Nicola Sturgeon challenged over ‘wretched’ trade union law

Len McCluskey sought support from the SNP. Picture: PA
Len McCluskey sought support from the SNP. Picture: PA
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Unite union boss Len McCluskey has challenged Nicola Sturgeon to stop “hiding behind procedural niceties” in her opposition to controversial trade union law changes.

Mr McCluskey, in his speech to Unite’s inaugural Scottish policy conference in Clydebank, called on the First Minister to block the UK government’s Trade Union Bill, which will restrict industrial action.

Holyrood Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick has said Holyrood does not have the power to veto the Trade Union Bill in Scotland, but Labour insists a legally binding veto can be found which does not breach the terms of the Scotland Act.

Mr McCluskey called on Ms Sturgeon to attempt to block the UK government Bill, which includes a requirement for a 40 per cent turnout threshold for strike ballots in “important public services”. It would also end the “check off” system, whereby union subscriptions are taken directly from the pay of workers.

The leader of the Labour-supporting union also called on Ms Sturgeon to allow councils to raise tax to “lift the cloud of austerity” from Scotland.

He said: “For Unite, we are happy to work with an SNP government that appears to value trade unions, to pay more than lip service to social justice and community cohesion, and to share many of our values on other issues as well. Nicola Sturgeon and her team have reached out to trade unions – including on vital issues like blacklisting – and we would be letting our members down if we responded anything other than enthusiastically.”

But he said the union “can and should demand more from the SNP”.

He added: “Nicola’s government should not be hiding behind procedural niceties in relation to the Trade Union Bill.

“I’ll be saying to Nicola: ‘Don’t just oppose this wretched bill, but block it in Scotland. And while you’re at it, end the council tax freeze and really go the extra mile to lift the cloud of austerity from the lives of the people of Scotland’.”

However, Ms Sturgeon said Labour and the SNP should not be attacking each other over the bill, which she said “will be opposed at every single turn” by the SNP.

She added: “Let me be clear about this: if this bill becomes law we will not willingly or voluntarily co-operate with it or implement it.

“The bill represents a view of the world that sees trade unions as enemies.”