24th November in the Bute Hall, University of Glasgow
The Rt. Hon. Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister of Scotland, delivered the Third Annual Jimmy Reid Memorial Lecture “WORKERS’ RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS” on Tuesday 24th November in the Bute Hall, University of Glasgow. The 1,000 strong audience included members of Jimmy Reid’s family, along with veterans of the UCS dispute.
The Lecture took place against a backdrop of engineered uncertainty on the status of trade unions and fundamental human rights in the UK: the Trade Union Bill is currently being debated at the UK parliament and its provisions seek to weaken the ability of trade unions to represent their members; the UK government wants to change the mechanism to define and protect human rights and is about to publish proposals to abolish the Human Rights Act and introduce a Bill of Rights. These developments are opposed by the Scottish Parliament.
A video which explains the issues can be found at https://youtu.be/lyPx84fiADQ
The meeting was chaired by Grahame Smith, General Secretary of the STUC. The Lecture honours workers’ leader Jimmy Reid, who delivered his inaugural address as rector of Glasgow University in the Bute Hall on 28th April 1972. Jimmy delivered his famous “The rat race is for rats” speech. His archives and those of the UCS Work-in are maintained by the University and some were on display prior to the Lecture.
Professor Gregor Gall, Director of the Reid Foundation, responding to the content of First Minister’s speech to the third annual Jimmy Reid Foundation lecture said:
‘We welcome the First Minister’s criticism of the Trade Union Bill and the actions she proposes the Scottish Government will take to blunt its impact when it becomes law.
However, and notwithstanding employment issues remain reserved matters, we urge the First Minister and the Scottish Government to go further by using their existing powers to provide regulatory underpinning to worker participation so that workers have influence over the way their workplaces are run. This could be done through public procurement and in the public sector.
It would then mean Scotland’s economy moves closer to the First Minister’s goal of emulating the Rhineland model of regulation – which still remains the most successful economic and social model in Europe. This would be the most fitting way to honour the legacy of Jimmy Reid.’
First Minister Declares “WORKERS’ RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS”
The Rt. Hon. Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister of Scotland, will deliver the Third Annual Jimmy Reid Memorial Lecture “WORKERS’ RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS” on Tuesday 24th November at 6.30pm in the Bute Hall of University of Glasgow. All the tickets have been taken up and the 1,000 strong audience will include members of Jimmy Reid’s family, along with veterans of the UCS dispute.
People without a ticket can still watch the Lecture live at http://www.gla.ac.uk/events/reid/
The Lecture takes place against a backdrop of engineered uncertainty on the status of trade unions and fundamental human rights in the UK: the Trade Union Bill is currently being debated at the UK parliament and its provisions seek to weaken the ability of trade unions to represent their members; the UK government wants to change the mechanism to define and protect human rights and is about to publish proposals to abolish the Human Rights Act and introduce a Bill of Rights. These developments are opposed by the Scottish Parliament.
A video which explains the issues and promotes the Lecture can be found at https://youtu.be/lyPx84fiADQ
The meeting will be chaired by Grahame Smith, General Secretary of the STUC. The First Minister and guests will be welcomed by the Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anton Muscatelli. Following the speech, there will be a question and answer session. Our Director, Professor Gregor Gall, will make a short contribution on our work programme to conclude the event.
The Lecture honours workers’ leader Jimmy Reid, who delivered his inaugural address as rector of Glasgow University in the Bute Hall on 28th April 1972. Jimmy delivered his famous “The rat race is for rats” speech and a souvenir programme will be available containing the text. His archives and those of the UCS Work-in are maintained by the University and some will be on display prior to the Lecture.
Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland said:
“When Jimmy Reid spoke here in April 1972, it was towards the end of the Upper Clyde Shipworkers dispute. The work-in which Reid helped to organise was arguably the greatest achievement of the post war union movement. It asserted the fundamental right of individuals to work. It did so through a peaceful, positive protest which captured the imagination of people around the world.
“It is a reminder that trade unions are a source of empowerment. They provide a voice for those who might otherwise go unheard. The right to strike is an essential part of that, but the real value of trade unions goes much wider. They help employers to create the safe, humane, productive working conditions which head off industrial disputes – and which build better businesses. Because of that, trade unions are a force for good in modern societies.”
Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said
“I am honoured that this year’s Jimmy Reid Memorial Lecture is taking place in the Bute Hall at the University of Glasgow – the very place Jimmy Reid stood to deliver his powerful address in 1972 after being elected Rector by the student body. It also very fitting that the First Minister, a graduate of this University, will deliver the lecture. I will be delighted to welcome the First Minister, members of Jimmy Reid’s family and representatives of the Reid Foundation to the University.”
