Business warning over battle for workers’ rights

Humza Yousaf and Anas Sarwar will address the STUC in Dundee

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar will this week pledge to strengthen workers’ rights as business leaders express concern over the implications of the party’s policies.

Both Mr Sarwar and SNP leader Humza Yousaf will seek to win the hearts and minds of “working people” when they address delegates at the Scottish Trades Union Congress in Dundee.

However, promises to strengthen the rights of employees have prompted business leaders to warn of the damage that such proposals could inflict.

Archie Norman, chairman of Marks & Spencer, has voiced concerns over the potential consequences of a Labour election victory, cautioning that stronger workers’ rights could deter investment in the UK.

Mr Sarwar will today say that Labour’s New Deal for Working People will scrap exploitative zero-hour contracts, end fire and re-hire, tear up the Tories’ anti-strike laws, expand sick pay and employment rights, and deliver a real living wage.

“The need for a government on the side of working people could not be clearer and that is what is on offer at this election whenever the Tories pluck up the nerve to call it,” he will tell trades unionists in Dundee.

Mr Yousaf will make his own bid for the workers’ vote tomorrow by saying: “The upcoming general election is going to be a choice of values – it is about who will stand by their principles, and stand by the interests of working people and of Scotland.

“In my first year in office, I am proud to have delivered progressive taxation in Scotland, a direct ask of the STUC – allowing us to invest more in public services, tackle poverty and support a just climate transition.”

Business leaders are concerned that creating more rights for workers need to be supported by policies that will encourage investment and drive up productivity.

Mr Norman told the Telegraph: “Any incoming government should consider carefully whether a package that reduces flexibility, makes it more costly to hire people, and seeks to bring unions back into the workplace will help attract new investment.

“Of course there are exceptions, but in a knowledge-based economy most businesses are very focused on building motivated, engaged workforces.”

Figures like Rupert Soames, president of the CBI, have cautioned against adopting an overly stringent employment model.  Alex Baldock of Currys has warned that Labour’s proposals could potentially hinder business flexibility and investment.

Labour is working with key figures in the City, including former Bank of England governor Mark Carney, to help attract the vote of business leaders and unlock investment. 

The two party leaders go head-to-head in Dundee against declining support from voters.

In new research by Norstat, just 29% of people who voted for the nationalists at the last general election believe Mr Yousaf is doing a good job, compared with 36% who think he has been poor in office, while the rest are either neutral or unsure.

Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, saw his rating fall by 10 points to -38.

There was also a dip in enthusiasm for both UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Mr Sarwar, whose popularity dropped by 13 points and 14 points respectively.

See also

Yousaf to defend tax regime and challenge Labour

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