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Two years of recruitment, resistance and results

Our union is going from strength to strength, writes PAT RAFFERTY, ahead the Unite’s Scottish policy conference

DELEGATES, visitors and invited guests will attend the third Unite Scottish policy conference in Ayr this weekend.

Unite has faced many challenges since our last conference two years ago.

Job insecurity has significantly increased, aided and abetted by a dangerous Boris Johnson who is intent on sacrificing jobs, communities and trade in the pursuit of Brexit at any cost.

It’s clear that Scotland is at a critical juncture in our history, with a possible general election imminent.

There is also a reckless and destructive tit-for-tat trade war between Europe and the United States.

The spat will significantly harm jobs in the Scottish whisky industry, as a 25 per cent tariff on the £1 billion Scottish exports to the United States from the position of zero tariff will be imposed.

This tariff will put hundreds of jobs and communities built around the industry directly on the line.

Scotland has been faced with a long line of companies closing all or much of their operations, such as Cummins, the Caley rail depot, Michelin in Dundee, RBS branches and more recently Jamie Oliver’s restaurants, making thousands of workers redundant.

The scale of the losses and challenges can be daunting — but it’s exactly at times like this when the collective power and strength of workers can come to the fore, despite great uncertainty and division.

The reality is that Unite is winning for hundreds of thousands of workers in Scotland through our industrial and political work.

We played a key role in saving 500 jobs at the Arjowiggins Stoneywood paper mill in Aberdeen and Unite representatives were central to hundreds of jobs being protected at Ferguson’s and Rosyth dockyards.

If it wasn’t for the work of trade unions including Unite then there wouldn’t even be a political debate about whether BiFab will receive any work from EDF on its £2bn Neart Na Gaoithe project.

Unite has spearheaded a recruitment campaign of construction apprentices who are embarking on a career in the industry, with over 1,500 apprentices joining in 18 months.

Due to our efforts in the construction industry, 12 councils in Scotland have now signed up to the union’s Construction Charter.

On bus regulation it is Unite that has been at the forefront of ensuring amendments to improve the Transport Bill with municipal ownership now a real possibility for cities such as Glasgow.

We will continue to fight against the implementation of the regressive workplace parking levy at every council that thinks about introducing it — the Scottish government instead should be focusing its efforts on how to improve public transport and to fund local government properly.

As part of our vision for a socialist and progressive country, Unite also believes that Scotland should have control over employment law and we are pleased that the Scottish Labour Party has now formally adopted our policy.

But, before we realise this objective, the Scottish government’s Fair Work Convention must start to show its teeth rather than it being perceived as a PR exercise. 

Bad employers, including those that have blacklisted workers, should be denied procurement contracts.

Job creation should come with guarantees around collective bargaining and union recognition. The Scottish government has not given us these commitments, and we will continue to campaign to ensure this is part of the criteria associated with any company or organisation being in receipt of public funds.

Disputes in local authorities such as Dundee, Angus and the Scottish Borders Council, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports, Diageo, Lothian Buses, and the Scottish Qualifications Authority over recent months have demonstrated that our members are fighting back and winning.

Unite’s NHS Tayside pharmacy support workers who have taken a brave stand for pay justice at their workplace have been on continuous strike action since August 19. 

In the offshore industry, our officers, organisers and representatives continue to campaign against the hated 3:3 rotas offshore which our members tell us increases the risk to them — physically and mentally.

Unite in Scotland also stepped in to support Thomas Cook shop workers when everybody abandoned them, including, shamefully, the British government — and the fight goes on for the cabin crew and engineers.

We are fully determined to play our part in Scottish workplaces, communities and in our nation’s town and city halls, fighting back.

Pat Rafferty is Unite Scottish secretary.

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