STUC demand more powers for Holyrood on workers rights after Brexit

STUC congress kicks of with devolution calls

THE SCOTTISH TRADE UNION CONGRESS has called on the UK Government to devolve a range of powers to Holyrood as part of Brexit negotiations.

As delegates arrive in Aviemore today for the start of the STUC annual congress, labour movement leaders are demanding a six-point commitment from UK Prime Minister Theresa May, that will see the Scottish Parliament get an increase of powers on workplace protections and migration once the UK leaves the EU.

These powers would include greater control over migration to entrench the rights of EU national living in Scotland, and the ability to set the minimum wage higher than the UK-wide hourly rate.

STUC General Secretary, Grahame Smith, said: “With a General Election looming it is vital that the trade union movement restates its position on Brexit and the protection of migrant workers.

“We believe migration has [made an] entirely positive contribution to make to Scotland’s economy, demography and culture, particularly in a properly regulated labour market in which workers’ rights are protected.” Grahame Smith

“The STUC will continue to oppose hard Brexit and to campaign for free movement and the right of EU nationals living in Britain to remain in Britain.

“Motions to STUC congress make clear the commitment of affiliated unions to inward migration and to the protection of migrant workers through legislation and trade union organising. 

“We believe migration has [made an] entirely positive contribution to make to Scotland’s economy, demography and culture, particularly in a properly regulated labour market in which workers’ rights are protected.”

The STUC called for the devolution of employment and equalities law to the Scottish Parliament, to allow the Holyrood to set protections for all workers and to have the power to legislate for refugees and asylum seekers living in Scotland.

“UK immigration policy is increasingly encroaching on the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament, including how it runs its public services and who works within it.” Grahame Smith

The STUC called for Holyrood to have the power over procurement to allow for improved promotion of fair work, apprenticeships and the living wage within supply contracts.

Smith added: “However, as it becomes increasingly clear that Theresa May is wedded to a policy of hard Brexit, it is incumbent on her to recognise the different approach advocated in Scotland towards migration and employment protection. 

“UK immigration policy is increasingly encroaching on the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament, including how it runs its public services and who works within it.

“Even with immigration reserved, it is clear that significant additional power could be vested in the Scottish Parliament.  Along with powers to protect employment rights and increase the minimum wage, there is a potential to carve a distinctly different approach in Scotland.”

“These are the sort of powers vital to our ambition to create inclusive growth in Scotland’s economy and to protect all workers, but especially EU nationals, from the impact of a hard right Tory government.” Chris Stephens

SNP MP Chris Stephens said: “We welcome the STUC’s six demands and look forward to working closely with them to achieve them. 

“We want to see immigration wholly devolved, and have long argued for devolution of employment and equality law and rights. 

“These are the sort of powers vital to our ambition to create inclusive growth in Scotland’s economy and to protect all workers, but especially EU nationals, from the impact of a hard right Tory government.

“These issues demonstrate why Scotland needs to vote SNP in the upcoming election.

 “I believe a deal can be negotiated – on differential terms if necessary – which ensures that the interests of people across the UK are well-represented.” Kezia Dugdale 

“Only a vote for the SNP will protect Scotland from the Tories’ hardline plans for a post-Brexit future.

“Only the SNP will stand up to the Tories and press for the devolution of these powers and for the protection of all our workers’ rights.”

Last Month, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale wrote to May to outline the best possible Brexit deal for Scotland - including access to the single market, retaining the benefits of freedom of movement between Scotland and EU countries and guarantees for the rights of EU nationals currently living in the UK.

Dugdale wrote: “I believe a deal can be negotiated – on differential terms if necessary – which ensures that the interests of people across the UK are well-represented.”

"The UK Government's Brexit white paper made a clear commitment that workers' rights will not only be maintained but will be enhanced to keep pace with the changing labour market.” Ross Thomson

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “At this General Election, Scottish Labour is offering an alternative to the divisiveness of the Tories’ plans for a hard Brexit, and the divisiveness of the SNP’s plans for a second independence referendum.“

Scottish Conservative MSP Ross Thomson said: "We do not need to be part of the EU, nor bound by EU legislation, to have strong protections for workers.

"The UK Government's Brexit white paper made a clear commitment that workers' rights will not only be maintained but will be enhanced to keep pace with the changing labour market.

"The Prime Minister has also said that the UK Government will seek the earliest agreement to secure the status of EU nationals living in the UK and that of UK nationals living in the EU.

“As far as the Scottish Parliament is concerned, it has been made clear that no decisions currently taken by the devolved administrations will be removed, and, in fact, more powers are likely to come to Scotland.”

The decision, early in 2017, of the UK supreme court that devolved administrations did not have the capacity to block Brexit, despite it encroaching on devolved powers, has thrown the future of devolution into doubt.

May has pledged to push ahead with hard Brexit from both the EU and the single market.

Picture courtesy of STUC

Check out what people are saying about how important CommonSpace is: Pledge your support today.