Scotland business

Power firm SSE announces £460m living wage contract

Thanet Offshore Wind Farm Image copyright PA
Image caption The subsea cable will transmit electricity from renewable sources in the north of Scotland

Power firm SSE has awarded what is thought to be Scotland's largest living wage contract.

The £460m contract, awarded by SSE networks business SHE Transmission, will apply to a new subsea electricity link being built by engineers ABB Ltd.

SSE said the contract for part of the Caithness to Moray Transmission Project would support at least 600 jobs.

All staff and contractors will be paid at least the living wage of £7.65 per hour, and £7.85 from April next year.

SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said: "Just over a year ago SSE became the first energy company to be a living wage employer and remains the only energy supplier to do so.

"SSE is proud to play its part when it comes to being a responsible business and one which helps build a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.

"The new Caithness to Moray contract will make sure hundreds of workers on site will get a fair day's pay for a fair day's work and reflects our commitment to being a responsible employer."

What is the living wage?

The living wage is based on the amount an individual needs to earn to cover the basic costs of living.

Because living costs vary in different parts of the country, there is a different rate for London and the rest of the UK.

It is promoted by the Living Wage Foundation.

The living wage is an informal benchmark, not a legally enforceable minimum level of pay, like the national minimum wage.

It is calculated by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, while the London living wage has been calculated by the GLA since 2005.

The living wage is set at £9.15 an hour in London and £7.85 an hour in the rest of the UK.

By comparison, the national minimum wage is significantly lower.

Under SSE's contract, ABB will design, engineer, supply and commission an HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) system between converter stations at Spittal in central Caithness and Blackhillock, near Keith, in Moray.

The new subsea link, which will feature more than 100 miles of underground and subsea cable, is needed to transmit electricity from renewable sources in the north of Scotland.

Construction work is expected to be completed in 2018.

Peter Kelly, director of The Poverty Alliance, said: "We welcome this announcement from SSE which demonstrates that even in large-scale contracts it is possible to pay workers the living wage.

"Scottish businesses can all play their part in building a fairer and more prosperous society and paying the Living Wage is one way to do that.

"The living wage in Scotland is now gaining genuine momentum with employers - the number of employers paying it here has tripled from 20 to 70 since April.

"We recognise the support for the campaign from accredited employers like SSE and the Scottish government."

SSE was accredited as a living wage employer in 2013.

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