Grahame Smith, the general secretary of the STUC who is chairing the Lecture said:
“The address by the First Minister to the annual Jimmy Reid Memorial Lecture could not be more timely. The values expressed by Jimmy in his famous address espoused the importance of solidarity and basic values of decency which trade unions uphold on a daily basis.
“The Trade Union bill strikes at the very heart of democracy, at both the democratic right to assembly and representation in the workplace and at the devolution settlement itself. The Bill is an attack upon on human rights and a completely unwarranted interference in the right of government in Scotland, at all levels, to conduct industrial relations as best suits their vision of workplace democracy.
“The Trade Union Movement is committed to resisting this Bill in every way that we can. We support the view of the main political parties that it should be subject to a Legislative Consent Motion and will work with all of our colleagues in central and local government to make it unworkable if it is passed”
Professor Gregor Gall, Director of the Reid Foundation said:
“We are delighted to be working with Glasgow University to deliver the third Jimmy Reid Memorial address which is a celebration of the right to work as well as the legacy of Jimmy Reid which is to promote fairness, equally, in Scotland.”
Due to the level of interest, the STUC has arranged an overflow meeting at its centre in Woodlands Road in Glasgow and the lecture will now be streamed by Glasgow University so that people, everywhere, can watch the lecture live. So far we know that people in Switzerland, Germany and North America will be tuning in as well as in Stirling and Inverness.
The Reid Foundation is grateful to the University of Glasgow for its assistance in organising the Lecture.
- The Foundation has published a policy paper on this issue, available at our website, ‘Economic and Social Rights are Human Rights’ http://reidfoundation.org/2015/08/economic-and-social-rights-are-human-rights-2/
- On 10th November the Trade Union Bill received its third reading at the House of Commons and the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights announced pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill as “some significant human rights issues may arise” http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/joint-select/human-rights-committee/news-parliament-2015/legislative-scrutiny-launch/
- The Scottish Parliament voted in favour of the Human Rights Act 1998 on 11th November 2014 “ The Parliament re-affirms and re-asserts, on behalf of all of the people of the community of Scotland, the inalienable human rights and fundamental freedoms that are the common inheritance of all members of humanity; recalls the particular importance to the Parliament, through its founding statute, its founding principles and in all aspects of its day-to-day work, of human rights in general and of the European Convention on Human Rights in particular; acknowledges the constitutional responsibility of the Parliament to uphold the principles and values expressed in the convention and to respect, protect and realise the rights and freedoms that it enumerates; further acknowledges the importance of that work not only in relation to Scotland, but also in establishing and maintaining standards of best practice, which provide a benchmark for human rights elsewhere in the world; expresses its confidence in, and support for, the Human Rights Act 1998 as a successful and effective implementation of the convention in domestic law, and believes that the principles and values that inform the convention, the rights and freedoms that it enumerates and the Acts that incorporate it into law, should be a source of unity and consensus across the whole of society and should enjoy the unequivocal backing of all who are committed to upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”
- Information on the STUC parallel event, to which the Lecture will be streamed, can be found at http://www.stuc.org.uk/
- To watch the Lecture live from other locations go to http://www.gla.ac.uk/events/reid/
As part of its campaign against the Trade Union Bill, the STUC is organising an event on 24th November at 6.30pm which will livestream the First Minister’s Lecture ‘Worker’s Rights are Human Rights’ followed by a Panel Discussion. The venue is the STUC, 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow G3 6NG.
A video which outlines the issues and promotes the lecture is now available https://youtu.be/lyPx84fiADQ
For more information and to register open STUC event
The 3rd Annual Jimmy Reid Memorial Lecture “WORKERS’ RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS” will be delivered by Rt. Hon. Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister of Scotland. The meeting will be chaired by Grahame Smith, General Secretary of the STUC.
Tuesday 24 November at 6.30pm in the University of Glasgow G12 8QQ
Doors open from 5.30pm.
Free entry is by ticket only.
The tickets had been allocated within 24 hours and a waitlist has been operating. Some more are now available online at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/workers-rights-are-human-rights-nicola-sturgeon-delivers-memorial-lecture-tickets-19212546243
In honour of workers’ leader Jimmy Reid, Nicola Sturgeon will address the issue of why workers’ rights are human rights and how this can be used in defence against the Tory Government’s attacks on workers’ economic, political and social rights in Scotland. The First Minister and guests will be welcomed by the Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anton Muscatelli. Following the speech, there will be a question and answer session. Our Director; Professor Gregor Gall will make a short contribution on our work programme to conclude the event. The Foundation has just published a policy paper on this issue, available at our website.
