Angela Constance MSP

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Angela Constance MSP

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  • Member for: Almond Valley
  • Region: Lothian
  • Party: Scottish National Party

Angela is a member of the following Committees:

Angela is a member of the following Cross-Party Groups:

Parliamentary Activities

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Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
The Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment (Angela Constance)

When I published the working together review group’s report “Working Together Review: Progressive Workplace Policies in Scotland” on 13 August, I welcomed the group’s findings and said that the Government would

“fully consider the report and the recommendations, engaging business and trade unions directly”

before preparing

“a formal response.”—[Official Report, 13 August 2014; c 33379.]

Today provides an opportunity for all parties in the Parliament to contribute to that process and to our plans for a fair work convention.

When the First Minister announced the establishment of a fair work convention at the Scottish Trades Union Congress’s decent work, dignified lives conference, Grahame Smith, STUC general secretary, said:

“The STUC enthusiastically welcomes the First Minister’s announcement today. The establishment of a Scottish Fair Work Convention, a key recommendation of the Working Together Review, signals a new approach to fair pay and industrial relations in Scotland. The approach stands in stark contrast to the policies of the UK Government.”

I welcome that recognition that we are focused on what is best for Scotland. I have repeatedly stressed that this Government will work tirelessly to build a labour market and economy that are resilient, adaptable and responsive to change, because that is key to ensuring that Scotland’s businesses compete internationally and deliver long-term prosperity and high-quality jobs.

We need to support growth that reduces inequalities and helps everyone, particularly women and young people, to realise their potential. We need growth that reduces disparities between different parts of Scotland. We need growth that is sustainable and resilient.

The labour market statistics that were published yesterday demonstrate the impact of Scotland’s distinctive policy approach. Our economy continues to grow stronger, we are outperforming the United Kingdom on employment, underemployment and inactivity rates, and the gap between male and female employment has fallen to 5.4 per cent. I am pleased that there is also progress on youth employment, but of course far more needs to be done.

This Government is always focused on securing the best outcomes for Scotland. We believe—and the working together review confirmed—that progressive workplace policies can help to improve a firm’s productivity and innovation and can aid sustainable growth. Well-rewarded and sustained employment is the best route out of poverty and the best way to tackle inequality.

That is the context for today’s debate. Indeed, it was the context last week when the working together review was discussed at the business in the Parliament conference. It was living wage week, of course, and many businesses were keen to learn more about living wage accreditation. There was also strong interest in fair work and progressive policies that boost productivity, and there was an appetite to learn more about the specifics of what has worked in other businesses.

The focus on the living wage as one significant example of a progressive workplace policy understandably emerged because Rachel McEwen of SSE talked of the company’s experience of the living wage and what it had delivered for its business. It was heartening to hear her talk of the positive feedback from many SSE employees, not just from those who had seen a rise in their income. That is consistent with the view of KPMG’s UK head of facilities, Guy Stallard, who is on record as saying:

“Offering a Living Wage is good business sense”.



Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
Angela Constance

Ms Marra makes an interesting point. We touched on procurement in last week’s debate on the living wage and at the business in the Parliament conference, and I heard SSE reflect on its experiences. The Government’s position, as articulated by the Deputy First Minister over many months, is that we must operate within the context of EU law. The stumbling block is the fact that our national minimum wage is set in statute and at a different rate from the living wage. We have had many debates about the limits of EU law, and the Government will always look to learn from the experiences of others.

I hope that Ms Marra can be reassured by the fact that this Government was the first—indeed, the only—Government to introduce the living wage for all its staff. We have taken a good step forward with the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 and we are in the process of introducing statutory guidance. There are also other schemes such as procurement pilot projects and the living wage accreditation scheme. We are not resting on our laurels but are always looking for ways to ensure that Scotland becomes a living wage country.

Rachel McEwen also captured the mood of the room when she recognised that different approaches will work for different businesses and that individual organisations are best placed to make their own choices, working with their employees and trade unions. That said, those choices are likely to deliver better outcomes for all if they are underpinned by a commitment to fair work and access to information about what has worked elsewhere. That resonates with the case studies that featured in the working together review and, indeed, other examples.

I recently met the owner of Get It Done Cleaning, which is the first cleaning company in Scotland to be accredited by the Living Wage Foundation. He spoke eloquently and made a compelling case for the benefits that paying the living wage had on his business and how it led to more motivated employees, which, in turn, resulted in an improvement in staff retention levels. He further spoke of how paying the living wage and having the accreditation became a unique selling point to customers and helped to set his business apart from those of competitors.

