Trade unions have this week ramped up in a big way the drive to have powers over employment rights devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Unions across the UK backed such a move on Monday. They did so by passing a motion to this effect put to the Trades Union Congress by Unite, which has expressed misgivings about what it perceives as “row backs” by Labour on pledges about what it would do on the employment rights front if it wins the next general election.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner showed no sign of being swayed at all by this motion when she addressed the TUC in Liverpool on Tuesday, making no mention of devolving employment law to Scotland while declaring the party’s “new deal for working people” would mean “work will finally pay, rights will be properly enforced, and, crucially, it will strengthen the role of trade unions in our society”.

We are at a most interesting juncture.

You would imagine Labour would be far better than the Conservatives when it comes to employment rights.

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And you would hope Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s recent conversion to Brexit would not diminish that general premise, even though leaving the European Union seems to be viewed by many Leavers as an opportunity, among other grim things, to dismantle employment rights further.

However, the specifics matter as well.

And Unite general secretary Sharon Graham has concerns about what has been happening with Labour on the employment law front, declaring “their backtracking has now made the demand for devolution of employment rights all the more compelling”.

Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf declared he was “old enough to remember when Labour in Scotland also supported the devolution of employment law to Scotland”.

And Scottish Trades Union Congress general secretary Roz Foyer said: “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.”

Ms Graham wrote in The Herald on Monday: “Less than six weeks ago Angela Rayner boldly outlined Labour’s opposition to devolved employment rights for Scotland, by saying: ‘I want employment law across the whole of the United Kingdom to be uplifted and better. That's why we've got a new deal for working people.’.

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“For some that was good enough. Commitments such as banning zero hours and fire and rehire and changing the definition of a worker to give more people the benefit of full employment rights. Plus, a simple process for unions to talk to workers when at work, as well as a much friendlier route to collective bargaining for the unorganised, all gave grounds for optimism.”

Ms Graham added: "But in a classic example of political statements not lasting until teatime, the gist of what Angela said has already been undermined.

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

Ms Graham declared that “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” document.

She added: “From reducing the scope of proposals to encourage more sector-level collective bargaining between unions and employers, to the watering down of a basic commitment to give every worker equal access to employment rights, things have changed and not for the better.”

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The Scottish Government has shown itself to take employment conditions very seriously indeed.

“Fair work” has been a central plank of its policymaking, in the context of the powers that it does have on economic matters.

Its tone on this front has been reassuring. Its actions have included promotion of payment of the “real living wage”.

In a more general sense, and taking a longer-term view of things, Scottish governments could over years and decades certainly use powers over employment rights, if these were granted by Westminster, to make the nation an even more attractive place for people to live and work.

The continuing strength of foreign direct investment into Scotland signals that the current administration’s focus on “fair work” has certainly not spooked employers.

Of course, while some companies only pay lip service to the notion of looking after their staff, many have come to recognise the financial as well as reputational benefits of treating their employees well.

A loyal workforce that is treated well will be motivated to deliver for the employer. And, in these days of acute skills and labour shortages exacerbated by Brexit, companies which treat employees well will be best placed to attract the best talent.

Similarly in a broader context, if Scotland were seen to be a place which ensured good employment rights, it should be able to thrive by attracting more people to live and work in the country.

The delivery of such forward-thinking policies could also help raise or at least protect the employment rights of workers throughout the UK, albeit this would not be the case if the Tories were in power at Westminster given their alarming track record on this front.

Ms Graham, Ms Foyer and trade unions across the UK are spot on in supporting devolution of employment rights to the Scottish Parliament. Whether it will ever happen is quite another matter, but it is something which could be done easily if there were the political will, and it makes perfect sense.