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Prickly Thistle grapples with thorny wages issue to show employees they are valued; Artisan tartan designer puts money where it's mouth is in backing real living wage campaign

By Philip Murray

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Clare Campbell, the founder of Prickly Thistle.
Clare Campbell, the founder of Prickly Thistle.

PAYING the real living wage is working wonders for staff morale at a visionary Ross-shire fashion company.

Prickly Thistle's decision to pay the higher Real Living Wage – instead of the national minimum wage of £8.91 per hour – has won it praise from poverty campaigners.

The artisan tartan design and textile brand, which runs a pop-up mill in Evanton and has plans to open a permanent mill on the Black Isle, applied for real Living Wage accreditation last August.

And the company, which has grown to 12 employees over the past few years, says it has resonated with staff and customers alike.

Founder and co-owner Clare Campbell said: "We are really proud to be making what we make, but also fundamental to everything is the inspiration and messaging around our values and we are very proud to be a real Living Wage employer. It’s been a journey, but it’s all about staying relatable, relevant and real.”

And it has also helped the team to feel truly valued, according to sewing machine operator, Fiona Stephenson. She said: “It’s good for the employees to feel they are being valued as individuals. Everyone here has a chance to talk about their needs. It is not just from the financial point of view, it is being appreciated for the person you are.”

The living wage, which is based on the true cost of living rather than the standard minimum wage, is paid voluntarily by more than 1900 Scottish employers – over 300 of which have signed up since the first lockdown in March last year.

Research by the Living Wage Foundation found that a full-time worker on minimum wage has lost out on the equivalent of £8400 in the five years since the National Living Wage was introduced.

Lynn Anderson, Living Wage Scotland Manager concluded: “We hope more employers follow the lead of companies like Prickly Thistle, who are going beyond their legal requirements on pay, and choosing to pay at least the real Living Wage to their staff”.

"Our growing network of over 1900 Living Wage employers in Scotland includes employers from all sectors and industries. We are incredibly proud of the commitment and resilience that Living Wage employers have demonstrated this past year, and we are further encouraged that more employers continue to seek out Living Wage accreditation as a symbol of their commitment to ensuring staff earn a decent wage."

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance added: “Even the highest statutory wage rate – the national living wage of £8.91 will not protect workers from in-work poverty. Decent pay and conditions for workers must be at the heart of our recovery, as we rebuild our economy.

"More employers across Scotland are recognising the benefits of paying at least the real Living Wage, resulting in a healthier, more motivated and resilient workforce."

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