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First Minister a ‘passionate believer’ in need for unions

The First Minister opened the new Scottish Trade Unions Congress headquarters in Glasgow on Tuesday (Andrew Milligan/PA)
The First Minister opened the new Scottish Trade Unions Congress headquarters in Glasgow on Tuesday (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is a “firm, passionate believer” in the need for trade unions as she opened the Scottish Trade Union Congress’ (STUC) new headquarters in Glasgow.

The Bridgeton facility, named after the body’s first secretary Margaret Irwin, was officially opened on Tuesday, with general secretary Roz Foyer and president Pauline O’Rourke speaking at an event alongside the First Minister.

Speaking to journalists after the opening, the First Minister said her government had a good relationship with trade unions in Scotland.

Currently, the train drivers union Aslef is in a dispute with ScotRail, cleaning workers are threatening strike action and the STUC has said there could be “years of industrial action” if Scottish Government plans to cut public sector jobs to pre-pandemic levels are put into action.

“I think we’ve got a good relationship with trade unions, individually and collectively through the STUC, the Scottish Government’s been a big supporter of the creation of this new headquarters for the STUC,” she said.

“But it’s the nature of the relationship that there should be challenge involved in that.

“I’m a firm, passionate believer in the necessity of trade unions to the achievement of a fair society.”

In her speech to union officials, as well as Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, the First Minister stressed the importance of the trade union movement to the recovery from the pandemic.

“There is absolutely no doubt at all that you are and will be central to the government’s plan to tackle inequality, to decarbonize our economy, to create good jobs and, of course, promote fair work,” she said.

“Views that you express will sometimes be – and quite rightly so – challenging for government.

“That is your role.”

Roz Foyer speaking at the opening of the STUC headquarters in Glasgow
STUC general secretary said ‘when times are at their worst, that’s when this movement is at it’s best’ (Andrew Milligan/PA)

She added: “It is really important for any government that we have as a vital ally, but also at times as a challenge, a strong and vibrant trade union movement.”

Meanwhile, STUC general secretary Roz Foyer also stressed the importance of organised labour in Scotland.

“Today, we face real challenges, like delivering a real people-centred social and economic recovery from the coronavirus,” she said.

“Delivering a just transition to a greener economy, protecting innocent people from the horrors of war and imperialism and taking on the cost of living crisis.”

She added: “All of these challenges demonstrate that if ever a historic response from this movement is required it’s right now.

“And I’ve got no doubt that here in this new home for the STUC the finest chapters of the trade union movement in Scotland are yet to be written and that we will rise to the challenges ahead.

“Because when times are at their worst, that’s when this movement is at its best.”

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