The National:

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This week, we're looking at the lessons that can be learned from the last 18 months of industrial action.

The importance of trade unions working together

Last weekend saw the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) hold its first Strike! conference, where unions from across Scotland gathered to discuss the progress the movement has made and how representatives can learn from each other going forward.

The key lesson was solidarity, not just within a union, but across the whole trade union movement.

The opening panel discussion featured the bosses at Unite, Unison and EIS – the three biggest unions in Scotland – sharing their tips with the room on organising, picketing and winning the dispute.

Derek Thomson, Scottish secretary at Unite, spoke of the importance of understanding the key areas industrial action is best placed, and the wider impact that winning disputes has on a community.

"Successful industrial action lifts children out of poverty," Thomson told the room. "We can't afford to lose another dispute."

As one of the biggest unions in Scotland, representing members across all sectors of the economy, Thomson said Unite had more than 200 successful disputes over the last year.

Despite the positive strides forward in the trade union movement over the last 18 months, in what STUC general secretary Roz Foyer (below) called "unprecedented", not all industrial action was successful.

The National: Roz Foyer, general secretary of the STUC, pictured at the STUC's new offices in Bridgeton, Glasgow...Photograph by Colin Mearns.22 Jan 2022.For Herald on Sunday.

Mick Hogg, regional organiser for the RMT, spoke to The National about what must happen in the movement going forward.

"We need to learn the lessons together, no one union will win any fight on their own.

"If we're serious about taking on the establishment, taking on the bosses, we need to learn the lessons.

"Let's be honest, not every fight was won over the last 18 months, there were a lot of defeats also.

"But the bosses know that we're here, and the bosses know that we're not going anywhere soon."

Solidarity in action

The conference took place on Armistice Day in Glasgow, where a rally to call for a ceasefire in Gaza was planned in Buchanan Street.

The National:

Dave Moxham, deputy general secretary at the STUC, encouraged members – in addition to a two minutes' silence at 11am to remember those lost in the First World War – to demonstrate support for a ceasefire.

The National: Many of those attending the conference gathered outside with an STUC banner and chanted Ceasefire now!Many of those attending the conference gathered outside with an STUC banner and chanted Ceasefire now! (Image: NQ)

Foyer told The National in an exclusive interview last week that the trade union movement had "a historic responsibility to highlight the plight of the Palestinian people".

"If you look back at the history of colonialism and Britain's role in that, much of the problems we're seeing can be traced back to decisions that Britain was very much involved in."

If the trade movement cannae do it, no one can

Foyer gave the closing address to the conference, where she talked about how public opinion around strike action had changed over the last 18 months.

"We have shifted the narrative, we have been loud and proud in our industrial action, and I have never seen public support like the public support we've had for the Scottish people on picket lines up and down this country.

"We have to keep going, because there is so much more to do.

"The economy as it is right now is broken, and nobody's going to do anything about it unless working people get organised.

"There's a lot to be done, it's not easy, it's a lot of hard work, but if the trade movement cannae do it, then nobody can do it."

Speaking to The National after the conference, Foyer said the trade union movement now needed to continue placing pressure on governments to take action.

"Moving forward, many of the problems we're facing are still there," Foyer said.

"If we don't fight back as a trade union movement, the politicians aren't going to change things for us.

"We really need to keep that pressure up, keep the politicians' feet to the fire, and make sure that governments both in Westminster and here in Scotland really give workers a fair share of the pie."

Industrial reaction

Bus company engineers working for First Glasgow buses have called off strike action after securing an “excellent” pay deal, Unite has said – although drivers are still set to walk out later this month.

Unite has also warned that exam results could be disrupted next year after Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) staff voted for strike action in a dispute over pay.