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Failure of the Fair Work Framework

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In a new ‘Quick Note’ for the Jimmy Reid Foundation, the recent announcement (21 March) of the ‘Fair Work Framework’ is critiqued. The Framework is the first major publication of the Fair Work Convention which was established by the SNP Scottish Government in 2015. The critique by Gregor Gall, professor of industrial relations at the University of Bradford, shows that while the Framework has laudable aims it is completely woeful in providing the mechanisms by which to achieve these aims. Professor Gall, thus, concludes that the Framework fails at the first hurdle. Professor Gall will launch the critique at a lunchtime fringe meeting at the STUC Congress in Dundee this Monday 18 April.

The Fair Work Framework states its vision is that ‘by 2025, people in Scotland will have a world-leading working life where fair work drives success, wellbeing and prosperity for individuals, businesses, organisations and society’ with the fair work being defined as that which ‘offers effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect; that balances the rights and responsibilities of employers and workers and that can generate benefits for individuals, organisations and society’.

So the Framework is strong on aspiration but entirely woeful on the means of delivering these aspirations because the Scottish Government refuses to contemplate using its existing and future legal powers to compel employers to achieve the aims in their workplaces. In other words, the Framework is an entirely voluntary affair like other initiatives of the Scottish Government (like the Scottish Business Pledge).

The critique for the Jimmy Reid Foundation suggests that not only could the SNP Scottish Government’s considerable power through procurement be used but that the Scottish Government abdicates responsibility for its own Framework by ruling out having an accreditation system (like the independent living wage system has) for employers seeking to implement the Framework’s aims or periodic reviews of progress made towards attaining those aims.

Professor Gall commented: ‘Given that the Scottish Government is intent upon pursuing a voluntarist approach to achieving ‘fair work’, it should at least commit to periodic assessments of its plan. And because the Scottish Government is the employer or awarder of contracts through procurement, it should specify a contract of rights for workers to attain the aims of the Framework. Ultimately, the Scottish Government must undertakes steps to put on a statutory footing the institutional mechanisms for achieving the aims of its Framework. Otherwise, it will not be worth the paper it is written upon’.

The critique of the Fair Work Framework is here FWCframework  and a recent paper for the Jimmy Reid Foundation on achieving industry democracy using an array of means which including statutory powers can be found at