Iain Gray MSP, Scottish Labour’s Opportunity Spokesperson, is to challenge the competence of the Tory government’s Trade Union Bill.
Speaking during a debate on the contentious legislation, Mr Gray revealed he has legal opinion on the issue and has now written to the Scottish Parliament clerks asking them if he can introduce a Legislative Competence Motion to potentially block the Bill in Scotland.
Mr Gray said:
“One of the great deceits of the attack on trade unionism which this Bill represents is to try and characterise trade unions as being about industrial conflict, strikes, and pickets.
In truth they are about the fundamental right of workers and their families to organise in solidarity with each other for the betterment of all.
Meanwhile, the Tory Government produces this Bill.
Whatever it pretends to be, it is aimed at undermining the capacity of trade unions to organise, its purpose is to disable and even destroy the trade union movement once and for all, and especially public sector trade unions.
The inference that the Trade Union movement is somehow one of mindless militancy is just absurd.
Industrial action already requires the support of members in ballots, and the Bill’s attempt to impose thresholds on those ballots, thresholds which no elected politician would countenance when it came to their own election, are an anti-democratic outrage.
There can be no doubt. This Bill is not designed to regulate the trade union movement, but to undermine it.
It should be opposed in Westminster, and it should be resisted in local authorities, many of whom are following Labour Glasgow’s lead in declaring they will not cooperate with its measures.
And Presiding Officer, it should be formally resisted in this Chamber too.
Employment law is reserved. But we believe that the impact of some of this Bill on the executive competence of the Scottish Government does mean that it should require a legislative consent motion in this Parliament.
The Scottish Government has significant statutory and budgetary powers to employ staff. The power to employ staff and determine their terms and conditions is a key executive power and an essential issue of executive competence.
This Bill significantly impacts upon and undermines the Scottish Government’s executive power and executive competence in relation to employing their staff in that context. Accordingly, the Scottish Parliament should certainly have the right to debate an LCM on the relevant provisions of the TU Bill.
I have therefore written to the Head of the Parliamentary business team, and asked the clerks to investigate whether an LCM would be relevant in the context of this Bill, making these arguments as to why I believe an LCM is competent and required and, if it is, I propose to bring one forward at the earliest opportunity.
I believe that this chamber will say no to the TU Bill this evening, but we should find a way to say no formally too.”