Sturgeon Unveils 'Workplace Practice' Penalties

Councils and private firms that engage in "unacceptable workplace practices'' will face penalties from the next SNP government, Nicola Sturgeon has pledged.

Local authorities that delay implementing equal pay for women will also be penalised, the First Minister told the Scottish Trades Union Congress in Dundee.

Companies that engage in trade union blacklisting, use zero-hours contracts or evade tax will be forbidden from tendering for public contracts, she added.

The SNP will abolish fees for employment tribunals, making it easier for employees to challenge adverse decisions from their employers.

Ms Sturgeon also pledged to introduce "a better and fairer'' benefits system that abolishes "target-led assessments'' and means testing, and awards long-term benefits without the need for continued assessment for chronic conditions that are "unlikely to change''.

She said: ``We will continue to do everything that we possibly can to ensure that public procurement supports good workplace practices and that companies that engage in unacceptable workplace practices - like blacklisting, exploitative use of zero-hours contracts or tax evasion - do not benefit from public procurement.''

She pledged to double the number of living wage-accredited employers to 1,000 by autumn next year.

"Improving low pay will also help us to tackle gender inequality, a key priority of mine, because too many women are in low-paid jobs,'' she said.

"Another important step in breaking down gender barriers is ensuring that where there is discrimination, there is access to justice.

"So, with the transfer of powers over employment tribunals, I can tell you today that an SNP government will abolish fees for employment tribunals, ensuring that employees have an opportunity to have their case heard.

"While many local authorities, to their credit, have taken action to deliver equal pay, some continue to lag behind.

"A re-elected SNP government will look to apply penalties to any council that does not honour their obligation to deliver equal pay.''

Ms Sturgeon accused the UK Government of showing ``contempt'' for trade unions with its Trade Union Bill and confirmed an SNP government will not implement or comply with the Bill in Scotland.

She said the European Union (EU) needs reformed but urged delegates to vote to remain in the EU to maintain the protection it offers from "an unfettered Tory government''.

Ms Sturgeon received widespread applause for her rejection of nuclear weapons, which she described as "morally wrong'', and acknowledged the need to protect jobs if Trident is removed from Scotland.

She said the new Scottish Social Security Agency will have "a very different ethos to that pursued by the UK Government''.

"Under an SNP government, there will be no DWP target-led assessments of those in need of disability benefits,'' she said.

"It will not be guided by the principles of sanctions and punishment, but by the principles of dignity and respect.''

The SNP manifesto will include a commitment to clear timescales and decisions, a transparent appeals process and a commitment to no means-testing for disability benefits, she said.

"We will introduce long-term awards for existing long-term conditions that are unlikely to change, ensure that people get the right level of award without all of the stress and anxiety that they have to suffer right now.''

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