Government and unions commit to fair work during Covid-19 outbreak

The Scottish Government and Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) has issued a joint statement committing to fair work principles during the coronavirus pandemic.

The statement urges workers, unions and employers to “work together constructively” during the outbreak, which has already seen 22 patients in Scotland with the virus die and 719 people infected.

The statement called for an agreement to be struck on measures such as staff pay when they are sick or self-isolating, supporting workers with a responsibility to care for a child or vulnerable person, and employers facilitating home working.

Both the Government and the unions also stressed there should be no pressure applied to staff to violate Government guidelines, such as breaking self-isolation to go to work.

It said: “We have high expectations of how fair work principles should be applied during the current crisis.

“This means an approach where workers, trade unions and employers work together constructively to reach the right decisions on all workplace issues that arise throughout this crisis.”

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop, who is also responsible for fair work in Scotland, said: “Partnership with workers and trades unions is crucial to making the right decisions to protect workers and ensure public safety while also helping businesses to stay open and keep people in employment.

“Employers must allow their staff to follow medical advice to self-isolate or isolate with their households. Workers should never feel pressured to breach that advice.

“Fundamentally, employers should look to maintain jobs and pay their workers throughout this crisis, and to make use of Government support to achieve this.

“Scotland’s success as an economy is built on a shared endeavour between workers, unions and employers and this approach will help us get through this outbreak.

“It is now more important than ever that Scotland adopts fair work principles and practice to get through the Covid-19 health and economic crises and support businesses and their staff to get through this together with co-operation. Many companies are doing this and I thank them for it.”

The UK Government has committed to paying 80% of the wages of furloughed workers, up to £2,500.

STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said the statement sets out the “high expectations” of unions and Government that fair work principles are adhered to, while highlighting the need for employers and workers to reach an agreement on conditions.

STUC general secretary Grahame Smith
STUC general secretary Grahame Smith

He said: “Fundamental in all of this is the need for unions and workers to be fully involved in making the key decisions. What constitutes fair work is not in the gift of employers.

“We’ve seen already that some employers can’t be trusted to take decisions that respect the health and safety, the welfare and the incomes of workers.

“Unions can be trusted and have been demonstrating this throughout the crisis, working day and night to support workers, defending incomes and job security and ensuring that everyone can work safely when necessary or is empowered to stay at home.