Scottish Trade Union Notes

STUC Congress 17 November

The Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) meets online on Tuesday 17 November and details can be found here: http://www.stuc.org.uk/stuc-congress-2020

As well as being addressed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Labour Leader Richard Leonard, the Congress will discuss and agree a draft General Council statement that includes a call for a second Independence Referendum (Indyref2) if a majority of the Scottish Parliament are elected on that basis (see page 12).  If approved this would be in line with the new policy of Unison Scotland, one of the largest unions in Scotland, but is completely against the public line of Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard and the equivocal position of the new UK Labour leadership of Keir Starmer.  Whether that will cause major tensions between the STUC and its traditional alignment with Labour remains to be seen.

EIS threatens action over Level 4 lockdown

The main teachers’ union in Scotland, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), has threatened industrial action in schools if the Scottish government imposes Level 4 restrictions on any local authority area but keeps schools fully open – Level 4 in Scotland is the equivalent of the sort of so-called  ‘full lockdown’ that is currently underway in England and the six counties of the North of Ireland, and from which Wales has just emerged.  Several local authority areas in the west of Scotland, including potentially the city of Glasgow and other parts of Lanarkshire and the Clyde area, are foreshadowed by the Scottish Government at the weekend as being very close to having Level 4 introduced.  The EIS argue that schools are a hotbed of Covid transmission with many pupils missing school anyway due to self-isolation – up to 4,000 in Lanarkshire alone.  All schools have contingency plans for switching to online and blended learning models and the EIS argue they should be automatically activated at Level 4.  They are supported by the STUC.  The EIS are consulting members on action – press release and other info from EIS website here,

College industrial action

EIS members at Forth Valley College are also involved in industrial action.  The EIS has held a number of highly successful industrial action campaigns in colleges and schools in recent years.  Details of Forth Valley action here.

UCU strike threat wins victory at Heriot-Watt

A successful and legally valid ballot in support of industrial action by the University and College Union (UCU) against compulsory redundancies at Heriot-Watt University near Edinburgh has resulted in a complete victory and management climbdown.  Negotiations concluded last week with the withdrawal of the threat of compulsory redundancies, and the UCU held an online celebration for the success of its branch – dubbed ‘Votey McVoteface’ for having won four successful ballots for industrial action in recent times, an amazing achievement for branch organisation given the Tory’s current legal shackles on unions and strikes.  Many other universities are facing falling incomes and threatening cuts and redundancies. UCU press release and link to the branch here and here.

UCU and the National Union of Students Scotland have also criticised the detail of both UK and Scottish government plans for the Xmas movement of students and called for a complete switch to online learning being the default for all university teaching. 

RMT action on Rail

RMT Scotrail guards at Scotland’s busiest station, Glasgow Central, are to strike over abuse of disciplinary procedures.  Following a legal ballot, strikes will be called every Sunday from 29 November until January 2021 and members instructed not to work rest days or overtime.  Details here.

RMT members working on the Serco Caledonian Sleeper overnight service between Scotland and London undertook two strikes in October and have now launched a petition to Transport Scotland to take action over staff fatigue and safety on the service.  Serco is of course notorious for its incompetent running of the so-called “NHS Test and Trace” system currently and is part of the ‘Crony-virus’ cabal of Tory-supporting companies and individuals awarded contracts by the UK government without proper scrutiny of competence.  Details of RMT call here and petition here.

Reinstate Richie Venton Campaign fights on

The campaign to reinstate Richie Venton continues.  The well known trade union activist and USDAW national executive member was sacked by IKEA in August for defending workers safety during the pandemic and raising with members IKEA management plans to refuse to pay workers isolating from coronavirus.  A recent well attended public online meeting of Clydebank Trades Council heard calls from union activists from across the British Isles for solidarity with Richie.  An appeal for fundraising for the Scottish Workers Solidarity Fund to support workers in struggle has blown past its initial £2,000 target but more donations are sought. 51 MPs in the Westminster parliament from six parties have signed the Early Day Motion in support of Richie.  Further protests at IKEA are planned, though stores are currently affected by lockdowns in England and may be affected in Scotland.  Sign the petition in support of Richie Venton, donate to the Scottish Workers Solidarity Fund here and follow the campaign here and here.

Scottish Socialist Voice Forum on industrial and environmental fightback on Monday November 30 7pm

The Scottish Socialist Party is planning one of its Scottish Socialist Voice forums online on Monday 30 November 7pm with key speakers from trade unions and industries affecting Scotland and globally.  Full details have yet to be announced but among the speakers are Sarah Woolley, general secretary of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, and Sean Sweeney, New York-based coordinator of Trade Unions for Environmental Democracy (which has major unions affiliated in 17 countries).  Further details to follow.

Mike Picken, Scotland.  16 November 2020

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