Our 21st Annual Conference was held online and took place on the 24th November 2021. The theme was "Health and Safety in Scotland's Hands, reflecting growing support within the trade union movement for devolution of health and safety and other employment powers to Scotland.
Roz Foyer, in her opening contribution, recognised the role trade union health and safety reps had played throughout the pandemic, reacting under immense pressure to keep workplaces COVID secure and prevent harm to their members.
The STUC General Secretary repeated the STUC’s policy on further devolution, they are denuding devolution of the whole suite of employment powers including employment law and equality legislation in addition to health and safety.
Using the example of North America and Canada, where employment powers are devolved to individual state legislatures the STUC General Secretary made compelling arguments for devolution.
Countering the arguments heard countless times from the UK Government and business leaders that having different regulatory systems across different nations would deter businesses coming to the UK she was clear; for smaller businesses they would in most cases still only deal with one health and safety regulator and for larger businesses many already operate globally so are well versed in dealing with a wide range of health and safety systems.
Roz Foyer’s full contribution can be seen on You Tube by clicking the image above.
Wales TUC are also supporting devolution of employment protections and Scottish Hazards were delighted to welcome Shavanah Taj, Wales TUC General Secretary to our online conference to speak about progress in Wales.
She spoke about the recently announced Wales TUC independent commission, “ The Future of Devolution and Work Commission, tasked with considering the impact that the current devolution arrangements are having on efforts to properly address issues like insecure work, non-compliance with labour rights and the changing nature of work”.
Shavanah spoke about positive working relationships between the trade unions and Government, including the Fair Work Commission and the Welsh Government Commission looking at further devolution of powers, including health and safety.
Thompsons Solicitors in Scotland are great supporters of Scottish Hazards and the trade union movement, providing legal advice on constitutional matters as well as other in areas of law such as proposals to amend the law of culpable homicide. Partner Patrick McGuire gave our conference an insight on what needs to be done to devolve health and safety and wider employment protections.
In his view the requirement to amend the Scotland Act is an obstacle, but not insurmountable, the framing of the Act leaves lots of opportunity to argue a proposed law is within scope of the Act or not and we have to be prepared to push the boundaries when creating new laws that have a positive impact on worker’s health and safety.
A few examples were given such as the smoking ban, legislation to protect emergency workers and, more recently, to protect retail workers from assault have all been passed by the Scottish Parliament over the years and all are designed to have a positive effect on the health and safety of those covered by the legislation. However, he added successive Scottish Governments have been far more cautious when dealing with ineffective corporate homicide legislation.
Patrick also said that in addition to constitutional questions political will for change is vitally important, as is challenging the economic myths Roz Foyer had referred to in her contribution if any change is to be delivered.