Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Industrial relations in Scotland and the Trade Union Bill

In today's Scotsman, UNISON's Dave Watson contrasts the industrial relations culture in Scotland with the latest Tory attack on trade unions in the Trade Union Bill.

He gives a short history of how this different culture has developed since devolution, particularly in the public sector - the main target of the Bill. He also makes the case for the type of workplace democracy the Tories want to undermine, he said:

"Good workplace democracy keeps inequality in check ensuring better pay equality between top and bottom and a better balance between shareholders and wage earners. It increases investment in training, skills development and research and development. And if trade unions reps and managers carry out joint health and safety checks it improves compliance, reduces accidents and improves the sustainability of an industry – with less need for government intervention.

Academic research backs this up. It shows the value of a constructive approach to industrial relations and in particular the role of union representatives. When focusing on NHS workplaces in particular, recent research showed that labour turnover was almost three times higher and the employment tribunal rate 14 times higher in NHS workplaces without union representatives compared with workplaces where representatives were present. Managers in NHS workplaces with union representatives present were more likely to report higher productivity, greater quality of services and "better" financial performance."

Importantly, this approach has had cross party support. Even Scottish Conservatives have a more constructive approach. He concluded:

"Successive Scottish Governments have been developing a positive industrial relations and fair work culture. This UK government wants to take us back a generation."


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