I HAVE been disappointed to see the reaction to the latest strike action in Glasgow by many people in the pro-independence community, and it is a sad reflection on the damage done to the trade union movement in Scotland by the Labour Party that such an integral part of working life is now viewed with such suspicion by the people who should most benefit from being members.

Industrial action by workers across many industries has been rather noticeable recently, with the RMT union recently settling their rail dispute which had dragged on for months, and it was only the fact that COP26 was looming which drew a serious offer from management and saw the situation resolved in the favour of the workers.

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Similarly, the GMB union were using COP26 to gain a better deal for their members, and rightly so. Industrial action must, if it is to be effective, be done at the right time, and what better time to win a better deal than when the eyes of the world are on you? On Friday it did seem as though that had been successful, with the GMB calling off action to consult with members over a new offer, but within 48 hours strike action was back on – yet no consultation was carried out.

When receiving an improved offer made in good faith industrial action should be suspended while consulting members, but this is often misused as a Tory tactic to call a halt to industrial action for the benefit of the management, perhaps for a short period where it would be advantageous for them. This may be the case here, and it would be a slap in the face for independence supporters to find out that an SNP council had been using Tory laws to try to prevent legitimate strike action.

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The other side of this particular argument is of course that someone within the GMB has been working hand in glove with the Labour branch leader to put egg on the face of the Scottish government, and many GMB members have been active on social media saying that they suspect that very thing. It is now incumbent on the GMB union leadership to set the record straight, because to fail to do so not only does harm to their case, it continues to fuel distrust in the wider trade union movement in Scotland. To see Scottish GMB members saying they will leave their union, losing hard won rights and protections in the process, because they now distrust its motives is outrageous. To see independence supporters calling for the Army to be called in to beat the strikes is sickening, and is something I would normally expect to hear from dyed-in-the-wool, Thatcher-loving Tories!

The SNP had the chance to wipe the slate clean when it took Glasgow City Council, but instead it has squandered the goodwill of the people – to the extent the culprits in the Labour Party who built a legacy of years of mismanagement will likely step back in to the clean-up job now required, the first recorded case of rats boarding a sinking ship. Unfortunately for the wider independence movement, the SNP in Glasgow failed to adhere to the maxim by which we campaigned in 2014: “work as if you live in the early days of a better nation”. It’s not too late do so, and a key part of that should be treating workers with respect and honesty.

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That goes too for the GMB union, who must also respect their members by being honest and laying out exactly why they went from suspending action to strike action almost overnight. For the pro-Labour leadership, the chance to give the SNP council and the Scottish Government a bloody nose may have been too good to resist, but to do so at the expense of the membership would be criminal.

All of the above serves as a stark reminder to all of us in the Yes movement that we must not abandon our trade unions, and lose all the protections and benefits they deliver to us, but we must instead get stuck in and become active in our respective unions. We must become the eyes, ears and voice of the independence movement within our unions to ensure that going forward they are acting in the best interests for their members and for Scotland – not against us.

Jim Cassidy
Trade Unionists for Independence