STUC 2023 – Defending our freedoms

The first debate of this year’s Congress has seen the Tory government’s attacks on workers’ rights and freedoms slammed by delegates – who backed a range of measures to defend against these attacks.

The General Council will press the Scottish Government find ways to oppose the anti-trade unions legislation currently going through Westminster and to retain and extend collective bargaining and the Fair Work Agenda. It will campaign with affiliates across the UK for the repeal of anti-union laws and for a Bill of Rights to include strong rights to collective bargaining and strike action.

Moving the composite on behalf of the General Council, UNISON Scottish Secretary, Tracey Dalling praised the trade union movement for its “massive and magnificent fight back.”

“We should acknowledge and congratulate our members for all they achieved as one last year. It was a hard shift but we are stronger together.”

She condemned attempts by “the Tory government and their tax dodging press baron pals” to try and demonise trade unionists as agitators and militants who don’t have our members interests at heart.

Tracey said: “All unions have really done is responded to the need our members. To try and keep the lights on and put food on the table.

“It’s our members anger about working harder than ever but seeing their living standards go down and down and down. That’s what put folk on picket lines.

“Because they know it’s the only way that they are going to get pay settlements that will let them put the heating on.”

She called on the Scottish Government to do more, pointing out that while they have talked about fair work, between 2007and 2020 the percentage of workers covered by a collective agreement actually went down by 6%.

She demanded a restoration of the rights and freedoms to organise that unions used to have when the UK was a more equal country than it is now, and have those freedoms enshrined in a Bill of Rights.

Supporting, UNISON’s Zia Hussain echoed Tracey, telling Congress that our members are taking action “because they can’t cope with double digit inflation after a decade without pay growth; because they can see spiralling profits and monumental greed at the top; and because they can see a government more interested in removing the cap on bankers bonuses than the queues at the food bank.”

He slammed the “Strikes Minimum Service Level Bill”.

“The purpose of this Bill is not to keep the level of anyone’s services up. It is to keep the level of everyone’s wages down.

“Purely and simply it is about creating a situation where when the boss says – “I am going to make you poorer” and no one has the freedom to do anything about it.

“And that’s the message we need to be taking out of this hall and into all of our workplaces.

“This Bill isn’t an attack on our right to strike – It’s an attack on your freedom to withdraw your labour.

“We should never lose sight of the fact that the more organised we are – the more our voices have to be heard.”