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Scottish Gov slammed for millions paid to tax dodging Amazon

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Millions paid to giant online retailer despite its refusal to pay Living Wage

SNP ministers have been slammed for paying millions of pounds to Amazon despite the hugely profitable company refusing to pay the Living Wage.

More than £3.6m in cash has been paid to the online retailing giant via Scottish Enterprise since 2007, Scottish Labour has revealed.

But despite the huge subsidies the retailer refuses to pay the Living Wage - currently £8.45 an hour - to its 4,500 workers in Scotland, most of whom are on the minimum wage and zero hour contracts.

Jackie Baillie, Labour’s economy spokesperson, hit out: “The SNP government should be doing everything it can to ensure more Scots get a pay rise – instead ministers have channelled millions of pounds of taxpayer cash to a company with a horrendous record on workers’ rights.

“The SNP government must now review the support it is giving Amazon.

“Securing good quality, well paid jobs should be the best use of enterprise grants, not boosting the profit margins of global companies.

“Labour’s plan for a fairer, stronger economy would mean extending the Living Wage to more jobs – and never supporting companies which won’t pay a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.”

Economic development agency Scottish Enterprise said it was a taxpayer-funded grant which attracted Amazon to Fife, a jobless black spot in 2005.

Most of the cash was channelled via the quango to the company as start up and development grants over many years.

The Scottish Living Wage Campaign told TFN that companies in receipt of public funding should be paying the Living Wage.

Peter Kelly, chair of the group, said: “Amazon is a global company that had more than £6.3billion in sales in the UK in 2015. This fact alone should mean that there is no doubt that Amazon is capable of paying the real Living Wage.

“A public petition in 2014 calling on Amazon to pay the Living Wage gained almost 200,000 signatures. Campaigners have been demanding that Amazon to pay the Living Wage for many years, but they have been steadfastly avoiding all of these demands.”

He added: “Given the Scottish Government’s welcome endorsement of the real Living Wage, it is important that they use whatever means at their disposal to encourage employers to adopt the policy.

Amazon has been steadfastly avoiding all of these demands to pay the Living Wage - Peter Kelly

“The Scottish Government should consider how it can use the direct financial support it gives to global companies to ensure that companies pay at least the Living Wage as well as meeting other commitments in relation to decent employment practices.”

Amazon has repeatedly come under fire for its treatment of workers. Staff claimed to have been fined for returning one minute late after a lunch break and made to work four days in a row without sleep.

The company, which was founded by entrepreneur Jeff Bezos in 1994 and now has a global value of £290 billion, has also been accused of dodging tax after paying just £9.8 million in tax on profits in the UK despite raking in £6.3 billion from UK sales.

A Scottish Government spokesperson accused Baillie of “jaw-dropping hypocrisy”.

“She fails to mention the millions of pounds of public cash which Labour paid to Amazon when they were in office in Scotland, and the money that Labour in Wales have also provided to the company there,” said the spokesperson.

“Amazon are not in receipt of any Scottish Government grants at present, but we will always support jobs and investment in Scotland, which is more vital than ever given Brexit. We are also committed to fair pay and conditions and, as a result, Scotland has the highest proportion of employees – around 80% – paid the Living Wage of all the four countries of the UK. We will also continue to work alongside the UK government on these issues, as employment law is currently reserved.”

A spokesman said: “Amazon is proud to be a significant contributor to the economy in Scotland, including investing hundreds of millions of pounds in our Scottish operations over the past five years."

 

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