News reaches the Harry’s Place inbox of a labour dispute at the Scottish Parliament involving a group of caseworkers, researchers and parliamentary assistants on the one hand and their employers on the other. What makes this particularly newsorthy is the identity of the employers.
The facts as are follows:
1. The workers signed a collective agreement with the group of Scottish Socialist Party MSP’s in May 2005. Under the agreement money was taken from the MSP’s allowances and deposited in a collective pool to pay the workers wages.
2. Three months ago two SSP Members of Parliament Tommy Sheridan and Rosemary Byrne resigned from the Scottish Socialist Party. In breach of the collective agreement they also withdrew £24,000 from the pooled resources.
3. As a result of this unilateral withdrawal of funds there isn’t now enough money to pay the wages of the workers beyond February 2007, effectively forcing the workers into early redundancy.
4. Over the last two months Sheridan and Byrne have repeatedly rejected offers to mediate – thus forcing the workers to make the dispute official.
5. The workers gained the official backing of the National Executive Council of the National Union of Journalists on 18th November 2006. The Industrial Workers of the World are also fully in support of the wronged employees.
The NUJ chapel in the Scottish Parliament claim that the dispute is not about political differences and purely a trade dispute about honouring collective agreements.
While I accept that the central issue may be defined as a contractual dispute which Sheridan and Byrne breached I’m sceptical about the claim that political differences aren’t involved. My guess is that Sheridan and Byrne’s exit from the SSP to form their new party was the catalyst for their decision to take the money and tear up the agreement with their employees.
Whatever the truth of the matter such behaviour is ironic coming from two individuals who have made successful political careers out of mouthing support for workers in struggle.
Such behaviour puts me in mind of a quote attributed to Leon Trotsky about the purported excellence of a previously untested umbrella only being properly verifiable when it starts raining.
It’s raining now for the Scottish Parliament workers who face Christmas with the prospect of redundancy in the new year. Despite their long history of rhetoric in support of workers rights Sheridan and Byrne have failed to live up to their words now that these rights are in conflict with their own careers and financial interests.
Messages of support may be sent to:
There is also an online petition at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/nujspchapel/
*Thinks* Workers rights or £24,000 – what would Trotsky do?