Jimmy Reid was installed as elected Rector of the University in the Bute Hall in 1972, where he made his famous “The rat race is for rats” speech. A souvenir programme will be available containing the speech. His archives and those of the UCS Work-in are maintained by the University and some will be on display prior to the Lecture. We are grateful to the University for their assistance in organising the Lecture.
The Jimmy Reid Foundation today publishes a major new critique of government handling of the Scottish economy in terms of the critical component of trade and development.
Written by renown independent economist/statistician, Margaret Cuthbert and entitled ‘Growing the Scottish Economy: is Scotland well served on international trade and development?’, the paper casts grave doubt upon the Scottish Government’s ability to increase competitiveness and tackle inequality when the data needed to assess how well the Scottish economy is performing in trade and development is so woefully incomplete and inaccurate.
The findings of this paper are:
- There has been a fundamental failure of the UK and Scottish governments in the collection, collation, and analysis of trade statistics for Scotland.
- Existing data on trade and development is unjustifiably time-lagged, does not cover all sectors, is sketchy on sectors that are covered, and is based upon low return rates from respondents.
- It is difficult to have much confidence in the data. Yet the agencies like Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International present themselves as providing excellent value for money in gather this poor quality data.
- Without a timely good quality data on how well Scotland is performing on trade; without an analysis of trends; and without connections being made between trade patterns and trends in the economy, it is difficult, if not impossible, to see how any government can devise, monitor, and evaluate the trade part of an economic strategy.
- With further devolution under the Smith Commission, these matters will only become more pressing as the Scottish Government becomes more responsible for managing Scotland’s economy.
- Recommendations for change are made including the way data is gathered and when.
.Margaret Cuthbert commented: ‘Without good data, economic strategies can end up as ‘wish lists’ and can actually harm the economy. The effect of past strategies in Scotland cannot be adequately scrutinised to determine whether or why they were successful and cost efficient, or why they failed. We fool ourselves about our economic strategy without knowledge based upon analysis of the facts’.
She continued, saying ‘My conclusion is that unless there is a radical change in attitude, in systems, and in working methods by government and government agencies, Scotland will be seriously hampered in improving trade performance, and in particular, in trade helping to make substantive inroads into austerity and into improving economic growth’.
A copy of the Paper is attached. Trade and development
In this latest policy paper Carole Ewart urges us to use international human rights standards to create a fairer Scotland.
- Human rights have not realised their potential to protect individual rights e.g. respect for family life and collective rights e.g. to belong to a trade union.
- Successive governments, or part of them, have marginalised human rights which means that public support for human rights is worryingly low. Civil society, in particular unions, have an important role to play in reversing this view by identifying the relevance of human rights to workers’ everyday lives and acknowledging their importance in delivering a fair Scotland and UK. For example using human rights arguments in the public procurement process.
- The UK Government seems to be adopting an anti-human rights position in respect of trade union rights eg voting thresholds and abolishing ‘check off’. The Scottish Government, which must to apply the HRA can be more proactive with legislation and subordinate legislation, guidance etc. to actively support human rights across devolved functions.
- Upholding our human rights, contradicts the free market economic philosophy of the UK government. However our Government has inherited an undertaking to the UN, that it will ‘progressively deliver’ to the ‘maximum extent of available resources’ defined economic and social rights eg the right to an adequate standard of living. Human rights compliance should, therefore, be central to the economic strategy which businesses operate in, underpinned by a philosophy that respecting rights equates with business success. The UN’s framework on business and human rights allows our government’s economic strategy to fit a globally recognised model.
- For ‘rights holders’, there is a lot of catching up to do in terms of building the knowledge base and skill application. For example by changing the terminology from an “ask” to an assertion of specific rights to the duty bearer eg a local authority or health board. And an understanding by the duty bearer that they must act and if not there is a reasonable expectation that the human right will be enforced.
- We need to be more astute in linking human rights with policy and legislative opportunities, eg in the forthcoming social justice consultation, the Community Empowerment Act 2015 and its implementation.
- Civil society and trade unions should build the knowledge and skills of workers and empower them to assert and enforce their human rights.
- Consideration should be given as to what can be achieved within the devolved settlement to expand human rights to include worker’s rights as defined in the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). This could begin immediately, include new powers via the Scotland Bill and target manifestos for the Holyrood elections in May 2016.
- Unions should offer evidence to the UN on the application of ICESCR in the UK, during the formal Hearing process 2015 – 2016, on how workers do not equally enjoy economic and social rights which results in measurable disadvantage to them and their families.
