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Boost for Scots Sky unionisation campaign

Members of the Scottish Parliament have backed BECTU's bid for union recognition at BSkyB.
At an open meeting held in Dunfermline in the run up to local and Scottish Parliament elections on May 1, Independent MSP Damien Quigg and Labour MSP Scott Barrie both pledged their support for the right of staff at Sky's call centres to pursue trade union representation without intimidation. Prospective parliamentary candidate for the Scottish Socialist Party, Linda Graham also added her voice to the campaign.
The meeting, organised by BECTU's organising official Margaret McGrevey, focused attention on what BECTU, Sky staff and supporters of trade union recognition law could do to improve on the current position.
Discussion centred on two key issues: firstly, greater accountability to staff and local communities by employers securing inward investment funds and secondly, the current review of the Employment Relations Act 1999 which first established the right to statutory union recognition.
BECTU has accused BSkyB, the parent company which owns Sky Subscriber Services which runs the Scotland based call centres, of unfair labour practices following the company's conduct in the recent recognition ballot.
Individuals suffered intimidation from management; a key trade union representative was harassed and most telling of all the company threatened staff with the loss of their jobs if they voted for trade union recognition. The company's controversial leaflet "Say No to BECTU" stated that "trade union confrontation and divisive workplace relations may lead Sky to consider alternative operational models, including outsourcing Sales Operations". This message was amplified by management at every opportunity and staff were left under no impression either in Scotland or London of the threat to close down, move or outsource operations in the event that union recognition was achieved.
Commenting on the case Damien Quigg said: "When people are challenged for choosing to join a trade union this amounts to institutionalised anti-trade union prejudice". Scott Barrie for Labour said that Sky was missing an opportunity as "trade unions have a role to play in harmonising relations in the workplace".
BECTU is making an independent submission to the current review of the Employment Relations Act. "Central to the union's response is the call for measures to outlaw unfair labour practices like those deployed at Sky's call centres earlier this year which really served to make a fair and free vote on the question of union recognition an impossibility" commented Sharon Elliott, BECTU official.
In addition to working to build on current contacts and to maximise the opportunities provided by the legislative review, BECTU also wants to open discussion on what commitments employers attracting inward investment monies are required to make to staff and to local communities. Where out-sourcing occurs for example companies are required to follow rules on contract compliance and equal opportunities; BECTU believes that conditions linked to business grants should also extend to a code of ethics which allows for effective staff representation including trade union recognition where there is staff support.
In 1994 Sky secured £6 million in government aid to establish their call centre operations. According to reports the company is now the biggest private sector employer in the Fife region.

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