The election of a majority Tory UK government is a stark reminder for trade union members in Scotland of why we need a Labour Party that listens to working people.
While we can debate the causes, the outcome of the 2015 General Election is a Tory government committed to cutting public services and attacks on trade unions, far more extreme than even Margaret Thatcher’s legislation.
They have decided to cut a further £3bn from this year’s UK departmental budgets. This means another £107m cut from Scottish public services. However, this is only a warm up for the emergency summer budget on 8 July. On current plans the UK government will slash a further £30bn, with the biggest cuts in 2016 and 2017. The Barnett consequentials for Scotland could be as much as £2bn. That’s a further 30,000 job losses.
The planned thresholds for industrial action make the last resort of industrial action by workers to these cuts even more difficult. That means if we are going to bring about change or simply defend the interests of working people, unions will need to look to direct political action.
The Tories want to shackle trade union political influence as well, with legislation on political funds. Unsurprisingly, there are no plans to limit the hedge funds and tax dodgers that fund the Tories.
One way trade union members can strengthen their political voice is by signing up to be an Affiliated Supporter of the Labour Party. It costs nothing extra because you already pay a political levy. It will give union members a direct voice in elections for both the UK and Scottish Labour Party leadership elections.
That’s important because we need leaders that reflect the views of working people, rather than the political bubble. We understand this all too well in Scotland, when Scottish Labour ignored trade union warnings over issues like austerity, the second referendum question and campaigning with the Tories in ‘Better Together’.
Trade unions will maintain a constructive relationship with the Scottish Government and make common cause on issues we agree on, including opposing austerity. However, the SNP is a broad coalition and that constrains them from taking bold action on big issues like inequality. Their limited commitments on zero-hours contracts during the election, illustrates the influence of the business lobby in their party.
Trade union members in Scotland need a Scottish Labour Party that speaks up for working people. It’s a party that needs to make radical changes and it needs union members to be part of that new direction. By signing up as an Affiliated Supporter you can be a bigger part of that process.
Dave Watson is the Secretary of Trade Unions for Scottish Labour.