The failure of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to back trade union rights during a visit to the site of the new hospital in Dumfries has been criticised by South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.

The hospital is being built by a consortium led by construction firm Laing O’Rourke who have failed to give unions proper access to the site and are currently in dispute over access with Unite the Union and previously UCATT (who merged with Unite earlier this month)

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth, who has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament on the issue, said, “It is nothing short of a disgrace that when the First Minister visited the site of the new hospital she failed to support workers’ rights. Nicola Sturgeon is more than aware of the issue yet seems to be backing Laing O’Rourke’s refusal to allow trade unions proper access to the construction site. This is a new hospital being built by the Scottish Government at taxpayers expenses and a minimum requirement of any company carrying out this work should be to allow workers proper rights. The First Minister was quick to talk about jobs being created but slow to explain why she doesn’t think those workers should be properly supported by a trade union. Unfortunately, this refusal to back unions is prevalent across the SNP with local SNP MSPs joining with the Tories in failing to so far sign my motion in the Scottish Parliament, despite support from Labour, Lib Dem and Green MSPs”

Unite the union have also slammed the First Minister.

Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “The First Minister can’t claim to be ignorant of the situation at Dumfries. Our predecessor union UCATT has staged demonstrations at the site over the last few months and secured questions on the issue in Parliament.

“It is incredibly disappointing that Scotland’s First Minister can visit this site and praise the contractor for the jobs they have created, without making any mention of their failure to uphold workers’ rights.

“Our members are becoming increasingly concerned about the Scottish Government’s hands-off approach when it comes to major construction projects. As well as the situation at Dumfries, we have had allegations of workers being paid less than the rate for the job at the Queensferry Crossing, and immigration raids there uncovering exploited illegal workers from the Indian sub-continent.

“The Scottish Government needs to make sure that the public purse isn’t used to support companies who exploit workers and try to undermine their trade union rights.”


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