When I visited Inspiring Scotland this summer, I heard at first hand from some of its workers about the vital role that flexible and family-friendly working arrangements play in helping people to manage the twin responsibilities of work and caring. That was matched by the chief executive’s account of how much those employees contribute to the organisation and how everyone would lose out if the organisation were not able to offer that balance between work and family commitments.

Fair work is an important issue that impacts directly on business competitiveness and on the lives of individual workers across Scotland. There will be a fair work convention involving trade unions and employer representatives, and my discussions—with the STUC yesterday and with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry and the Confederation of British Industry Scotland in the coming weeks—are about what the convention will do and how it will deliver.

The working together review group recommended that a fair employment framework should be developed through a new stakeholder body with representation from trade unions and employers; that the framework should be based on the what works principles, with clear responsibilities for unions, employers, employees and workers; and that it should seek to provide support for diversity in the workplace, with particular regard to women and young people. We must also think about removing barriers for other members of the community—whether they are from the black and ethnic minority community or are workers with a disability—to getting into work and making progress in work.

This Government also wishes to influence improvements in the national minimum wage. Earlier this week, the Deputy First Minister highlighted that a number of major charities, such as Engender, the Poverty Alliance, Children 1st and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, support our proposals for the Scottish Parliament to have control over that important policy area. The STUC is another important advocate for the devolution of workplace regulation. I am confident that the Smith commission will carefully consider the evidence presented by all those bodies.

Drawing on all those influences, the fair work convention should support diversity, equality and increased and sustainable economic growth by providing independent advice to the Scottish Government on matters relating to industrial relations, fair work, the national minimum wage and the living wage.

In discussions, I will seek views on the draft remit, which is:

“to develop, promote and sustain a fair employment framework for Scotland, including specifically:

  • finding and broadcasting evidence of effective industrial relations practice;

  • helping to improve dialogue between unions, employers, public bodies and Government; and

  • providing evidence-based recommendations on minimum wage rates and policies that help as many low-paid workers as possible and contribute to increased sustainable economic growth.”

I would very much welcome members’ views on that outline of a draft fair employment framework, whether during the debate or subsequently.

I would also welcome views on the STUC view that the remit should be explicit about the fair work convention’s role in, for example, exploring the potential to extend collective bargaining; promoting equality and environmental reps in Scotland’s workplaces; and developing a joint training programme for unions and management.

Those specific proposals featured in the working together report and could contribute substantively to the four strategic themes. As members will recall, the first theme is building industrial relations capacity and capability to boost productivity and grow jobs; the second is supporting fair work; the third is helping unions, employees and employers to work together in workplaces across Scotland; and the fourth is taking an evidence-based approach, learning from what works in Scottish workplaces and from best practice internationally.

I endorse workplace training and development, and employers and employees having a shared commitment to the growth of their organisations and communities.

I stress that I will listen closely to the views that emerge from the debate. I also make it clear that I will not compromise on the outcomes that we seek to deliver for the people of Scotland. Fair work helps individuals, families and communities; it helps companies to become more competitive; it boosts productivity; and it creates jobs. Well-rewarded and sustained employment is the best route out of poverty and the best way to tackle inequality.

I end with a quote from Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” that features in the working together review group’s report. It is this:

“No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.”

I move,

That the Parliament welcomes the report of the Working Together Review Group; recognises that well-rewarded and sustained employment, progressive workplace policies and innovation provide the best route out of poverty and the best way to tackle inequality and boost productivity; supports the review group’s prioritisation of capacity building, dialogue, shared commitment and real opportunities for unions, employees and employers to work together, and endorses the decision to establish a fair work convention.

14:59  

Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
Angela Constance

As a point of information, I think that I am on record as saying that I will come back to the Parliament at the beginning of next year with the Government’s final response to this very detailed report.



Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
Angela Constance

Will Mr Brown address the UK Government’s failed Carr report? The Mather commission and the Carr review were established around the same time last year. However, the Carr review made no recommendations because of the pejorative and ideological approach of the UK Government, which wanted to set up a review that was all about kicking trade unions.



Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
Angela Constance

I once again put on record my thanks to Jim Mather and each and every one of the members of the working together review commission. It had 50:50 representation between employers and trade unions, the employers on it were evenly split between the public and private sector and it even had 50:50 representation between men and women. That is certainly a marker for the way to go in the future.

