Nicola Sturgeon blasts Tory Trade Union Bill as “attack on fundamental freedoms” of trade unionists


Sturgeon speech follows Jeremy Corbyn plea for Labour and SNP to work together to derail the Bill

SCOTLAND’S first minister attacked the UK Government’s Trade Union Bill as “an attack on the fundamental freedoms of trade unionists” in a speech to the Unite Scotland conference on Sunday.

Ahead of the publication of the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee’s report on the Bill, Nicola Sturgeon affirmed the Scottish Government opposition to the provision of the Bill.

Sturgeon told delegates: “The Trade Union Bill sees unions as obstacles to economic growth rather than as partners in progress. As a result, the Bill’s provisions – on curbing facility time and the abolition of check-off – are draconian and deeply damaging to good workplace relations.

“The Scottish Government will oppose the Trade Union bill vigorously and vehemently. We will continue to argue against it at every opportunity in Westminster.” Nicola Sturgeon

“They are also completely unnecessary – in Scotland, days lost due to strike action have declined by 84 per cent since 2007.

“The Scottish Government will oppose the Trade Union bill vigorously and vehemently. We will continue to argue against it at every opportunity in Westminster.”

The Scottish Parliament will debate the Bill next week on the same day as a debate will be happening in the Welsh Assembly. Sturgeon said that it “gives us a further chance to express Parliament’s overwhelming opposition to the Bill’s provision”.

The Bill is currently going through the House of Lords. The UK Government wants to impose a minimum 50 per cent turnout in votes for all strike action and a minimum of 40 per cent turnout for strike action in public sector jobs such as health and education.

Other provisions of the Bill include doubling the notice period that unions can give to go out on strike from seven days to 14 days and allowing agency staff to replace members who are on strike.

Sturgeon said: “We will continue to press for Scotland to be exempt from its provisions. Moreover, we will never willingly cooperate with its implementation.

The Trade Union Bill: What it is and why you should care about it.

“For example, we will not employ agency workers in the event of a strike. We will do everything we possibly can to defeat and frustrate the Bill.”

Sturgeon’s remarks followed on from UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to conference, where he urged the SNP to “work with us to derail this Trade Union Bill”.

Corbyn described the Bill as an “attack on democracy”, and he went on to say that there should be “a new employment charter for employee rights that will end in-work poverty”.

A commission for workers rights has been undertaken by the shadow minister for trade unions, Ian Lavery, which will report in time for the 2020 UK General Election.

Sturgeon has written to the UK Prime Minster, David Cameron, calling for her Government to be “excluded from the extent of this Bill” with “all powers in relating to industrial relations to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament”.

In her letter, Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Government is committed to a collaborative approach to industrial relations that we believe delivers a fairer, more successful society.

“This is reflected in the fact that the levels of industrial dispute in Scotland have significantly decreased over the last seven years of our administration and the days lost to industrial action remain some of the lowest in the UK.

“Furthermore, I believe that all powers relating to industrial relations should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, a position supported by the Scottish Trade Union Congress.

“I know it is your intention to press ahead with the Bill as drafted, but I welcome your commitment to further discussion on the implications for Scotland and our devolved responsibilities. My specific concerns in this regard relate to those provisions that will have a significant impact on the operations of the Scottish Government’s ability to exercise its devolved powers.

“We will do everything we possibly can to defeat and frustrate the Bill.” Nicola Sturgeon

“Therefore, I believe that these responsibilities should rightly sit with Scottish Ministers about our devolved functions.”

Labour’s Neil Findlay said: “These are just empty words from Nicola Sturgeon. Scottish Labour wanted to challenge the competence of this Bill through a legislative consent motion but the presiding officer blocked that move on legal advice from her officials.

“We now want the parliament to change the standing orders and my colleague Mary Fee has written to the convener of the Standards and Procedures Committee asking for a vote on this issue.

“My challenge to Nicola Sturgeon is for her and her party to back our call. If she does not, then her speech to Unite members will have been a completely cynical political ploy to try and curry favour with Britain’s biggest union.

“It is also worth noting that not one SNP MSP has yet signed my parliamentary motion calling on the procedures to be changed to allow a legislative consent motion to be debated.”

Picture courtesy of First Minister of Scotland