15 April 2019

It is a great honour to be invited back to address this 122nd Scottish Trades Union Congress as the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

Exactly fifty years ago this week, in 1969 this Congress met in Rothesay.

Jimmy Jack was the General Secretary, and the STUC President that year was my old comrade the late Enoch Humphries.

It was a Conference dominated by “In Place of Strife”. So Barbara Castle was despatched to address the delegates, and after she had spoken Enoch called to her from the chair to take a message back to the Government on whose behalf she spoke that

“there was something wrong with the lens of the projector it was using.”

So I hope, Lynn, I get a less rancorous assessment, at the end of my address this afternoon

Enoch Humphries, as well as being President of the STUC was also the President of the Fire Brigades Union.

And it reminds me that, from Enoch Humphries and Ken Cameron at the FBUto Mick McGahey and Lawrence Daly at the Miners union.

To Jimmy Knapp and Sam McLuskie at the RMT,and not forgetting those women leaders like Maureen Rooney and Ina Love whose lineage stretches right back to Mary McArthur who organised the jute workers in this city as the General Secretary of the Women’s Trade Union League.

These giants did not lead their unions because of their accent or their place of birth, they led them because they passionately believed in values and principles that resonated right across the whole of these shared islands.

Values and principles like solidarity before self. Like that enduring idea when the strong help the weak we all grow stronger, and the fundamental understanding that as a movement we have to organise industrially and intervene politically: at the level where power lies.

They all held a deep, inner conviction that the trade union movement is at its best when it is not simply securing the best deal for its members from the current economic and social system, but when it is working to fundamentally change the current economic and social system and those power relations in it.

People say to me,

“Are trade unions vital to the Labour Party’s success?”

Of course trade unions are vital to the Labour Party’s success!

It was the trade unions that created the Labour Party.

The Trades union movement is not the industrial wing of the Labour Party.

The Labour Party is the political wing of the trades union movement.

Which is why I make no apologies that as the leader of the Scottish Labour Party I have joined workers on picket lines because that is where the Labour Party always should have been because I have always held to the principle that if there is a strike we should not be debating whether we support it or not, we should be getting in behind it and supporting that union and those workers who are in struggle.

Which is why I welcome this week’s publication of the Institute of Employment Rights “Charter of Workers’ Rights”.

Now, the authors are right to say that some of the Scottish Government’s Work proposals contain “admirable goals”

And I say to you this afternoon that the Scottish Government’s target of an extra 25,000 workers in Scotland earning the real living wage is an admirable goal.

But in three years time?

And still leaving over 420,000 workers languishing in Scotland in low pay below the poverty line at the end of it?

I tell you this is no time for such mediocrity. No time for such timidity. This is the time for action.

So I give you an undertaking today that Scottish Labour in opposition we will continue to push the Scottish Government to go further and faster, but an undertaking as well that we will stand on a manifesto in 2021 that makes the real living wage and labour standards, including trade union rights not a voluntary arrangement or an optional extra in public procurement and public assistance.

We will make it a compulsory requirement and an inescapable obligation in public procurement and public assistance.

So that if you deploy tax avoidance and tax evasion measures like those umbrella companies so rife in the construction industry then you will not win public procurement contracts and you will not receive governmental support.

I am bound to say that as we meet in Dundee of course we welcome the opening of the new V&A on the waterfront but we condemn the award of the contract to build it to a company up to its neck in the blacklisting scandal.

One of the few things the Brexit saga has shown is that we need to establish a new framework for social dialogue in Scotland.

We should be establishing new sectoral bargaining arrangements. But we want to go further: a future Scottish Labour Government under my leadership will not only establish sectoral collective bargaining we will establish sectoral industrial and economic planning as well as part of a long overdue industrial strategy for Scotland: bringing together trade unions, employers and government.

So that instead of time and time again demanding last ditch defensive rescues in the event of market failure you, the Scottish trade union movement is at the very heart of pro-actively planning for economic success.

Because we need trade union voices. And we need industrial democracy. Not just when things go wrong, but to help make sure things go right in the first place.

And if we have not learned that, we have learned nothing.

Go and ask the workers at BiFab, go and ask the workers at the Caley rail works in Springburn, go and ask the workers at Michelin here in Dundee.

