The Fair Work Convention has recently published its ‘Fair Work Manifesto for Scotland’ urging all political parties as well as employers, unions, public agencies and civil society organisations to commit to delivering a Fair Work Nation by 2025.

Scotland’s Fair Work Convention has urged a greater focus and activity by government, employers and trade unions to implementing and progressing fair work if Scotland is to achieve this ambition within the next four years. The convention is calling for all parties to put fair work at the heart of their manifestos and proposes some urgent steps needed to make fair work a reality by the end of the next Parliament.

In the recently published ‘Fair Work in Scotland’ report, the Convention found that while improvements have been made on fair work, faster progress is needed if Scotland is to hit its target of being a leading Fair Work Nation by 2025. It also found that disabled workers, ethnic minorities, women and young workers often experience poorer work outcomes and are often more heavily concentrated in precarious and low paid work.  The report also showed that there was significant variation by sector, with early evidence suggesting that the COVID-19 only widens the divide.

The Convention’s vision is that, by 2025, people in Scotland will have a world-leading working life where fair work drives success, wellbeing and prosperity for individuals, businesses, organisations and society. This commitment gained party wide support and was adopted by the Scottish Government  when it was launched as part of the Convention’s Fair Work Framework in 2016. Now with 2025 being within the next parliamentary session urgent action is needed to make this a reality.  

Fair work plays a crucial role in achieving inclusive growth, more innovative and productive workplaces and eradicating in-work poverty. The Convention is firmly of the view that properly embedding fair work principles will also help Scotland respond to the challenges caused by the current pandemic as well as other issues around aging, climate change, automation, EU Exit and changes in patterns of global trade.  It is therefore essential that all parties in Scotland build fair work into their plans for recovery.  

The Convention has made seven key recommendations within its manifesto that are essential to making progress towards a Fair Work Nation.

  • Creating sector level fair work process that bring employers, unions and policymakers together.
  • Improving the experience of fair work for disabled workers, ethnic minority workers, women, younger workers, older workers and LGBT+ workers.
  • Using the powers of the Parliament to improve the safety net for workers, with a specific focus on sick pay and unemployment support.
  • Making Fair Work a condition of all public funding available, and public contracts awarded, to employers as a means of improving and embedding higher fair work standards;
  • Improving workers’ access to training and the more effective use of their skills;
  • Giving more workers access to ‘voice’ arrangements at work, including union membership and recognition, with a particular focus on young workers and:
  • Improving data quality at a Scottish level around employment relations, protected characteristics, geography and class.   

The Fair Work in Scotland report shows that there is much to be done if Scotland is to meet its vision to be a Fair Work Nation by 2025.  While progress has been made in some areas, the ongoing public health challenges and the economic and social impact of COVID-19 has laid bare much of the unfairness at the heart of our economy and underlined the need for fair work. But it has also increased the challenges we face with many sectors now under a range of ongoing and new pressures.  In the wake of such unprecedented shocks, progress towards achieving fair work is ever more crucial but not guaranteed.

The Scottish Government, employers and unions must all play their part in addressing the longstanding challenges we face.  The need for urgent action is clear and this is a critical time for our economy and for society.

With 2025 being within the next Parliament, all political parties in Scotland should recommit to the fair work agenda and put clear commitments in their manifestos that place fair work at the heart of the nation’s economic recovery, reducing inequality and improving the wellbeing of Scotland’s workers, citizens and communities.

Find out more about the Fair Work Convention.

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