Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...
Perth is set for a financial fillip worth hundreds of thousands of pounds this week. Around 450 delegates, stall holders and visitors arrived to spend three days in the Fair City for the Scottish Trades Union Congress. Congress will attract representatives of almost 40 trade unions and 24 trades union councils as well as a number of international guests and speakers from politics. Among the dignitaries addressing the gathering at Perth Concert Hall are First Minister Alex Salmond and speakers from South Africa and Catalunia. Mr Salmond was due to speak at the concert hall on Wednesday but will now appear on Tuesday because of his attendance at Baroness Thatcher’s funeral. A spokesman for the STUC said: “Most of the delegates will come from across the country and stay in the city for the duration. “It’s fair to say they won’t be sitting in their hotel rooms at night so the restaurants and bars and things will get the benefit. It’s fair to say there is a substantial boost to the city.” Perthshire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Vicki Unite said: “The area is so well suited to business tourism, as well as leisure tourism, due to its accessibility, central location, venues and accommodation options. “This event will certainly help Perthshire’s profile as events like this bring valuable economic benefit to the area and help increase spending during the week.” The influx of visitors is even more welcome after it was revealed the annual Jehovah’s Witnesses conference will not return to Perth this year. Among the many topics to be debated at the congress will be trade union rights, Scottish independence, taxation issues including the “bedroom tax” and non-payment of taxes by major companies.
The Scottish Government has been a conveyor belt for UK cuts, say Dundee trade unionists. The city’s Trades Union Council has called on the SNP administration to fight back against “ongoing Westminster-led austerity”. In a motion before the Scottish Trades Union Congress conference, the Dundee organisation said: “The Scottish Government has continued to pass on the worst of the Tory cuts to Scotland’s councils. “This has had an impact across the country, especially in our poorest areas.” The GMB union has also been critical of politicians across party divides for not preparing properly for oil and gas decommissioning. The industry could be worth £40bn over the next few decades and Dundee is well-placed to take advantage. Last week, the decom giant Chinese Ocean Engineering Shanghai Company (COES) said it wants to base its UK operations in the city, which comes on the back of millions of pounds worth of proposed investment in the industry through the Tay Cities Deal. The GMB motion said Scotland is “still not well-positioned” to take advantage from the manufacturing boom from wind energy, which coincides with the “failure to plan to maximise the potential economic benefits of North Sea infrastructure decommissioning”. Speaking at the STUC conference in Aviemore on Monday, its president said the Brexit campaign in the UK had seen a "return to overt racism as a political tool".
SNP election pledges on income and council tax have been branded “pathetic” by the General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress. Grahame Smith slammed the party’s reluctance to raise the amount top rate taxpayers would lose from their monthly income to 50p in the pound. He told delegates in Dundee: “The SNP’s position is a particularly pathetic position. “Refusing to increase tax on those earning over £150,000 is hugely disappointing.” Labour has pledged to raise the top rate to 50p and, alongside the Liberal Democrats, add 1p onto every person’s income tax bill.
The “status quo” of austerity is harming every person in Dundee, according to Scottish Labour’s leader. Kezia Dugdale said slashing services hits each home in the city. After her address to the Scottish Trades Union Congress conference at the Caird Hall, Harris Academy-educated Ms Dugdale claimed some of the worst effects are being felt by the Tay. She told The Courier: “We know that everybody feels the pain of austerity because if effects the cuts that we all rely on. But we also know the poorest pay the heaviest price for austerity and I think that’s felt here in Dundee every time a service is cut, every time we lose project workers and classroom assistants and teachers. “It’s the poorest people in Dundee that suffer. I’m here in the city today with a very clear alternative to that. “If you want to continue with the way things have always been, if you want the status quo to carry on, pick between the SNP and the Tories. “If you want to chart a different course and accept that we can stop the cuts, that we can use the powers, that we can grow the economy and spend more on public services then the main party advocating that at this election is the Labour Party.” In her speech to the STUC's 119th meeting, Ms Dugdale attacked the UK Government’s Trade Union Bill for “unprecedented attacks” on unions’ rights which “go further than even Margaret Thatcher attempted in the 1980s”. She said: “We don't just want to oppose, so I can announce that we will bring forward a Work and Trade Union Bill - a bill worthy of its name. “It will recognise the positive role of trade unions in the economy, in creating better workplaces, in increasing productivity, in building a fair economy.” In her address to the conference today, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will dangle the possibility of funding to support union modernization in front of delegates. She will admit she “cannot pledge to undo all of the damage that the Tories are doing” with the Trade Union Bill but will promise action to ensure unions can operate effectively in Scotland. The SNP leader will say her party will continue to do everything it can to disrupt the Bill, currently going through the House of Commons. She is expected to say: “It would be an outrage if the ability of the Scottish government to work constructively with trade unions was curtailed by the anti-union ideology of the Tories.”
