Unite Scotland has today (17 March) demanded a review of picketing restrictions in Scotland following the dispersal of workers involved in industrial action at SAICA Packaging UK in Edinburgh.

Workers involved in a peaceful picket at the company’s Edinburgh site were dispersed this morning by Police Scotland after threats of fines and further ‘punishment’ for anyone orchestrating the dispute. 

Unite Scotland has criticised the actions after conforming to all the statutory requirements with regard to the pandemic and informing Police Scotland in advance as to the commencement of the strike and no objections were raised at that time. 

The trade union has also written to the Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, demanding that the Scottish Government and Police Scotland adopt the same approach being applied to workers in England who have been afforded picketing rights.  

Unite members at SAICA Packaging UK based at Edinburgh and Milngavie began an official overtime ban on 14 March with 24-hour stoppages to follow each Wednesday starting from today (17 March 2021).   The industrial action follows a decision by the company to detrimentally vary the contracts of Unite members as they relocate to the new Livingston site in 2022. 

Unite Scottish Secretary, Pat Rafferty: “It goes without saying that Unite will do everything possible to mitigate the potential spreading of Coronavirus. Our members’ safety and that of the general public is our priority. However, the lack of legal protection for workers involved in a lawful industrial dispute like SAICA is plainly unfair. We have taken the step to write to the Justice Secretary to ensure there is clarity in the law and consistency in the approach by Police Scotland to workers picketing. There is a pick and mix approach to this by the authorities which is resulting in some workers being threatened with fines and being denied their basic human rights.”  

Assistant General Secretary Howard Beckett said: “The right to picket peacefully and with due consideration to Covid restrictions is a basic human right but one we recently had to fight for and win in England through Judicial Review.  We will not hesitate to also do so in Scotland if the regulations are not revised to allow our members to take part in all aspects of democratic and lawful industrial action.”