Unite has ramped up calls for employment laws to be devolved to Scotland, with Sharon Graham, the union’s General Secretary, warning that Labour cannot be trusted not to backtrack further on workers rights. 

The union — one of Labour's biggest donors — tabled a motion at the Trade Union Congress in Liverpool demanding powers be transferred to Holyrood. 

It was backed overwhelmingly on Monday afternoon, with trade unions from across the UK voting in favour of adopting the proposal. 

Last month, Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, ruled out calls for further devolution, saying it would be unnecessary as the party’s “new deal” for workers would see employment law across the whole of the United Kingdom “uplifted and better.” 

However, the party has partially rowed back on some of the initial policies in that new deal. 

In a bid to tackle gig economy abuse, Labour had been planning to create a single “worker” status for all but the genuinely self-employed.

READ MORE: 'Labour's back door shenanigans make a good case for devolved rights'

This would ensure the same rights for everyone regardless of sector, wage or type of contract.

But the party’s National Policy Forum said they would instead consult on this policy after entering government. 

They also tweaked their “day one” proposals on sick pay, parental leave and unfair dismissal.

Out of all Labour’s trade union backers, only Unite withheld its support at the National Policy Forum, the party's process for forming its next manifesto.Writing in The Herald, Ms Graham said the backtracking had “made the argument to devolve employment rights to Scotland even more compelling.”

She said: “I don’t say this with any great pleasure, but the recent rowbacks on employment rights at Labour’s policy forum have been on the cards for a while. 

“The much heralded, ‘salmon and scrambled egg’ wooing of big business, has without doubt led to some major language changes from what was written in Labour’s New Deal for working people. 

“And as the devil is always in the detail, it can’t just be brushed under the carpet.”

Ms Graham said: “Unfortunately, if pandering to the more reactionary elements of the business lobby remains the direction of travel for Labour, we can expect further rowbacks. 

“If we are not careful this will only accelerate, if, and when they take power.” 

She added: “All of these back door shenanigans have made the argument for devolving employment rights to Scotland even stronger today than it was a month ago. 

“Just because Labour in Westminster backslides over workers’ rights, should the Scottish people be prevented from choosing a different path? 

“Particularly if Labour opposition comes from a place of dogmatic hostility rather than rational argument?

“By undermining their own position, Labour risks positioning itself as being far from serious when it comes to real reform at the workplace. As well as leaving plenty of questions to answer, their backtracking has now made the demand for devolution of employment rights all the more compelling.”

READ MORE: China spy row: MPs told not to name arrested aide

Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said the party’s New Deal for Working People would "strengthen workers’ rights right across the UK and we will deliver it within the first 100 days." 

He pointed to a speech made on Monday morning by Paul Nowak, the new leader of the TUC, calling on the trade union movement to unite behind Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at the next general election to "kick this rotten government out".

The Herald:

Mr Murray told The Herald: “It is fantastic to see our game-changing plans being warmly welcomed at the TUC conference.

“These transformative plans will end the scourge of exploitative zero hour contracts, extend sick pay, ban fire and rehire, ensure the minimum wage is actually enough to live off and more.

“We will always look at how devolved powers can be used to improve pay and conditions for workers, but the first priority of the next Labour government will be strengthening workers’ rights for the entire country.”

STUC General Secretary Roz Foyer welcomed the TUC's support for the Unite motion calling for the devolution of employment law to Scotland.

She told the Daily Record: "It’s clear, especially to any incoming UK Labour Government, that the voices of workers across the country now support the Scottish Parliament having full autonomy over labour and employment rights.

"A guaranteed minimum floor of workers’ rights across the UK is a prudent first step to achieve this.

"We would expect both UK and Scottish Labour politicians to entrench and build on these rights within both parliaments, ensuring the Scottish Parliament is empowered whilst giving every worker in every workplace a guaranteed standard of rights from day one of any future UK Labour Government."

First Minister Humza Yousaf also welcomed the vote. 

"STUC and TUC are absolutely right," he tweeted. "I am old enough to remember when Labour in Scotland also supported the devolution of employment law to Scotland. That was until Head Office came up here to put Scottish Labour back in their place."


READ MORE: Scot says he is 'completely innocent' after arrest on suspicion of spying for China

Unite has been fiercely critical of Sir Keir in recent days.

Writing in The Times over the weekend, Ms Graham argued the party leader was  "unwilling to give Britain the reboot it needs".

Asked about the comment, Sir Keir told reporters at an east London school: “The Labour Party is absolutely focused on the future, not the past, and the challenges that we will inherit if we’re privileged enough to go into government.

“The central challenge will be growing the economy. Within that is dignity and respect for working people in their working environment.”

Asked how he plans to keep unions on side, Starmer said: “The Labour Party and the trade unions have had a long relationship together and we had a big session at the beginning of the summer where we agreed policy going forward.

“So what you’ll see here is a lot of common ground as we go towards what we know will be really huge challenges.”