Willie Rennie takes on Sturgeon and Amazon over low wages and poor working conditions

Willie Rennie has gained the backing of the Scottish Trades Union Congress for is stance on low wages and poor working conditions at Amazon’s depot in his Fife constituency. He’s also challenged Nicola Sturgeon over massive grants paid to the giant company when they treat their employees so badly.

From the Sunday Mail:

But Rennie said Amazon shouldn’t receive any more money until they increases employees’ pay to the “living wage” of £8.25 an hour – deemed to be the minimum income necessary for workers to meet their basic needs.

The Scottish Lib Dems leader said: “The slipshod manner in which the Government have handled Amazon is embarrassing.

“The SNP have paid them millions of pounds in grants, even though they have been avoiding tax and paying workers low wages.

There is little point in Roseanna Cunningham visiting Amazon now unless she gets them to pay more tax and pay higher wages.

Dave Moxham, deputy general secretary of the STUC, said: “We support the position that Willie Rennie has adopted. It is not appropriate that the Scottish Government should pay any public money to a company who have so many questions about their pay and employment practices.

When he’s challenged Nicola on this, in a leaders’ debate last week and at First Minister’s Questions, she’s put up a massive straw man, saying that Willie wants the place to close. No, that’s not what he said. He said that he wants people to have decent working conditions and to be paid the living wage if their employers are going to benefit from government subsidies.

Earlier in the week he said:

The First Minister promised yesterday that she and the Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work would be standing up for Amazon staff, many of whom have contacted me to describe the horrific working conditions they have had to endure at the Dunfermline base. She and her government must make sure they don’t keep dishing out hundreds of thousands of pounds to huge corporations that don’t pay their workers the living wage at the very least.

Willie again mentioned the conflict between the SNP’s rhetoric and actions:

This is another example of the SNP Government failing to match rhetoric with action. They have been talking left and walking right.

Willie has always been bold about sticking up for ordinary people and highlighting the SNP’s close relationship with the powerful, like Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump.

If the Scottish Liberal Democrats with their meagre resources can achieve Scottish Living Wage accreditation because it’s the right thing to do, Amazon certainly can. Willie also makes the important point about working conditions as well. I’ve always believed tha happy employees do the best work and I’m glad that he’s highlighting this too.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Amazon declared that in 2012 alone they received £2.5 million in grants from the UK Government – and paid £2.4 million in tax, on sales of £4.2 billion; remind me again who was in charge? Was all that money channeled through the SNP?

  • @ Bolano

    No, of course it’s got nothing to do with the SNP has it Bolano ? Wee Eck would never give any money to Amazon would he, Bolano ?

    Well actually, yes he did. It’s not a new story and the saintly Alex Salmond shrugged it off three years ago (like he’s trying to shrug off Trump now).

    In May 2013 The Fife Courier reported :

    “The Scottish Green party said Amazon should repay £10 million of Scottish Government grants — distributed mainly for its Dunfermline centre — after coming under fire again for its UK tax arrangements. Figures showed the global online retailer raked in more than £4 billion in the last financial year — yet paid only £2.4 million in corporation tax.

    In fact the firm — which in 2011 opened its largest UK fulfilment centre in Fife — was said to have received more in government grants than it actually paid back into the Treasury. Now the Scottish Green party’s MSPs are urging the Scottish Government to recall its grant funding of Amazon UK following news of its miniscule tax rate.

    However, a spokesman for Alex Salmond said there would be no attempt to claim back money given to Amazon in subsidies.”

  • Let me explain further, David Raw. Amazon UK has fulfilment centres, do they not, at Dunfermline and Gourock, which I’m sure the SNP has directed money towards. However they also have fulfilment centres at Doncaster, Rugeley, Swansea, Peterborough, Milton Keynes and Hemel Hempstead, none of which – last time I looked – fell under the aegis of the SNP.

    So, I repeat, rephrased – was all the money in the form of government grants paid to Amazon in the UK exclusively channelled through the SNP? How about the famous Ffordd Amazon – did the SNP pay for that, too? Or, perhaps, did the Coalition contribute, too – remember them? If so, I’d suggest a little more openness on the subject, rather than using it for party political purposes.

  • With the demise of trade unions and a workforce of migrants who will work under any conditions Amazon will continue to prosper. The working class will not. Mass immigration suits big business, driving wages and conditions down. I look back at all those wage rises we won with better conditions and despair at the way it has been lost. I remember the hope we had, we never would have believed that companies such as Amazon would take us so far back. We have a lot further to fall unfortunately.

  • I suppose this raises the question of whether Amazon are in line for more grants from the SG. As far as I know the only grants which can be paid are those which encourage firms to locate in Scotland and I am not aware that Amazon has any more plans to do so at the moment. Perhaps Willie Rennie should say which grants are in the offing if he knows about them? If not this looks like a piece of positioning because as I am sure Willie Rennie knows the Scottish Living Wage is a voluntary scheme for the private sector unless they are working under Government contracts and the UK “Living Wage” is not devolved. Or is he also arguing for the UK “Living Wage” to be devolved since this would enable the SG to tackle the issue directly.

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