Like Liam McArthur, I am always very impressed by Mr Mather’s reading list, although he will appreciate that, as a busy working mother, I enjoy listening to Mr Mather but rarely get the opportunity to read the books that he has the time to read.

This debate is an important part of the Scottish Government’s engagement process. It is important that members across the chamber get an opportunity to identify their own options and ideas and are able to shape and influence the Government’s response.

As requested by members, I will speak in a bit more detail about our response. It is important that we work together to build consensus. This afternoon has indeed mostly been constructive and consensual, although I have to say that I was somewhat stunned at the beginning of the debate by some of Mr Buchanan’s comments. I was also somewhat surprised that, at one point during proceedings, he fell asleep. A comment that I was particularly surprised by was that the Scottish Government is “forcing” the advancement of trade unionism. That, to me, sounded like a comment from a different era. I will leave Mr Buchanan with this quotation from Joseph Stiglitz:

“unions … are vilified, and in many states there are explicit attempts to undermine them, but there is no recognition of the important role that they can play in countervailing other special interests and in defending the basic social protections that are necessary if workers are to accept change and to adjust to the changing economic environment.”

The Government, like most MSPs in the chamber, is very much in favour of effective trade unionism and fair employment practice, not just because it is the right thing to do but because it is the smart thing to do for the sake of our economy.

It will not come as any surprise to Mr Buchanan that I will not be supporting the Tory amendment, because it fails to welcome the working together review. Also, crucially, it fails to endorse the establishment of a fair work convention. This Government’s view is that economic competitiveness goes hand in hand with social justice and that there is indeed a direct connection between well-rewarded and sustainable employment, productivity and innovation and economic growth.

It was Grahame Smith who described the working together review as one of the most important pieces of work that he had been involved in, and I concur with that, but it was Bob Doris who got to the heart of the matter—it is about social partnership. It is about the Government, employers and trade unions working together. It is not for the Government to be prescriptive about the model of social partnership at this stage, but it is imperative that we work together—the Government, trade unionists and employers large and small, from all sectors, to devise our own system of social partnership here in Scotland.

Surely there is a compelling case for collectively working together and in common cause to ensure that we get that quality and productive dialogue between the Government, employers and trade unions.

I say to Alex Rowley, Jenny Marra, Malcolm Chisholm and indeed Mr Brown that the Government will give its final response in January and of course we will be mapping out the way forward—they can call it a timetable if they wish.

There is no recommendation in the report that I am averse to and I welcome people’s recognition that we have made quick progress with the announcement that we will establish a fair work convention. We have to recognise that many of the requirements need further discussion with both employers and trade union colleagues. I will give one recommendation that it is not for me to give a view on. Whether there is a single minister in charge of industrial relations is entirely a matter for the new First Minister.

Jenny Marra and other members spoke about the importance of productivity in Scotland, which has increased from 94 per cent of UK levels in 2007 to 101 per cent in 2012. [Interruption.] There is progress—we are moving in the right direction.



Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
Angela Constance

It is important to emphasise that productivity levels in Scotland are moving in the right direction and that we are making progress. Of course there is much more to do, and that is why the working together review and the fair work convention will help to make further improvements.

Rob Gibson and Malcolm Chisholm enlivened the debate with some pragmatic case examples from their constituencies and experiences. Malcolm Chisholm is right to highlight the importance and effectiveness of the NHS governance models, with employee representatives as directors on the board. The Government is certainly looking seriously at that, so that we can see how that good practice could be extended elsewhere.

Jim Eadie spoke about what kind of Scotland we want to be. Many members, Gordon MacDonald in particular, mentioned the Smith commission and the desire to have more powers for the Parliament. Although I will not speculate about the outcomes of the Smith commission—all parties are participating in that process productively and maturely—it is important to highlight the survey that was undertaken by the Poverty Alliance. In particular, 91.5 per cent of respondents felt that Scotland should have the power to set and enforce the national minimum wage.

I call on all parties—as the Deputy First Minister did earlier this week—to commit to supporting the very positive proposals that have come from the major charities and third sector organisations, to get in line with civic Scotland and to recognise the importance of this place having the power to make recommendations regarding the national minimum wage.

Ken Macintosh was right: the cost of living has rocketed, wages have stagnated and in-work poverty is very much the issue of today. It is simply not acceptable for folk to have to work for their poverty.