- Poverty is a menace which needs to be addressed by structural reforms in our economy and there is an opportunity to deliver that change by contributing to the Scottish Government’s baseline research on ‘business and human rights’.
The full paper is available Workers Rights are Human Rights 10th Aug 2015
Carole Ewart argues human rights are the framework for a fair society
A child witness project in Canada evaluated its service after ten years. Respondents, by this time adults, were asked which part of the service had the biggest impact and one replied the worker handing her a tissue when she was crying in the witness box. Until the system was reformed to be human rights compliant for both victims and the accused such behaviour would have been interpreted as coaching the witness and, therefore, forbidden. Enabling the child to have dignity and respect when giving evidence against her abuser, who had violated her human rights, was crucial to the successful delivery of the service.
This good news story about the impact of human rights contrasts with its sustained demonization by politicians and some media, portrayed as friend only to the prisoner, terrorist and generally undeserving. That strategy contradicts international law which states that human rights are to be equally enjoyed and entitle each of us to basic economic, social, cultural, civil, political and environmental rights from which we realise our dignity as individuals.
The right to a decent standard of living, the right to social insurance, the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health are to be progressively realised and to the maximum extent of Britain’s available resources. Collective rights are also set out such as the right to join a union so that one’s interests are represented. These internationally agreed human rights sit uncomfortably with the British Government’s austerity strategy. The political gain in marginalising an asset and making it a liability is that the Westminster government can use its power to promote an ideology rather than being constrained in practice by international human rights standards.
Ensuring human rights principles and standards are respected and promoted in the design, delivery and funding of public services will re-balance power between people and government, and deliver a more just and fair society. People can assert their rights and the government, via public sector agencies, has a duty to proactively deliver those. Unsurprisingly, politicians have invested so much effort into convincing us that human rights are the problem rather than the solution to the injustices that face too many people in our rich nation.
The Labour Government was guilty of this tactic too and was criticised by MPs, as far back as 2010, for not delivering on the very Act it introduced in 1998: ‘The Government is, of course, to be commended for introducing the Human Rights Act; but too often subsequently there has been a lack of leadership to use the Act to its full potential, ensure that public bodies promote human rights as well as do the minimum necessary to comply with the legislation’ (House of Commons House of Lords Joint Committee on Human Rights Paragraph 20, 2010).
Now the Conservative Government thinks it can get away with abolishing the Human Rights Act and maybe even withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights. Instead of Russia initiating a fracture in compliance with European human rights standards and remedies, it could actually be Britain.
How mortifying, but we need to park the emotion and focus upon mounting an effective and inclusive campaign of opposition and therein lies the problem. Domestic human rights activism has been notoriously weak in Scotland and possibly that is part of the political calculation that ultimately there will be no broad coalition of sustained action in support of human rights. A strong campaign needs people and influential organisations who are persuaded of the relevance of human rights to everyday problems.
Public support is thin on the ground as British-wide polling by the Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF, http://www.equally-ours.org.uk/) showed those who are pro-human rights make up 22% of the populace; those who are conflicted are 41%, uninterested 11% and anti 26%. The sample size from Scotland, although small, confirms similar views although polling was done before the referendum and the general election. Contradicting the propaganda that human rights are bad as well as persuading people that not only should human rights be equally enjoyed but that they are relevant is a bit of a mountain to climb in a comparatively short time. So we need some big wins and quickly.
There needs to be knowledge building and sharing using respected institutions. For example, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2001 pointed out that poverty is: ‘a global phenomenon experienced in varying degrees by all States … While the common theme underlying poor peoples’ experiences is one of powerlessness, human rights can empower individuals and communities. The challenge is to connect the powerless with the empowering potential of human rights. Although human rights are not a panacea, they can help to equalize the distribution and exercise of power within and between societies’.
More recently, the UN recognised that in the global economy there is a role for private companies to adopt a ‘respect, protect and remedy framework on human rights within their sphere of influence’. No longer is it just up to governments to deliver on human rights. The UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on business and human rights have influenced the Scottish Government which is in the process of commissioning a baseline survey to develop an action plan on business and human rights so that companies based in Scotland comply domestically and in their work globally. That may prove challenging to the political ideology on austerity in Britain.
Working family tax credit is being culled as the Tory Government rolls out delivery of its manifesto promise to cut a further £12bn from the welfare bill. This ‘welfare’ payment is paid to the in-work poor so reductions in tax credits are likely to lead to increased child and family poverty. Such actions are regressive which contradicts international human rights obligations.
