Our trade unions play a hugely important role in our country.
Protecting rights at work is vital to ensuring we not only have a successful economy but a fair one, and it is so often the case that employers who engage in good industrial relations also have the most successful businesses.
An issue which is of great concern to me is the introduction of the trade union bill by the UK Government. It has been high on the agenda of the Labour Party conference in Brighton this week where Jeremy Corbyn has made his first speech to conference as our new party leader.
This bill threatens to restrict the ability of trade unions to take industrial action when all other means of negotiation have produced no results.
It also seeks to prevent the Scottish Government and local councils on spending their own money on promoting good industrial relations. There are also a range of other changes proposed such as preventing employers allowing their employees to pay their trade union membership fees at source and capping facility time for trade union representatives who deal with issues such as promoting learning opportunities which benefit both the employer and employee, supporting members with individual problems and working with managers to prevent possible disputes.
This bill threatens to seriously undermine the work of trade unions in promoting good industrial relations and undermine collective bargaining making it harder to achieve better pay and conditions for working people. In the North East, trade unions have played a huge role in pushing for better safety at work particularly in the offshore industry where we have sadly seen too many tragedies. Impeding their ability to campaign on issues such as safety at work has huge implications and would be a backwards step.
Our trade unions in the North Sea have been crucial to the success of cross-industry forums on organisations on a whole range of vital issues, not least on safety. That is why it is not only because of workers rights and safety issues that this bill should be opposed, but for the future success of our vital oil and gas industry too. So I’m proud that the Labour Party with trade unions will lead the opposition of this bill and I hope the UK Government will think again.