THE SNP’s trade union spokesman at Westminster has called for the stepping up of a campaign against controversial plans to crack down on the right to strike, at the start of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) annual conference.

SNP MP Chris Stephens attacked “ill thought out proposals” from David Cameron’s government to outlaw any strike not voted for by at least 40 per cent of eligible union members and where the turnout does not reach 50 per cent. Stephens stated his opposition to the Trade Union Bill, that also proposes to lift the ban on using agency workers to replace permanent staff during strikes; ahead of a fringe meeting he is addressing, on the opening day of the STUC annual conference being held in Dundee today.

The Glasgow South West MP said that the law would “diminish the civil liberties and human rights that we hold dear”, while failing to improve industrial relations and benefit the economy.

He called for opposition to “these undemocratic proposals” as the Bill that will introduce the changes is due to come before the House of Lords tomorrow for its final report stage.

Stephens is speaking alongside leading trade union leaders such as Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary, Matt Wrack and Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), general secretary Mark Serwotka, at the STUC fringe meeting today.

He claimed that the Bill, which represents the biggest shake-up of employment legislation since those introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s governments in the 1980s, could be against international laws related to the activity of unions and organised labour.

Stephens said: “The Trade Union Bill will devalue the good relations with industries and workers who are rightly hostile to the Conservative government’s ill-thought-out proposals. This Bill is primarily designed to diminish the civil liberties and human rights that we hold dear.

“This conclusion is not just the opinion of the trade union movement but of organisations such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) who have called the proposals ‘potentially unlawful’ and the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO), who have said the bill may contravene international labour law.”

Peers have already voted overwhelmingly in favour of amendments to the Trade Union Bill in the House of Lords with former Conservative Cabinet Minister, Lord Michael Forsyth, voicing concerns that the legislation was “provoking a confrontation that will do none of us any good and certainly will not do the political system any good”.

Stephens added: “When even arch-Thatcherites such as Lord Forsyth are concerned about the ramifications of the Trade Union Bill, the Tory government should take heed and stop these undemocratic proposals.”

Tory ministers have argued that in the wake of strikes in sectors such as public transport, they need to find a fresh balance to industrial action taken by trade unions.

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale, will pledge that her party would introduce laws to benefit trade unions members that will be the “antithesis” of “negative” legislation from the Tories at Westminster, in her speech to the STUC today.

Dugdale will use the speech to STUC delegates to announce a new Work and Trade Union Bill that she says will launch a new agency for employment and skills to help people get back into work, called “Skills Scotland”.

She said: “I can announce we will bring forward a Work and Trade Union Bill.

“It will be the antithesis of the negative Tory Trade Union Bill.

“It will recognise the positive role of trade unions in the economy, in creating better workplaces, in increasing productivity, in building a fair economy.”

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