John Kelly: We're on the side of Glasgow's workers and Trade Unions

Trade Union BillI had the privilege of bringing forward a motion to Glasgow City Council condemning this Government's anti-Trade Union Bill, which was accepted by colleagues across the Council. The text of my speech is below:

Thank you Lord Provost.

With my close connection to the Trade Union movement, I’m proud to bring this motion to the House today on an issue which has rightly provoked deep concern and condemnation.

An issue that has the potential to have a damaging impact on workers, employers and Trade Unions right across Glasgow & beyond.

Lord Provost, as I have previously argued in this House, this year’s Queen’s speech unleashed a continuing programme of attacks on working people.

Perhaps the most punitive is the Government’s announcement to reform Trade Union legislation.

Put simply, the Government’s proposals amount to the most vindictive and sustained attacks on Trade Unions since the Thatcher era.

There’s a common theme which runs through the Government’s proposals, namely that the changes are presupposed on a problem that does not exist.

Indeed, even the independent body appointed by the Government, the Regulatory Policy Committee - set up to verify costs and savings of the proposed changes - has slammed the proposals, stating that:

‘the definition of the problem currently appears weak’ and the proposals are ‘not fit for purpose’.

This is a completely false prospectus, there is no problem with Trade Unions and strike action in the UK.

Lord Provost I’ve been a Trade Unionist all of my working life, some forty years & in that time I’ve only ever been involved in one dispute that resulted in strike action.

It took place more than thirty years ago & lasted for less than a fortnight. Strike action is always a last resort, only ever to be undertaken when all else has been tried & failed.

On that basis, I’m confident that elected members across the House recognise the positive role the Trade Union movement always seeks to fulfill.

Our unions have been at the forefront of progressive social change, securing improved employment rights and conditions, and tackling inequality and poverty.

To restrict the Trade Union movement is unnecessary, unfair and undemocratic.

Through the introduction of ballot thresholds, an individual’s fundamental right to withdraw their labour will be undermined.

No other organisations in our democracy have ballot thresholds imposed upon them, INCLUDING political parties.

Yet with astonishing hypocracy, the Government intends to unfairly punish Trade Unions by imposing turnout thresholds upon them.

Through the hiring of agency staff during strike action, temporary workers will be put at risk and the fundamental right of employees to strike will be undermined.

Meanwhile the safety of the public and employees themselves will be jeopardised if agency staff have to cover jobs where they’ve not been adequately trained.

Through the proposed creation of a new CRIMINAL offence on the picket line, workers’ voices will be further restricted,

and any proposal to place demands on unions to publish their plans only subjects workers to unnecessary levels of intrusion and red tape.

Lord Provost, the Tory Government claims to be the party of “One Nation politics,” these proposals demonstrate a clear intention to circumvent the democratic process.

The view of the STUC is unequivocal, this Bill proves that this Government is not on the side of working people.

This government are determined to silence their critics.

More than anything

This is a Government who have got their priorities all wrong.

You know some of us will be old enough to remember the disgraceful comments made by a former Tory Prime Minister.

The anger & outrage we felt when Trade Unionists were referred to as “The enemy within”

Huge numbers of Trade Unionists who fought & died in two world wars….their patriotism casually dismissed in a shameful political soundbite.

Ironically at the same time as General Pinochet was enjoying tea in number ten.

Lord Provost we need to focus on the real issues that we as a city council have chosen to prioritise, tackling low pay through the Living Wage and creating jobs through the Glasgow Guarantee.

As a Council we have worked hard to mitigate the impact of Tory austerity.

And as a Council we must let Glasgow’s workers and Trade Unions know that we‘re on their side,

That we stand with them in opposing all elements of the Government’s proposals.

And that we will continue to fight to ensure that their voices are heard.

Lord Provost I move the motion.