According to research from Citizens UK, our low pay culture is costing tax payers £11 billion per year. Too many people are in work but poor. Over 5.24m people in Britain, 22% of all employees, are earning less than the Living Wage (http://www.citizensuk.org/taxpayer). The research shows some of the UK’s largest retailers businesses are benefiting a low wage strategy with Tesco paying £519m in tax but receiving £364m in public subsidy for its 209,000 low-paid workers.
Ultimately, we need to give effect to the new politics in Scotland and work effectively with likeminded people including sympathetic Conservatives. A cross-party coalition working with unions and civil society in support of the Human Rights Act is possible and tests us to think differently about how to achieve the best results using our public services. Mainstreaming human rights in Scotland will rebalance the power relationships between government and people, and between businesses and workers to make our democracy stronger and poverty a thing of the past. That does not need to be a party political issue.
Carole Ewart is a public policy and human rights consultant. She is also a member of the Jimmy Reid Foundation project board and, in this connection, will shortly be publishing a major paper on the issues of workers’ rights as human rights for the Foundation. For more information on human rights in Scotland see https://hrcscotland.wordpress.com/
The Barnett Formula under the Smith Reforms is examined by Dr Jim Cuthbert in a paper for the Fraser of Allander Institute. Building on previous work, it turns out that both relative population growth, and the relative rate of growth in the relevant tax base between England and Scotland, will play an important part in determining the behaviour of the Barnett formula as modified by the Smith Commission proposals.
In particular, the modelling indicates the potential for the emergence of dynamic effects, in which relative population growth could interact with growth in the tax base, in a way which could adversely affect Scotland.
The Jimmy Reid Foundation has published a fresh analysis of the Smith Commission proposals. CuthbertJRFSmithPaperMay2015
The paper, ‘Smith Commission: why the economic and fiscal arrangements need to be changed’, by renowned independent economists, Jim Cuthbert and Margaret Cuthbert provides a critique of both the economic and fiscal arrangements recommended by the Smith Commission and the proposals for implementing these recommendations set out by the Westminster government.
- The income tax base is very different between Scotland and rUK. This means income tax is an unsuitable choice as the primary vehicle for giving the Scottish parliament greater fiscal responsibility.
- There is no adequate solution to what we have called the ‘gearing problem’, namely, the problem that arises when changes in rUK in a tax which is devolved to Scotland are allowed to impact on reserved services: (that is, services, like defence, which are for the UK as a whole.)
- The Scottish Government is being given responsibility for living within its tax resources, without being given adequate powers to grow the economy, and hence its tax base.
- The technical arrangements surrounding the operation of the new system are unduly complex, and are unlikely to be able to be operated in an open and satisfactory fashion.
- Implementation of the Smith proposals will weaken the mechanisms for determining fiscal transfers which are a necessary part of the operation of a successful monetary union.
- A Scottish government operating under the proposed reforms will find itself severely constrained in its freedom of action, with the danger of Scotland finding itself locked into a self-perpetuating cycle of economic decline.
In terms of solutions, the Cuthbert’s argue the Smith Commission proposals will not be workable unless further reform is carried out in three main areas:
1. Recognition that fundamental constitutional change is required, not just in Scotland, but at Westminster. The paper argues satisfactory implementation of Smith depends on implementing a properly federal system at UK level.
2. Scotland requires much greater powers if it is to have a chance of making a success of increased fiscal responsibility. These powers are required in three main areas of a) more taxation; b) more economic powers; and c) ability to exploit and benefit from its major natural resources.
3. Technical problems surrounding the implementation of the Smith proposals need to be tackled. No satisfactory solution can be found without a radical simplification of the whole approach but such a simplification would only be possible under a federal approach.
Jim and Margaret Cuthbert commented: ‘The paper is of particular importance just now, when the new Conservative Government is putting forward its proposals and timetable for implementing the Smith recommendations: and when the SNP will be seeking to use its increased muscle at Westminster to modify the proposals to give Scotland greater powers’.
They continued: ‘The debates about implementation and modification have to be informed by a proper understanding of the problems inherent in Smith, some of which are highly technical, but have profound consequences. What our paper does is to provide a thorough analysis of the problems – as well as putting forward solutions’.
Glasgow University holds the personal papers of Jimmy Reid. The full reference for the collection is: University of Glasgow Archive Services, Papers of James Reid, GB0248 DC455
The catalogue for the Jimmy Reid collection is available online here:
Scroll down in the right-hand pane to browse through the collection in reference order, or click on the folders and links in the left-hand pane to jump to particular sections.
To arrange an appointment, please use the webform here:
and a campus map showing the archive location at 13 Thurso Street is here:
For further information contact:
University of Glasgow
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Tel: +44 (0)141 330 5515
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