- 23 March 2016
I was delighted to sign the STUC pledge to protect workers rights in Scotland. The pledges protect workers human rights as well as fighting against the Tories anti-worker Trade Union Bill. In Scotland we have been engaging with our Trade Union movement to build a modern society that we all want to see, and I want to see this continue.
I have long been supportive of trade union rights. Last year I supported the STUC lobby of parliament and voted to oppose the UK Government’s ‘anti-worker’ Trade Union Bill – and raised questions over Labour’s failure to back the devolution of power over industrial relations to Scotland. The UK Government's Trade Union Bill will place significant restrictions on Trade Unions including restricting the time union representatives can spend on Trade Union activities and imposes a series of ballot thresholds which would require up to an 80% yes vote in order for workers to go on strike.
A motion condemning the Trade Union Bill was passed in the Scottish Parliament with support from Labour MSPs, despite the fact that Labour MPs at Westminster voted against an SNP amendment to the Scotland Bill to devolve responsibility for industrial relations and workers’ rights to Scotland – and chose instead to leave them under the control of the Tory government.
The Scottish Government has already asked the UK Government to exclude Scotland from the Trade Union Bill in its entirety – and that if they are unwilling to do so, the consent of the Scottish Parliament should be sought before the legislation is imposed on Scotland.
I spoke against the bill during the Chamber debate, saying: “The conservatives have declared war on the trade union movement. The Trade Union Bill is designed to provoke our unions and I suspect that the aim is to go even further than the dreadful details that are in the current proposed legislation. It effectively places workers and their union representatives in a straitjacket by denying them the ability to fight back.
“The irony is that Scotland’s trade unions—our workers’ representatives—want to talk. The UK Government has missed the fact that Scotland is engaged in a process of embracing our trade union movement and sees the unions as key partners and stakeholders in the modern society that we all want to build.
“The British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nurses believe it will damage and undermine the NHS and other public services.
“From what I can see, the UK Government is promoting in-work poverty by accelerating tax credit cuts. It is accelerating out-of-work poverty by conditionality and sanctions on benefits, and it is now seeking to deny the basic human right to withdraw one’s labour and do something about it when a right-wing Tory Government is attacking the very basis on which society is founded. That is the right to withdraw one’s labour for the sake of a better life for one’s self, one’s family and one’s community. We have to kill the bill.”