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Scottish TUC Congress ’19 Leonard pledges to create secretary for labour if he becomes Scotland's first minister

RICHARD LEONARD pledged yesterday to create a secretary for labour in the Scottish cabinet if he becomes first minister. 

In his address to the annual congress of the Scottish TUC, the Scottish Labour leader also said he would make paying the real living wage a “compulsory requirement and an inescapable obligation” for companies bidding for public contracts.

Trade union rights and labour standards would also be stipulated as a requirement for winning public-sector work.

Mr Leonard said the likes of construction giants which “deploy tax avoidance and tax evasion measures like those umbrella companies” would be automatically barred from the public procurement bidding process.

As part of his endorsement of a new workplace blueprint from the Institute of Employment Rights, which will be launched at an STUC fringe meeting today, Mr Leonard said he would “appoint a cabinet secretary for labour in a Scottish Labour government” to lead on workers’ rights, wage negotiations and jobs.

Mr Leonard also said that “council tax in its current form has to go,” pointing to a new report from Unison Scotland and the Jimmy Reid Foundation which says that almost half of revenues from council tax finance the interest on borrowing and Private Finance Initiative deals.

The report states that expansion of local public services is possible with a fairer system of property taxes and environmental charges. It makes the case that government has borne the heaviest burden of austerity cuts to the Scottish Budget since the financial crisis.

Unison Scottish secretary Mike Kirby said: “Politicians in all spheres must create the time and space for a fundamental review of funding local government.”

Mr Leonard promised that a Labour government at Holyrood would “protect and strengthen workers’ rights by seeking the devolution of employment law, in which we will set a pre-Brexit floor to ensure that workers in Scotland are not caught up in a race to the bottom.”

“I agree with the report that it is time to shift the burden of taxation onto property and land,” he said.

And he appealed to voters to not allow the upcoming European Parliament elections “to become a false choice between competing nationalisms: British and Scottish.” He said leftwingers should unite “to defeat the right-wing populism of Farage and Ukip.”

The launch of the IER’s Charter for Employment Rights for Scotland will take place at STUC Congress on Tuesday at 12.30pm, in Caird Hall Room 3.

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