Labour has only very narrowly retained the formal endorsement of Scotland’s trades unions for May’s Holyrood and council elections.
The General Council of the STUC (Scottish Trades Union Congress) agreed by just one vote on Monday to back a Labour victory as being in the best interests of workers.
The crucial section of the statement that was passed by one vote reads: ‘Whilst recognising the differences that there have been in the past and will inevitably be in the future between the STUC and the Labour Party, the General Council believes that the election of Labour MSPs, a Labour Scottish Executive and Labour Councillors, who understand trade unionism and its role in the workplace and wider society, would be in the best interests of Scottish workers and their families.’
Delegates are voting on this statement at the full STUC Congress in Glasgow today.
Public service union Unison was among those which refused to support the statement.
In an unprecedented snub at Monday’s meeting of the STUC general council, representatives from 27 trade unions considered the call to support Labour in the elections for local authorities and the Scottish Parliament on May 3.
But the council split almost evenly and the motion backing Labour passed by just one vote.
Unison, which represents 150,000 public sector workers in Scottish local authorities and the NHS, initially voted against the motion, in fact defeating it, but later agreed to abstain in the final vote, allowing the right wing to win, and thus avoiding an even greater embarrassment for the government.
Gavin Barry, FBU delegate, told News Line yesterday: ‘We won’t reveal exactly how we voted but given that the FBU are supporting various political groups that it sees as its friends, we would have some difficulty in supporting a motion in favour of the Labour Party.’
A Unison spokesman said: ‘We are an affiliated union and we continue to be affiliated to Labour, but we didn’t think it was appropriate to make a statement including party support.’
The spokesman added to News Line: ‘We didn’t want a statement being made on the issue at all. The STUC is not affiliated to the Labour Party.’
Harry Donaldson, GMB Regional Secretary for Scotland, said: ‘We voted in favour of the Executive statement which said a Labour-led executive is in the interest of Scottish working people.’
A Transport and General Workers Union spokesman told News Line: ‘We are an affiliated union, we support the Labour Party and we are pleased that it went through. One vote is enough. The council voted for the motion and we are confident that the Congress will vote for it.’
Addressing the Scottish TUC on Monday UNISON leader Prentis said: ‘The polls must focus on public services’.
He was very critical of Labour’s support for increased privatisation, saying how services are delivered is ‘the most important issue’ for Scots.
‘The Scots electorate have, like Unison, rejected the argument that it does not matter who delivers their services.
‘Indeed it is rather like arguing that it does not matter who is elected on May 3. It matters a great deal.
‘The threat to services is real and the impact on jobs and on those who have devoted their careers to public provision is substantial.
‘People deliver public services, and we need to recognise and reward the investment they make.’
The STUC currently represents 46 trade unions and has 630,000 members – about a third of the Scottish workforce.