The National:

THE trade union movement took Scotland by storm in 2023, with more disputes attracting public attention, and more branches showing the strength of collective action.

As a new year begins, we decided to take a look at some of the biggest moments and successes in the trade union movement over the last 12 months.

1. RMT dispute resolved

Starting off strong, the 18-month-long dispute between the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and the government finally reached a resolution at the end of November.

Members voted overwhelmingly to end the dispute over pay and working conditions, which saw train strikes happen across the country.

The dispute sparked a revival in media reporting on trade union news, as RMT general secretary Mick Lynch (below) became a recognisable face of the trade union movement.

The National: Mick LynchCommenting on the dispute being resolved, Lynch said: “Our members have spoken in huge numbers to accept this offer and I want to congratulate them on their steadfastness in this long industrial campaign.

“We will be negotiating further with the train operators over reforms they want to see, and we will never shy away from vigorously defending our members’ terms and conditions, now or in the future.

“This campaign shows that sustained strike action and unity gets results and our members should be proud of the role they have played in securing this deal.”

2. An end to industrial action in Scotland’s schools

School strikes across Scotland came to an end as three unions voted to accept a new pay offer.

Workers represented by the Unison, GMB and Unite trade unions all took part in industrial action.

Unite and GMB members voted to accept a new pay deal, whilst Unison members continued to strike until a new deal was reached with local government body Cosla.

The offer accepted by Unison had various improvements on previous rejected offers, including a timetable for all local government staff to be paid a minimum of £15 per hour by 2025 and the full deal being backdated to April 2023.

Unison Scotland’s head of local government, Johanna Baxter (below) said: “This deal is long overdue and was hard fought for by Unison members.

The National: Johanna Baxter"It was Unison members who stood on picket lines to fight for this improved deal. It was Unison negotiators who brokered it. And it will be Unison that fights to ensure that all of the commitments it contains are delivered in full."

3. Union challenges cuts to modern languages department

The modern languages department at Aberdeen University has faced threats of being axed by senior management.

Yet members of the University College Union (UCU) have been at the forefront of challenging the proposals, holding a rally to show their support for staff and students at risk as a result of the cuts.

The National: The university has opened a consultation into the future of the modern languages departmentSince the rally, the university’s court - the governing body at the university - said joint honours degree programmes would continue, however single honour programmes would be scrapped.

This means that around half of staff remain at risk of redundancy, as a consultation is ongoing into the future of the department.

The work of UCU is far from over here - but it remains clear that workers have played a huge role in saving the language’s department, which includes the provision of Gaelic.

4. No redundancies at City of Glasgow College

A dispute which began over compulsory redundancies, cuts to teaching time, workload increases and the ending of fixed term contracts was resolved at the City of Glasgow College in December.The National: Picket at the City of Glasgow College City Campus on Tuesday 30An overwhelming 86% of members at the Educational Institute of Scotland – Further Education Lecturers Association (EIS-FELA) backed the resolution.

The deal means that no compulsory redundancies will take place, and staff who were previously made redundant will be offered the opportunity to return or to receive voluntary severance.

Commenting, EIS general secretary Andrea Bradley said: “It has been a long and difficult struggle which has taken its toll on lecturers and students alike, but it was a price worth paying to fight job and course cuts and to protect education for today’s and tomorrow’s students at the college.”

5. Landmark union agreement in hospitality sector

The Stand Comedy club in Edinburgh signed a voluntary recognition agreement with Unite, the first of its kind in the hospitality sector.

A voluntary recognition agreement is when a union reaches out to an employer to be recognised.

This means that, if agreed, the employer must listen to any concerns raised by the union and must engage with union workers in discussions around working conditions.

One staff member working in the Edinburgh club praised the agreement, adding that they were “thankful to be able to champion the voices of the staff from within the company”, and that “the terms of our contracts reflect the industry’s best practices”.

The National: Staff at The Stand Comedy Club have signed a voluntary recognition agreement with managementThe agreement between Unite and The Stand could also kickstart the unionisation of other hospitality venues in Scotland.

Commenting on the agreement, The Stand’s managing director Mike Jones said: “The Stand has always been a pro-union employer.

“We’re pleased to become the first live entertainment venue to enter into a voluntary recognition agreement with Unite, formalising our relationship and establishing a framework for partnership going forward.

“It will ensure that the staff will continue to benefit from the best terms and conditions in the hospitality sector.”