When I met Marc Jackson and the Michelin shop stewards a few weeks ago, he told me that Michelin did not close the factory, the market closed the factory.

This is a city where decent industrious working people have been badly let down by neo-liberal economics, failed by an economic system with too much market and not enough planning.

Where too much power rests in too few hands, and all too often in faraway board rooms.

So for the avoidance of doubt -

My aim as the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party is not to simply lead a better management team than the SNP.

It is to lead a Scottish Labour Government worthy of the name. Committed to bringing about a real shift in power and wealth including an extension of industrial and economic democracy.

Not least so that the voices of women are heard for the first time in the corridors of economic power This is not incidental to the change we need to make. It is its very essence.

So I will appoint a Cabinet Secretary for Labour in a Scottish Labour Government . And I can also confirm today that we will protect and strengthen workers’ rights by seeking the devolution of employment law in which we will set a pre-Brexit floor to ensure that workers in Scotland are not caught up in a race to the bottom.

In other areas too we have a clear vision and clear purpose. We want a new deal for Scotland’s pensioners. An end once and for all to fuel poverty. A commitment to independent living and a revolution in social care. Based on the principles of universality and equality, where wealth is not an advantage nor lack of wealth any impediment.

And we have said that we will roll out free bus travel: guaranteeing it for the over 60’s and the under 25’s, but then extending to all not to feather the nests of private operators, but built on the strong foundation of a renaissance of municipal ownership.

As part of a greater plan to drive out the profit motive from public services which includes an end to PFI, PPP and NPD.

So that no more do we see workers, like those ISS workers at Hairmyres hospital forced to take direct action to defend their basic terms and conditions of employment.

The profit motive, the shareholder dividend, and the ill-fitting values of capitalism should be rooted out of our public services once and for all and in that I include our railways, our buses and the Royal Mail as well.

You know privatisation represented a huge shift in power…but it was a shift in the wrong direction.

Which is why we want a huge shift in power back to the people.

Our opponents ask me how much this will cost.

Well my answer is, how do you think bus passenger transport services in Scotland are paid for now?

Over forty per cent from public subsidy, the rest from rising passenger fares.

Or how are our railways are paid for? Here in Scotland two thirds of rail funding comes from public spending.

And as the new Unison Jimmy Reid Foundation report published just today points out:

“approaching half of all Council Tax revenues are devoted to servicing the interest on borrowing and PFI/PPP loans”

It is time that this came to an end.

I agree with the report that it is time to shift the burden of taxation onto property and land.

The council tax in its current form has to go. It is not fair and it is not fit for purpose.

And we need real change in other areas. A new land reform act to challenge not only the new but the old land monopolies in a new campaign for land justice.

A new statutory right for workers to buy the businesses they are employed in when they go up for sale or face closure: so they can not only create the wealth they can own the wealth that they create as well.

Housing reform with a new Mary Barbour Law – a modern day rent restrictions act, which along with free bus travel, our £10 living wage plans, our proposal to ban zero hours contracts, our pledge to establish a minimum student income will help our young people especially.

In the coming weeks we will be fighting elections to the European Parliament.

So my appeal to you is this; do not allow this election to become a false choice between competing nationalisms: British and Scottish.

Do not simply be a voter. Be an activist.

Join the campaign to defeat the right wing populism of Farage and UKIP, and help build a movement for radical reform and real change in the European Union as part of the Party of European Socialists alliance.

Under my leadership the Scottish Labour Party will always be driven by idealism but it will always be grounded in the Scottish Trades Union Movement as well. We have got a world still to win.

We are offering people hope again. Hope that there is an alternative to austerity that we can start building again. Building a full employment economy and a truly equal society.

Hope that we can end the economics of privatisation and out-sourcing and bring modern public services into public ownership and hope that we can see a meaningful redistribution of not just wealth but power.

We are rediscovering our sense of injustice.

Reawakening our spirit of audacity.

So my call to you is to join us. Join us in that philosophy of hope.

That movement for democracy.

This drive for socialism.

Because we know that if we do that as a movement both wings working together nothing and no-one can stop us.

Thank you


Back to previous page

Link to Instagram Link to Twitter Link to YouTube Link to Facebook Link to LinkedIn Link to Snapchat Close Fax Website Location Phone Email Calendar Building Search