Devolve workers' law in Scotland

Unite joins in repeal of anti-trade union laws

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On Tuesday September 11, Unite’s Irene Trench took part in an important composite on the future of trade union and employment rights.

She said, “Congress, we are living in what we hope will be the last years, or perhaps mere months, of Tory misrule.

“And how typical it is then that they are choosing to use the last of their allotted time to attack workers and their trade unions in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.

“The Minimum Services Levels Bill is a Tory attack on the ability to strike of critical workers in industries from transport to nuclear energy. To paraphrase the Scottish play, “nothing in their time in power became them like the leaving of it.”

“The anti-trade union laws must be a clear dividing line for this Congress. And Congress, this is why my union – Unite – is also in full support of Composite One on Minimum Service Levels.

“And Congress, this motion further stirs us to demand of Labour that any incoming government must act to repeal all anti-trade union laws within 12 months of gaining office.

“Their repeal is surely the lowest of the low bars that any Labour Party worthy of the name should be able to gingerly step across. So let us hope that this comes to pass.

“Congress, this motion also proposes the devolution of employment law to Scotland. A position that I am happy the General Council has agreed to support.”

Irene continued, “And for the record, my Union is clear – and our General Secretary was clear in her manifesto – that this is about pace-setting – not undercutting employment laws in other parts of the UK.

“In the words of the Scottish Labour Party this is a call for “devolution of employment rights, with a UK floor to encourage a race to the top on workers’ terms and conditions”. And what trade unionist could object to that?

“Time and again workers in Scotland are subject to anti-union and anti-worker legislation for which the Tories have zero democratic mandate. There is no prospect for anything close to a Tory majority in the Scottish parliament.

“Time and again Scottish trade unions win the support of the Scottish Parliament for improvements – only to be blocked by Westminster.Take just two examples.

“The Scottish Parliament has been moved to support increasing the Minimum Wage and mandating the Scottish Living Wage through all their contracts. But it is being blocked by Tories in Westminster.

“The Scottish Parliament has been moved to support a ban on zero-hour contracts and the introduction of sectoral collective bargaining in key areas of the economy. Again, it is blocked due to reserved powers.

“Labour’s recent row-back on rights for precarious workers is a warning that there is no guarantee that Scotland will be any less restricted by reserved powers after a general election.

“Congress, this is no argument for Scottish exceptionalism. Nor does it detract from our firmly held view – contained in this motion – that all anti-union legislation should be scrapped in every corner of every nation where we have members.

“But congress, there are opportunities in Scotland right now for better laws which are blocked in other parts of the UK. Opportunities that would be a win for us all. Let us not stand in their way,” she urged.

By Amanda Campbell

Pic by Mark Thomas