Scottish Labour would set up a new agency for employment and skills to help people get into work if elected in May, leader Kezia Dugdale will announce. Ms Dugdale will reveal plans for a Work and Trade Union Bill to establish Skills Scotland during a speech to the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) in Dundee. The agency would bring together existing bodies Skills Development Scotland and Scottish Enterprise with new powers over the Work Programme coming to the Scottish Parliament. The Labour leader will tell trade union representatives that they will be partners in delivering the new agency and setting its strategy, as she pledges to "give voice to working people in Parliament". Ms Dugdale is expected to say: "We will bring forward a Work and Trade Union bill. It will be the antithesis of the negative Tory Trade Union Bill. "It will recognise the positive role of trade unions in the economy, in creating better workplaces, in increasing productivity, in building a fair economy. "And it will establish Skills Scotland, in partnership with unions and employers and co-chaired by a nominee of the STUC. "This new agency will bring together employment services and skills services, including new powers over the Work Programme that are coming to Holyrood. "It will aim to give anyone out of work the help they need to move into a job, but it will also aim to give everyone in work the help they need to move up, to upskill, to build the kind of economy we all want to see. "It won't just be a radically different approach from the Tory approach to the workplace, and to those out of work, it will be a radically different approach from the SNP approach over the last few years that has seen 152,000 fewer students at our colleges." Under the new agency a network of regional hubs would be established to boost the local economy, provide training for people seeking work and support lifelong learning. Labour would also back the creation of Scottish strategic sector forums to look at productivity, skills and training in key sectors such as energy, manufacturing and housing. Ms Dugdale will say: "All parties will make promises in this election. But they cannot afford to deliver on those promises, in a time of cuts to public spending, if they do not also promise to break from austerity. "That is why Labour's plan at this election begins with one promise above all others: any Labour Scottish Government will increase spending on public services in Scotland."
Trade unions are calling on general election candidates from all parties to support their manifesto for decent work, including a minimum wage increase, an end to zero-hours contracts and a commitment to restoring trade union freedom. The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) says its 11-point plan for "decent work and dignified lives will deliver respect, decency and equality in the workplace as well as providing the basis for a recovery we can all believe in, and in which no-one is left behind". It has called on parties and individual candidates to pledge their support on specific proposals contained in the plan. These include an immediate increase of the minimum wage to £8 per hour, use of public sector procurement to mandate the payment of the living wage, and an increase in maternity and paternity pay. The STUC also wants an end to zero-hours and short-hours contracts, introduce full employment protections for all workers and universal free childcare. Its manifesto also calls for the restoration of collective bargaining rights and the creation of a Ministry of Labour, with "the duty to encourage sectoral collective bargaining to return to industry-wide determination of pay and other working conditions". STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said: "With two months to go before the general election, it is clear that Scotland will be a major battleground in determining the outcome. Scotland's 620,000 trade union members and their families and friends will have a real say in determining the future. "The STUC views with alarm the possibility of the return of a Tory Government committed to further austerity and attacks on living standards and quality of work. The Tories plan to further undermine employment protection and erode the fundamental rights of workers to organise and bargain in the workplace. "We welcome the commitments of both Labour and the SNP to support measures to protect workers from zero-hours contracts, to increase the minimum wage, pay and promote the living wage, and act definitively against such practices as blacklisting. "However, as our manifesto makes clear, economic inequality in Scotland cannot be effectively challenged without a wider commitment to allowing trade unions the freedom to organise and to bargain collectively. He added: "This manifesto therefore provides a challenge to all parties in Scotland to support a wide range of measures which would restore trade union freedom, and through restoring sectoral bargaining, remove the shackles which all too often prevent us from defending those who suffer most from low pay and insecure work. "We will be asking the prospective candidates of all Scotland's main political parties to pledge to support our manifesto and will collate and publish our the responses from all candidates at our Congress on April 20."
