Thursday, 17 September 2015


Fury at the implications of the Tory Trade Union Bill is already erupting, and pushing politicians in Scotland into very welcome promises not to comply with some of the measures it contains.

Three of the numerous assaults on workers' civil and trade union rights are: removal of the 42-year-old ban on using agency staff to replace strikers; and dictatorial powers for Westminster to over-rule agreements between recognized unions and Scottish public authorities - the Scottish government, councils, NHS Boards, etc - to deduct union fees at source (the 'check off' system), and grant facility time for workplace union reps to deal with members' issues. 

The tide of opposition to this - in part expressed through Jeremy Corbyn's astonishing election - plus the organised efforts of trade unionists through the STUC, has led to several councils declaring their opposition to these measures, some pledging not to enact them. 
The new Labour leader of Glasgow City Council, Frank McAveetey, has promised not to implement the attacks on check-off and union facility time, as have Falkirk council, and now the Labour-SNP coalition running Edinburgh council.
The latter passed a Motion, by 44 votes to 11, that includes the clause "Commits not to use agency staff to break or weaken industrial action", and ends with "Our resolve not to cooperate with any attacks on facility time or check off". 

At an STUC forum for trade unionists on fighting the Bill, in late August, the STUC announced plans to call for defiance of these measures by all public bodies in Scotland, rightly denouncing such a dictatorial interference by Westminster. 
They've since written to councils, NHS Boards and the Scottish government calling for this stance, and spoken at a meeting of all SNP MPs this week. 

The Scottish government has made the very welcome commitment to retain check off and facility time within employment areas they directly control. 
This welcome step needs to be made into a clear, immovable determination to resist and defy any legal challenges from Westminster, which the Bill outrageously empowers them to throw at councils or Holyrood. Firm defiance, not just verbal condemnation, is the order of the day, given the scale of attacks.

To prove that irony isn't dead - and to underline the need for the unions to link the campaign to defend the right to strike with opposition to austerity cuts - just as Edinburgh city council passed their welcome pledge of resistance to the Tory Bill, it was revealed the same council plans to slash 3,000 council jobs over the next four years. One in six of all workers to go - a devastating escalation of the announcement of 1,200 job losses the council made in January. 

By way of a reminder that whilst unions must demand defiance of attacks on union rights by all councils and the Scottish government, we also need to take action to force them to defy Tory budget cuts, Edinburgh council's SNP finance convener Alasdair Rankin had this to say: 
"The council has been very clear about the scale of the financial challenge facing us for years. The city's population is growing and demand for council services is higher than ever."

Excuse me, but a rising population and increased demand for services surely argues for MORE services, not fewer? And in the real world, surely every job lost is a service cut?

The SNP councillor then added:
"We need to make very substantial savings... No-one ever said this was going to be easy... Realistically, to make the necessary savings, we have little option but to reduce the number of people who work for the council."

Who says the 'savings' - savage cuts! - are necessary? The Tories. But surely SNP (and Labour) councillors were elected on an anti-Tory ticket? What about the 'option' of doing what the SNP hammered on about during several recent elections, by 'Standing up for Scotland'?

The power of the unions needs to lead massive protests to pound and embolden the same politicians who've begun to pledge opposition to Tory anti-union measures into also standing up to Tory cuts, by refusing to pass them on, setting No Cuts Defiance Budgets at both Scottish government and local council levels. 
They'd win enormous popular support for such a courageous stand against a Tory dictatorship hellbent on wiping out workers' rights so as to obliterate jobs and services.

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