I was wrong about family firm not paying living wage - Sarwar

Anas Sarwar
Political opponents had accused Anas Sarwar of hypocrisy over Labour's living wage plans [PA Media]

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar says he was wrong when he told the BBC his family's business did not pay its workers the real living wage.

Mr Sarwar - whose party is promising a new deal for workers - was accused of hypocrisy by political opponents after an interview on The Sunday Show.

But a trade union representing staff at United Wholesale confirmed the firm's workers are paid above the real living wage.

Mr Sarwar said: “I gave what I thought to be a correct answer, it has proven not to be the case.”

The Glasgow MSP relinquished shares in United Wholesale, which was originally set up by his father and is run by other family members.

At an election campaign event, he told BBC Scotland News: “I made clear I have no involvement in this business.

"I have no shares in this business and actually the evidence has shown I don’t have the information on this business.”

In a statement on Sunday night, the Usdaw union said recent pay negotiations meant all staff received an income higher than the living wage.

In his BBC interview on Sunday, Mr Sarwar had set out Labour plans for new minimum pay rates linked to the cost of living.

The real living wage hourly rate advocated by the Living Wage Foundation is currently set at £12 across the country and £13.15 in London.

That is 56p more than the current national minimum wage – introduced by Labour as part of their 1997 election manifesto.

When asked if the wholesale business run by members of his family currently paid the real living wage, he replied: “I don’t believe that every single staff member is on the real living wage.

"But I know there have been significant increases in the wage after negotiations with Usdaw, their trade union.

“Every business, including that one, will have to comply with the new deal for working people which will deliver a genuine living wage right across the country.”

Political opponents quickly responded to his comments.

The SNP's Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said it was an "astonishing revelation" and accused him of hypocrisy.

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Craig Hoy said it was "humiliating" for Mr Sarwar, and it left him "open to the charge of hypocrisy".

But late on Sunday evening an Usdaw spokesman issued a clarification, saying: “Usdaw has a trade union recognition agreement with United Wholesale Scotland and we negotiate on pay with the company.

“In our last negotiation we agreed a pay deal that delivered an income higher than the real living wage for all employees.”

The spokesman went on to say: “We would urge political parties to get their own house in order.”

Labour sources said that as negotiations are between Usdaw and United Wholesale, Mr Sarwar had not been aware of the terms of any agreement.