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Nicola Sturgeon set to officially open STUC’s new home named after union pioneer

Nicola Sturgeon (Russell Cheyne/PA)
Nicola Sturgeon (Russell Cheyne/PA)

Nicola Sturgeon said she looked forward to “continuing to work in partnership” with unions ahead of officially opening the Scottish Trade Union Congress’ new home.

The STUC’s Margaret Irwin Centre, named after its first secretary who was instrumental in setting up the organisation 125 years ago, will become a hub for Scotland’s trade union movement and is set to be opened by the First Minister on Tuesday.

Ms Sturgeon said the building in the heart of Glasgow’s Bridgeton was a “fitting tribute” to the union pioneer who “championed the rights of women in Scotland”.

“The trade union movement in Scotland has a proud and distinguished history and the role the unions will play in the coming years to help address inequalities will be absolutely vital,” she said, ahead of its opening.

“I look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the trade unions as we organise for a better, greener, fairer, more equal future.”

Joining Ms Sturgeon in opening the new centre will be its general secretary Roz Foyer, its president Pauline O’Rourke, and UCU young member Rosie Hampton.

Ms Foyer said it was a “critical time for the trade union movement in Scotland” and that the new building would “herald in a new era for the future of trade unions”.

“As a society, we are facing the biggest fall in living standards since the 1950s, but unions are fighting back,” she said.

“We are seeing increased strike action across many different sectors, showing that the workers of Scotland will not accept rising living costs and stagnating wages.”

The development is part of the wider regeneration programme in the Clyde Gateway area.

Ms Irwin was crucial in setting up the STUC in 1897, and held the position of secretary to the general council until 1900.

Despite being offered the job on a permanent basis she refused, and said she feared prejudice against a woman in the position might harm the new union.

But, though never a trade union member, she remained influential in the movement especially in setting up structures for women members and for urging that Scotland needed its own unions, not just branches of national bodies.

Her work helped with the reform of housing conditions for women workers in potato lifting, fish curing and fruit picking.

She was also active in the women’s suffrage movement, a member of the Glasgow & West Scotland Association for Women’s Suffrage until 1907, and after that a regular speaker at the Women’s Freedom League.

In 1927 she was made a CBE, and ran a model fruit farm in Blairgowrie until her death aged 83.

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