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SNP Midlothian Council leader in ‘outrageous and worrying’ attempt to block GMB union

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THE leadership of an SNP-controlled council tried to block a trade union from representing workers in a move branded “outrageous and worrying”.

Midlothian Council leader Catherine Johnstone attempted to block bosses at the local authority from recognising the GMB union during a meeting on Tuesday.

The Sunday Post understands a rival trade union, Unison, had asked the council leadership to intervene after a row over GMB poaching its members.

Councillor Johnstone opposed a motion for the council to ‘immediately provide full recognition rights to GMB Scotland, enabling the trade union to represent and negotiate on behalf of its members.’

The motion was passed by a majority of twelve to six, with the support of Labour, Green, Independent and two SNP councillors, who are not standing for re-election at the local government elections in May.

The Midlothian branch of Unison is understood to have written to SNP councillors alleging the GMB was taking a “hostile approach to our unions which is not welcome”.

We attempted to contact Councillor Johnstone and Unison for a comment but neither replied to our requests.

GMB Scotland Organiser Barry Fletcher accused the SNP, a party with “such strength in numbers” across Scotland, of trying to set “a dangerous precedent”.

He said: “In attempting to block recognition for GMB Scotland, the leader of the council is saying to local workers that the SNP only wants to deal with trade unions that aren’t going to rock the boat.

“Councillor Johnstone and the SNP would do well to remember that it is for workers themselves to determine their trade union representation, not political parties, and her intervention on Tuesday was nothing short of outrageous.

“More broadly, the fact that elected representatives of a political party with such strength in numbers across all levels of Scottish political life should even consider, let alone attempt, to suppress a basic democratic right is worrying indeed.

“Our priority is to defend the interests of our members and ensure they receive the proper recognition and reward for their skills and work – full recognition rights allows us to do just that and we thank the majority of councillors for doing the right thing.

“However, the SNP tried to set a dangerous precedent and we will be writing to the leader of Midlothian Council and the Scottish Government’s Minister for Local Government seeking assurances that this sorry episode won’t be repeated.”

The council meeting discussion can be viewed here, from 24 minutes: http://midlothian.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/280286/start_time/1430000