Scotland: defend our unions against Tories and SNP!

November 6, 2015 at 5:54 pm (Cross-post, labour party, posted by JD, protest, scotland, SNP, solidarity, unions, workers)

By Ann Field (also published at the Workers Liberty website)

STUC Parliament Lobby poster

Unsurprisingly the recent Scottish Labour Party conference voted unanimously to oppose the Tories’ Trade Union Bill. But the motion, from Unison and three Glasgow Constituency Labour Parties, had its weaknesses, saying, for instance that trade unions are “good for business”. But if unions are good for business, why do so many employers derecognise them?

The motion called for ongoing campaigning against the Bill, including organising rallies and further weeks of action. Unfortunately more specific proposals for campaigning disappeared in the course of compositing. Even so, the motion provides a basis for trade union and Labour Party activists in Scotland to ramp up campaigning against the Tories’ plans to shackle the unions. We need to make sure that the campaigning actually take place and feeds into the national campaign against the Bill. One immediate focus is the lobby of the Scottish Parliament called by the Scottish TUC for 10 November, when Holyrood will be discussing the Bill. It is on a weekday at short notice. Rank-and-file activists can make a crucial contribution to the turnout on the day. They also need to make sure that the role of the lobby is not one of simply being “claqueurs” for the SNP’s anti-Tory verbiage. Campaigning against the Tories’ attacks on the unions’ right to engage in political campaigning needs to go hand-in-hand with campaigning against the SNP’s decision to attack the unions-Labour link.

According to reports in the Scottish Sunday press, the SNP will be asking Scottish union leaders to switch their unions’ funding from Scottish Labour to the SNP. This is based on the lawyer’s argument that because the Scottish Labour is now “autonomous”, those unions affiliated to the Labour Party are not thereby affiliated to Scottish Labour. Instead, with the SNP having won 56 of Scotland’s Westminster seats (goes the nationalists’ argument), unions should switch their political funding to the SNP. But this — deliberately — confuses how individual trade unionists vote in a particular election with how trade unions, as collective organisations, decide to pursue their political strategy. It also ignores the organisational ties between affiliated unions and the Labour Party. And with Corbyn’s election as Labour Party leader, the answer to the question of whether trade unions should stick with — or re-affiliate to — the political party which they created, or whether they should switch to the SNP, is straightforward.

Labour Party shadow chancellor John McDonnell turns up on picket lines to support them. SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney crosses them. The SNP is not interested in a united trade union fightback against the Bill. Its parliamentary amendments to the Bill are that it should not apply to Scotland. English workers can look after themselves. And in Scotland itself it now targets the unions-Labour link. Nothing could better illustrate the poisonous divisiveness of the SNP. With the union-Labour link under full-scale assault from the Tories, the SNP is launching its own attack on the link!


  1. dagmar (who hasn''t gone all social partnership actually) said,

    It’s not a narrative I’d want to contribute to, because I’m not interested in what is “good for business”; but in general, trade unions are good for companies, even if many bosses in the UK (for example) are too ideological and short-sighted (and short-termist) to realise this.

    People who are work in well-unionised workplaces tend to have better pay and conditions, which do cost bosses more on one hand, but on the other, these workers tend to stay longer in the same job, are better qualified, are happier, healthier, more motivated , more experienced, with better skills, etc. In that sense, unions are often “good for business”. But that requires businesses and their owners/bosses/and managers that realise that having long-term staff, who, yes, are willing to stand up and open their mouths when dissatisfied (as opposed to carrying out low-level sabotage or just being demoralised and hoping to find another, equally crap and probably short-term job elsewhere) and see their workplace as *their* workplace is actually good for bosses, and, indeed, their profits, in the long term.

    Such bosses are few and far between, they seem to prefer a culture of fear and demoralisation, with members of the industrial reserve army being constantly in the wings, waiting to jump on board, for however short a period.

    • februarycallendar said,

      I think the less short-term nature of German capitalism has been a major factor in German bosses better understanding the benefit unions can bring about, just as it is in its being the least worst form of capitalism (in a country of that status) generally.

      But that can only work in a state which is not semi-feudal and has unequivocal, absolute causes for deep shame in its past. (I put more value on the idea of social consensus than you and most people posting in a place like this would do; I think that should be obvious, but hope that I can be debated with all the same.)

      • dagmar said,

        Indeed. But the German model reached its end a long time ago and for the last 25 years has only worked to the detriment of the workers and for the benefit of the capitalists. The German “success story” since reunification was based on two things: initially, unification caused a boom for west German companies and their products as east German’s very siginificant savings books were emptied to consume western German goods, while the same companies closed down eastern German industry and services. This period lasted until ca. 1996 when “Ostalgie” set in, when eastern Germans started buying “local” products (with the cash generally going to the same western German companies, but that’s beside the point).

        The second, and more significant reason is the wages policies of the unions. The cost of living has gone up a great deal in the past 20 years in Germany, but wages have stayed roughly the same, and have gone down significantly in real terms, as have welfare benefits.

        There has been a massive redistribution of wealth from the working class to the capitalist class, done thanks to the trade unions.

        What did they get in return? Not much. Less members, less influence – and the rejection of the “German model” of social partnership by the bosses. The unions plead with the bosses for sociali partnership, but its purpose has long gone. With few members and little strength at the workplace, why bother? The bosses don’t need the unions any more to help keep wages down and put profits up.

        However: the then existence of social partnership means the nearest thing Germany has had to Thatcherism only occured in the late 1990s – under social democrat “moderniser” Schröder.

  2. Glasgow Working Class said,

    You cannot expect Nat sis to defend the unions. They have no historical connection with the struggle against poverty and the fight for working conditions. Nationalism is narrow minded elitist and plays the blame game card. In the case of Scottish Nat sis the English will always be the bogey man.

  3. Political Tourist said,

    Glasgow City Council anyone.
    Bashing the unions and playing footsie with the Orange Order.

    • Jim Denham said,

      The SNP’s fake-“left” pretentions pretty decisively demolished:

      • Political Tourist said,

        Makes you wonder why all those Labour MPs where hunted out of Scotland by working class voters in the poorest areas.
        Maybe AWL could explain it.

      • Jim Denham said,

        The (pre-Corbyn) article I link to (above), whilst demolishing the SNP’s “left” posturing, also notes that:

        “The (Labour) party might do better if it showed more self-awareness by acknowledging that there are valid reasons for people in Scotland to feel angry with it.”

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      Considering the OO have no clout or political power in Scotland indicates you are a bigot. GCC have had a good relationship with the unions for decades but the cuts by the Nat si Tartan Tories are not helping.

      • Political Tourist said,

        Eh, Glasgow City Council, Labour run for decades and trade unions, sorry forgot somebody that doesn’t know Glesga other than their visits to see Rangers.
        Ibrox, the Ludge and the Labour Party…….

  4. Steven Johnston said,

    Idiot! Everyone know the OO runs the EU, along with the masons. Glasgow City Council is small beer.

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