Covid Scotland: Union boss blasts ‘irresponsible’ business call for office workers to return

UNION leaders have labelled a business group “highly irresponsible” for demanding Nicola Sturgeon encourages workers back into offices across Scotland.

CBI Scotland has set out a host of “policy recommendations” ahead of the First Minister’s Programme for Government next week – with the organisation’s director Tracey Black calling for Scots to be allowed to return to offices to “build confidence” in the economic recovery.

The current Scottish Government advice is still for non-essential workers to continue working from home if possible.

Ms Black said that it was important for SNP and Green ministers to be “sending a clear message that it’s safe to go back to work and encouraging individuals to get out and spend money.”

But the general secretary of the STUC union, Roz Foyer, has written a letter to Ms Black, calling on CBI Scotland to rethink its position.

Ms Foyer said: “With such high levels of infection and hospitalisations, it is highly irresponsible to be calling for workers to be back in the office when they can be working from home.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Business leaders warn Nicola Sturgeon vaccine passports risk ruining recovery

“Government research published last month revealed a very high degree of anxiety about returning to work from those in vulnerable categories. It is entirely unacceptable for any such worker to be forced to return to work as things stand.”

She added: “The Scottish Government’s advice is still to work from home where possible. Workplaces that are pushing workers back into the office are putting us all at further risk and potentially prolonging the pandemic.

“When it is appropriate, any return to the office must be carried out with full consultation with workers through their union.”

In a letter to the First Minister, Ms Black made a number of specific policy recommendations that she said could be used to turn “lofty ambition” for Scotland into “economic reality”.

But she added: “Without immediate steps to boost growth and competitiveness, Scotland risks squandering the platform given to us by the vaccine and in turn choking off economic recovery at source.”

CBI Scotland highlighted the “stark reality” many businesses were facing of labour shortages, saying the manufacturing, logistics and hospitality sectors were “already struggling to recruit the talent needed to fill roles”.

Meanwhile, the organisation warned that nearly 2.5 million workers would need to learn new skills over the next decade, as it called for individual training accounts to be set up for everyone over the age of 25 to help them with this.

CBI Scotland also urged ministers to set the target of equipping all workers with “basic digital skills” by the end of this parliamentary term.

Finance and Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said: “Maximising Scotland’s economic potential must be a national endeavour and so we welcome these recommendations from CBI Scotland.

“We want to work with others to build an economy for everyone by delivering greater, greener and fairer prosperity.

“Our forthcoming Programme for Government will help create the best conditions for employers and employees by supporting economic growth and creating secure and satisfying jobs which pay a fair wage.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992