Watch out for a story in the Herald on Sunday tomorrow (14th April).
It will re-hash a story of some months ago about STUC finances using the ‘hook’ that STUC has its Congress in the week coming. The journo may try to fold in some other bits and bobs to try and construct a ‘thing’. But there will be no new news and no real story. It will suggest that an organisation which is in robust health (just ask our auditors) somehow isn’t, and that a movement which regularly takes Government to task is somehow not independent of it.
It will throw up two big financial sounding figures and imply that the STUC is economically reliant on Scottish Government funding. Someone (odds are on it being one of the normal go-to MSPs of this singularly unimaginative journalist) probably a Tory, a Liberal or another ‘usual suspect’, will attack us for being too close to Government. The journalist ‘may’ be able to find someone who will say that the SNP is too close to the STUC.
I doubt he will manage to get a Labour Party comment. They understand that reasonable a relationship between government and unions to deliver on agreed objectives is a good thing, even when it’s not them. There may I guess be a few social media comments from Labour supporters on the back of the story saying that we are not independent enough of the SNP.
The bigger financial figure the journalist will cite – some £2.5 million – funds the Scottish Union Learning project. The STUC and our affiliated unions deliver structured adult learning opportunities based in the workplace. The idea is that skills and learning are good things for individuals, employers and the economy. Unions are trusted to deliver some of these opportunities in partnership with the employer. This is not highly controversial. The Tories fund a similar strategy for the TUC to deliver in England. Union learning has been funded in Scotland by government since it was first introduced, by the Labour/Liberal coalition Scottish Executive.
The smaller figure, some £250,000 per year, is used to fund collaborative work to promote the Fair Work Framework. This government initiative has widespread support across the Parliament. It is used primarily to promote an alternative vision of work in sectors such as hospitality and care where working conditions can be poor and pay too low.
These funds are used in their entirety to support the projects’ objectives. It would be a tragedy if they were to disappear, thousands of workers would be denied the opportunity of personal and professional development. However it would not affect the rest of the work the STUC and unions do.
If you’re interested in that, just take a look at the General Council’s report to our Congress next week to get a sense of the depth and breadth of what we do.
Among those other things that we do includes supporting our affiliates when they take industrial action. The two biggest events of last year to which we dedicated resources were the Glasgow Equal Pay strike targeting an SNP-led council and the Teachers Dispute targeting the Scottish Government. Oh and there was the lobby outside the Scottish Parliament on budget day and our critical analysis of Derek MacKay’s budget and its subsequent changes to increase funding for local government.
We got plenty of flack from SNP supporters about these things. The main charge was that we are too close to Labour.
It is to the credit of the Scottish Government that never on a single occasion directly or by implication has it been suggested that we should pull our punches on such issues.
This is a good job, because we never would. We owe it to our affiliates and their members to represent their interests and these will always come first. That means being critical when criticism is due and not indulging in political posturing when it is not.
We have a robust democracy which underlines this approach. We will be held to account next week at our Congress. Tomorrow, on the eve of Congress, we will highlight the situation of migrant workers in Scotland and call on the Scottish Government and employers to do more.
It is a central issue going to the heart of the impact of Brexit, Scotland’s demographic challenges and the battle against exploitative work.
One thing I won’t try and predict is whether the journalist or his paper will cover this issue.
But let me guess …