Sturgeon seeks Corbyn pact on trade union rights, rejected by Labour sources

Scotland's First Minister and Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon © Graham Stuart
First Minister and Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon has been criticized by Labour sources for playing politics with union rights after she wrote to Jeremy Corbyn asking for the Labour leader’s support in combating the Trade Union Bill.

Labour sources told the Guardian that the party cannot back this measure because they believe fragmenting UK trade union law will alienate voters and union leaders.

“Instead of making political points about amendments that are not going to get past because of the Tory majority in the Commons, she should be using the powers they have got over services that her government is directly in control of,” one unnamed source said.

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In a letter sent on Wednesday, Sturgeon urged the newly-minted Labour leader to cosign an amendment to the Scotland Bill which would devolve control of trade union and employment law from Westminster to Holyrood.

Warning that the controversial Trade Union Bill would likely become law in spite of opposition, she wrote it is “all the more important in my view we take the opportunity to devolve power over trade union and employment legislation from Westminster to Holyrood.”

Urging Corbyn to reconsider Labour’s opposition to devolving trade union law and consider Scottish workers in light of what she views as the inevitable victory of the Trade Union Bill, she wrote that the Scotland Bill “is a golden opportunity to protect workers in Scotland.”

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“I am sure you will agree that this is a prize worth fighting for,” she told Corbyn. “The strength of feeling about worker’s rights among the vast majority of MSPs means that such draconian legislation would quite simply never see the light of day in Scotland.”

She told journalists on Wednesday that “The SNP will lay an amendment to the Scotland Bill when the House of Commons comes back to do just that. We know it’s got the support of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC). I am asking Labour now to change its position and support us on that.”

The bill passed a second reading in the House of Commons last weeks, a key indicator of whether or not legislation will gather enough MP votes.

Earlier this month, Liberty and Amnesty international published a joint statement condemning the government’s proposed Trade Union Bill. The rights groups decried the move to restrict trade union rights, calling it a “major attack on civil liberties in the UK.”

Supporters of the bill argue that it will protect low-paid and self-employed workers by creating hurdles to sustaining prolonged industrial action.