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by Niall Christie
SCOTLAND’S most senior trade unionist has urged parties to prioritise a jobs recovery, tackling inequality and supporting public services ahead of May’s Holyrood election.
STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said that candidates must commit to action on jobs, pay and care before the May 6 Scottish Parliament election, criticising “the suffocating and self-obsessed debate” around a second independence referendum.
Her calls came after recent polling for the CWU union ahead of the Hartlepool by-election, also held on May 6 along with local elections in England, showed voters strongly backing public-sector pay rises and renationalisation.
Ms Foyer, who launches the STUC’s election campaign today, said that the trade-union movement remains committed to self-determination — supporting a second referendum if that is the clear will of the Scottish people — but challenges all parties to address other voter priorities.
The STUC’s campaign calls for the restoration of public-sector pay, a focus on green jobs and an end to low pay in the care sector through the implementation of collective bargaining.
Ms Foyer said: “If we need a super-majority for anything in this next parliament it should be for a radical plan to increase pay, create good jobs and for a Scottish national care service of which we can be proud.
“The STUC will challenge candidates of all parties to commit to a ‘people’s recovery,’ rebuilding a better economy and shifting power in favour of working-class people from day one of the new parliament.
“That challenge will be carried directly to candidates by raising the voices of workers who have become all too used to being dictated to, rather than listened to, by the politicians.
She said that while many companies have suffered during the pandemic, others have profited greatly. “Workers have borne the brunt of the suffering and very few of the profits,” she said. “We need urgent action to address this.”
In response, the SNP said that it “supports the STUC’s calls for fair pay, more jobs and a national care service — this is one of the first things we will do if re-elected.”
Spokeswoman FIona Hyslop, the SNP’s Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work & Culture, said that over £33 billion would be invested as part of a national infrastructure project over the next five years supporting an estimated 45,000 jobs and delivering another 100,000 homes in the next decade.
Scottish Labour also promised to “deliver plans for a national recovery.”
Deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “The STUC is exactly right: this election must be about solutions for a stronger Scotland, not returning to the status quo of division and inequality.
“This means investing to prevent a jobs crisis while embedding ‘good work’ principles, funding our NHS to restore services, delivering an immediate pay rise for carers to £12 per hour and creating a national care service, and standing up for young people with an education comeback plan.”
The Scottish Greens agreed that the election “is about far more than the constitution,” reiterating its plans for £7.5bn of investment in public transport, warm homes and renewable energy, creating over 100,000 new jobs.
Co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “We need a jobs-led recovery that urgently tackles the climate crisis, which is why the Scottish Greens will invest in the just transition now.”
He pointed out that the party has committed to opposing anti-union laws.
The CWU said that its Hartlepool poll likewise made a case for parties south of the border to back progressive policies.
“During the pandemic, working-class people across Britain have stepped up to face unprecedented challenges,” a spokesman said.
“They’ve demonstrated that it is workers — people who are often paid poorly or labelled ‘unskilled’ — that keep society going.
“They are the truly valuable people in our country, and politicians of every stripe must place their needs and concerns at the front and centre of any post-pandemic recovery plan.”
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