Following this morning’s publication of the Trade Union Bill, Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) General Secretary Grahame Smith said:-
“This Bill is vindictive, unfair and unnecessary. It is an attack on the fundamental human right of workers to withdraw their labour, a right enshrined in international Conventions to which the UK is a signatory and which it will now contravene. It is a Bill that tramples over our civil liberties and should be of concern not just to workers but to everyone who values the right to peaceful protest.
“This Bill starts from the false premise that unions are bad and their activities need to be curtailed. This is contrary to the approach we are taking in Scotland where unions, employers and government are working together through the Fair Work Convention, to promote the very positive role unions play at the workplace, and across the economy and society in tackling low pay, job insecurity, inequality, underemployment and skills shortages to improve productivity and economic success and to reduce poverty. The call for the devolution to Scotland of employment law and trade union regulation will only grow as a consequence of the current attack.
“The Bill also starts from the false premise that we have a strike problem. We do not. Last year there were only 151 strikes. Less than 2% of workers participated in a strike. The days lost due to strikes were less than 3% of the 28.2 million days lost due to work related accidents and ill-health. If the Tories really cared about dealing with workplace issues they wouldn’t be diluting health and safety laws as they are and attacking the role of workplace union reps who play a vital role in ensuring that workers are not killed or injured at work.
“Unions are the only organisations having ballot thresholds imposed on them. If political parties had to secure a majority of those voting to win an election we would never elect a Government. The current government was elected on less than 24% of those eligible to vote and less than 10% of those eligible to vote in Scotland. When the last government looked at the rules for shareholder voting on the pay of top bosses it left the decision to be taken by a simple majority of those voting – no thresholds on turnout, no thresholds on the proportion of eligible voters.
“The UK already has some of the most restrictive strike laws in the industrialised world covering how ballots must be conducted, what must be included on the ballot paper and that the method of voting must be by post. Postal voting is notorious for achieving a small turnout. If the Tories were serious about increasing participation in ballots, which I am all in favour of, they would allow unions to use secure online balloting or secret workplace ballots.
“We know this Bill has nothing to do with democracy or participation. It is about shifting the balance in industrial relations even more in favour of employers and will result in more insecurity at work, higher levels of inequality, and more workplace deaths and injuries. It will not be good for workers and it will not be good for employers or the economy.
“It is inevitable that this Bill will bring unions into conflict with the law. It will create a toxic industrial relations atmosphere, particularly as employers are now to be given the green light to employ strike-breakers, creating unnecessary conflict.
“We will campaign vigorously against this vindictive Bill. We will mobilise our members and our political and civic society allies to defend the legitimate human right of workers to withdraw their labour in protest against the unreasonable actions of their employers and to protect our civil liberties and the right to peaceful protest.”
For further information contact Dave Moxham 0141 337 8100