Trade union says ‘absolutely unclear’ if Scottish Government can enforce protection for workers


Unite, Scotland’s leading trade union, has today (Friday 13 January) reacted to the announcement that there were two successful bids in the nation to create new Green Freeports by demanding clarity over workers’ and trade union rights.


Forth Ports’ Firth of Forth bid, which covers Edinburgh Airport Grangemouth, Leith, and Rosyth, and the Cromarty Firth bid in the Highlands were the successful bids.


Unite has requested an urgent meeting with the Scottish Government following today’s announcement highlighting a number of major concerns surrounding the enforcement of employment and collective bargaining rights with 75,000 jobs projected to be created through the two Freeport zones.


Unite is demanding guarantees from the Scottish Government that any economic benefits to employers and supply chains must come with protections for workers. Freeports must not be able to attack workers’ rights, allow undercutting of conditions or pay, or divide regions or industrial sectors across the country (see notes to editor).


The trade union believes that there is currently minimal legal powers for the Scottish Government to enforce the Real Living Wage in the zones or to enable access for trade unions to collectively bargain on behalf of the workers.


Unite Scottish Secretary, Pat Rafferty, said: “It remains absolutely unclear if the Scottish Government’s Greenports proposal will be legally binding in Scotland particularly over enforcing the Real Living Wage. We have zero clarity on whether trade unions will be able to access and organise workers operating within the zones, and to bargain with employers over pay, terms and conditions.”


The potential creation of 75,000 jobs at face value appears to be a welcome development but at what cost will this come to workers, local businesses and other communities who could be displaced or badly hit. Instead of the so-called levelling-up mantra we could be levelling the ground and creating an employer free-for-all.”


Notes to Editors

Unite is clear, green ports/Freeports must not be used as a way to attack workers’ rights, allow undercutting of conditions or pay, by-pass legislation protecting workers health and safety or stoke division between industrial sectors and employers which will then lead to a race to the bottom. 

Green ports/Freeports must therefore:

  • Ensure that any economic benefits to employers and supply chains come with protections for workers;
  • Create quality well paid jobs utilising local skills and local workers wherever possible;
  • Develop workplace skills through investment, including quality apprenticeships;
  • Support direct employment, prohibit zero hours contracts or attempt to disguise the employment status of workers;
  • Recognise trade unions and respect all collective bargaining agreements and guarantees against blacklisting on construction sites;
  • Abide by all UK Health and Safety and Working Time legislation and regulations;
  • Include local content clauses ensuring economic benefits to the community in which they operate;
  • Abide by all UK environmental legislation and regulations;
  • Ensure all products developed in Freeport areas are manufactured within (adhering to) relevant regulations and meet UK relevant safety standards and product safety law;
  • Permit the use of roving safety representatives in any unorganised workplaces within any Scottish green ports.