My blog for the next few days will be from the STUC meeting in Dundee. The focus this morning was on the economy and industry with speakers critical of the neo-liberal economics that got us into the financial mess. James Corry from UNISON’s Skills Development Scotland branch focussed on Scottish Government cuts in the modern apprenticeship scheme, from 20,000 to 15,000 places. This also means that the helpful extension of the scheme to 20 year olds will end.
The STUC is often held in the middle of election campaigns. Jim Murphy addressed conference in the morning and Nicola Sturgeon in the afternoon. Nothing much that was new in either contribution. However, there was welcome support from Jim Murphy for the campaign against the privatisation/mutualisation of Scottish Water, something you rarely hear from a UK Cabinet Minister.
We sponsored a well supported fringe meeting at lunchtime on Hugh Henry MSP’s private members bill that seeks to strengthen the legal protection for public service workers who are the victim of violence at work. The meeting heard many examples of the disgraceful attacks on workers and the need to get more MSPs to take this issue seriously by supporting the Bill.
UNISON’s first motion, on occupational pensions, was debated in the afternoon. Mike Kirby, Scottish Convenor of UNISON, pointed to the closure of large numbers of decent private sector pension schemes, and rightly raised the spectre of a huge increase in benefits demands by their short-changed staff. Essentially the private sector wants the public purse to bail out their employees’ pensions shortfall, just as it bailed out the busted banks that caused this recession. Attacks on quality public sector schemes by the CBI and others are just a smokescreen for this. But they would also dump another huge bill on the taxpayer.