid and the fear of getting the heave is now all too prevalent. Over a third of workers receiving working tax credits are in retail, health and social work. Devolution has made little difference. Commenting on the effects of this summer's budget, for people on the new national 'living wage', the bad news hugely outweighs the good news.
The key messages from the NHS 'Inequality Briefing Paper' (which we did not have time to discuss) were:
- good work provides a decent income, widens social networks and gives people a purpose.
- not all work is good for health.
- for working-age adults, not having a paid job is bad for your health.
It appears that the commitment of Commissioners, reflected in the intensity of discussion, is making our current self-imposed time constraints of a 2 hour meeting untenable and we have to do something about that.