Holyrood 2016: Sturgeon pledges SNP backing for trade unions

The SNP will take 'every possible step to support trade unions' if it is re-elected to power at Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon is set to pledge.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged the SNP's support for trade unions if the party is re-elected in the May election. Picture: John Devlin

The First Minister will promise if her party wins May’s Scottish Parliament elections it will meet with the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) to discuss how best the government can protect trade union activity.

This could include setting up a special fund to support trade union modernisation and to retain the role unions play in public life, according to the SNP leader, who is due to address the STUC annual congress in Dundee.

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Ms Sturgeon will also use the speech to restate her opposition to controversial trade union reforms put forward by the Conservative government at Westminster.

The Trade Union Bill will curtail the amount of time members can spend on union duties at work, known as facility time, and end the practice known as “check off”, where union subscriptions are taken off workers’ wages at the point of pay roll.

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Employers will also be able to bring in agency workers to cover for strikers as part of the legislation.

Ms Sturgeon will vow: “If the SNP is returned as the government next month, we will take every possible step to support trade unions.

“We will discuss options with the STUC, including a fund to support trade union modernisation and to retain the role of unions in our public life.”

The SNP leader will say that she “cannot pledge to undo all of the damage that the Tories are doing”.

She will add: “I can promise that the SNP government stands four-square with you in your opposition to this bill - and will do absolutely everything we can to stand up for workers’ rights.”

The First Minister will say there is “perhaps no starker reminder of the contempt with which the Tory government holds the trade union movement” than the Bill.

“The SNP will always value a strong, vibrant trade union movement which stands up for its workers,” she will add.

“So, we will continue to work with unions - to disrupt this bill, to do everything in our power to block it or to see the clauses rethought.

“While we could simply argue for Scotland to be removed, we will continue to argue against the bill across the whole of the UK.”