If I may encapsulate the aims of the fair work convention, they are to exert greater Scottish influence over the minimum wage; to champion good industrial relations, including payment of the living wage as the expectation, not the exception; to be a powerful advocate of the partnership approach that characterises industrial relations in Scotland at their best; and to highlight the fact that business productivity goes hand in hand with proper pay, with decent pay and with fair and equal pay.

My hope for the future is that the fair work convention, and indeed the Parliament, will most certainly not be talking shops but will be organisations with teeth and with the power to implement.

Mark Griffin spoke about how work is part of our identity. It is part of who and what we are. We must ensure that all our people are valued, rewarded and engaged in their work, and we must allow everyone to feel that they have a stake in the success of their workplace, their community and indeed their country. The Scottish Government is working to build that sort of economy and that sort of society.

After the energising process of the referendum, Scotland will never be the same—it will be a better place. We have the power to act, and when we as a Government have the power to act, we certainly do act to make a difference.



Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
Angela Constance

I hope that all members, as they have intimated today, will get behind the fair work convention and will ensure that it will make a difference to the working lives of people the length and breadth of Scotland.



Meeting of the Parliament 05 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 05, 2014
The Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment (Angela Constance)

I was looking forward to a nice consensual debate this afternoon. I was very interested that Mr Kelly wants a living wage strategy and a living wage unit, but of course he and his party have ruled out the devolution of employment powers to this Parliament, which is very interesting indeed.

The Scottish Government welcomes the opportunity to participate in this debate, particularly during living wage week. Indeed, I welcome every opportunity that this Parliament has to make its voice heard on tackling poverty and inequality, and I recognise how crucial that is to achieving our vision of a successful and fair Scotland.

I begin by stating unequivocally here today that in this Government’s view paying the living wage should be the expectation and not the exception. Given that it is living wage week, I note the very clear call from the major third sector organisations for more powers in Scotland to address the issues around pay and conditions, in particular the devolution of the national minimum wage to ensure fairness at work for all.



Meeting of the Parliament 05 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Angela Constance

Not just now, thanks. I will make progress.

I suggest that it is Mr Kelly and his colleagues who are rather timid.

In the Scottish Government’s draft budget, Mr Swinney focused on three key goals: to make Scotland a more prosperous country; to tackle inequalities; and to protect and reform public services He also set out commitments to tackle the poverty and inequality that can cripple our society. Those commitments included increasing spending on welfare reform mitigation; providing additional investment in housing, with a strong focus on affordable and social housing; and, crucially, confirming our commitment to the living wage and the wider social wage.

We recognise the real difference that the living wage makes to people in Scotland. That was reiterated on Monday, when Mr Swinney supported the announcement of the new, increased living wage rate for 2015-16 of £7.85 an hour.



Meeting of the Parliament 05 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Angela Constance

That leads me neatly on to my next point. A plank of this Government’s success is our public sector pay policy, which has at its heart tackling inequality and low pay. Our commitment to implementing the living wage is long-standing. To answer Mr Kelly’s point directly, we are the first and only Government in the United Kingdom to make the living wage an integral part of our public sector pay policy, and we have done so for five successive years.

The guarantee that we will support the living wage in the public sector pay policy for the duration of this session of Parliament provides a decisive, long-term commitment to people on the lowest incomes, and it truly sets us apart, because it goes well beyond any measures that the UK Government has put in place for the lower paid.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
YesCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

S4M-11567.2 Margaret Mitchell: Lowering the Drink Drive Limit—As an amendment to motion S4M-11567 in
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YesCarried

S4M-11507.1 Cameron Buchanan: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—
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NoDefeated

S4M-11507 Angela Constance: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—Th
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YesCarried

S4M-11494.3 Jackie Baillie: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
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NoDefeated

S4M-11494.2 Alex Johnstone: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
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NoDefeated

S4M-11494 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—That the Parliament
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YesCarried

S4M-11484.1 Jackson Carlaw: Human Rights—As an amendment to motion S4M-11484 in the name of Roseanna
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Angela Constance
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Motion S4M-11507: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11398.2: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10829: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 18/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10214: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 03/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09744: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, On Behalf of Parliamentary Bureau, Date Lodged: 16/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09575: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09376: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08462: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/12/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-07939: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 07/10/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-06492: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 07/05/2013 Show Full Motion >>
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Question S3W-37111: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/10/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3O-11446: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 23/09/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-34741: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/06/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-34740: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/06/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-34459: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/06/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-34461: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/06/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-34460: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/06/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3O-10609: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/05/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-32037: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/03/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-32036: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/03/2010 Show Full Question >>

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