Tributes have been paid to an Angus trade unionist who has died aged 67. Lesley McCallum from Arbroath was well known as a campaigner for mental health and disability issues, and also for fighting the so-called bedroom tax. She was a trade unionist for more than 40 years and a senior shop steward in the NHS for a 20-year spell. She passed away suddenly at her home on Wednesday. Today, colleagues and associates of Lesley spoke of how she inspired generations. Mike Arnott, secretary of the Dundee Trades Union Council, said: “Lesley was involved in raising awareness about mental health and regularly campaigned about disability issues and other things, such as domestic abuse. “I was on the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) general council with her and she was always articulate and formidable. “She was based at King’s Cross Hospital and worked for a long time at Ninewells. “She had been a trade unionist for 40 years and 20 years as a senior shop steward. “Lesley was always on the frontline, like last year with the striking hospital porters. “She had difficulty getting about in a wheelchair but that didn’t slow her down at all. “I know the word inspirational gets used a lot but she truly was to a lot of people. “I think there will be people inspired by what she did for years to come and continue to carry the torch.” Lesley’s achievements were celebrated as recently as last year, when she received a Workplace Equality Award from the STUC. Labour councillor Lesley Brennan, who represents Dundee’s East End, said her death had been a shock. She said: “I knew Lesley through the trade union movement and the bedroom tax issue as well. She will be sorely missed. “She was really well known locally and nationally. “It’s so unexpected. I spoke to her only two weeks ago at the STUC conference.” Colin Coupar, regional organiser for Unite added: “She was an exceptionally well-known woman and will certainly never be forgotten. “She was a powerful character and was a strong advocate of anyone she represented — she went to the ends of the earth to support them. “It’s just an absolute tragedy to have her taken away so suddenly.”
A member of a German society established in honour of a political emigre who took up residence in Dundee is to visit the city this month. Max Hewer of the Peter Imandt Society, based in Saarbrucken, is coming to attend the Scottish Trades Union Congress conference from April 19 to 21 at the Caird Hall in Dundee. He intends to visit sites linked to Mr Imandt, including Dundee High, where he taught, Barnhill Cemetery, where he is buried, the McManus Galleries, where his daughter is the subject of an exhibition, and DC Thomson's Meadowside building to view reports written by Peter's daughter Franziska Marie Imandt, for many years a correspondent for The Courier. Peter Imandt was born in Noswendel, near Trier, Prussia in 1823, was a founding member of Germany's Social Democratic Party and, after joining uprisings in the 1840s, went into exile in Switzerland, then London, settling in Dundee a decade later. The trip was instigated by the Peter Imandt Society after Mike Arnott, secretary of the Dundee Trades Union Council, got in touch to inform them Mr Imandt's gravestone was in a state of disrepair. While The Courier was researching a recent feature about Mr Imandt's daughter -- who was sent by the newspaper on a trip round the world with another female reporter in 1894 -- it emerged the two-metre high memorial was to be laid flat because of its dangerous condition. Ms Imandt is now the subject of an exhibition at the newly refurbished McManus Galleries, which details her exploits during her year-long trip round the world. The Dundee Trades Union Council set up a Facebook group to gain support for the repair of Mr Imandt's grave, as there is no recorded family member responsible for it. It is estimated it will cost £800 to have the stone re-erected and properly secured and the Peter Imandt Society has indicated it is keen to assist with the cost. Mr Imandt, who was a close friend of Karl Marx, married Anne McKenzie in Dundee in 1859 and the couple went on to have three children. He worked as a languages teacher at Dundee High School for almost 40 years. He died at his home in Hill Street, Broughty Ferry, in 1897 aged 74. His daughter is buried in the same plot. Mr Arnott said, "I got in contact with the society about the gravestone and it emerged some members had come over to Dundee in 2004 to visit Mr Imandt's resting place. "Mr Hewer then got in touch to say he would be attending the TUC conference and was interested in seeing places related to Mr Imandt's life in Dundee." The society in Saarland is an association for civic education and culture in the region. It holds regular lectures, discussion forums, seminars and excursions on current socio-political and historical themes.
Scotland must remain a “something for something society” the First Minister said as he reaffirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to universal benefits. Alex Salmond told delegates at the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) in Perth that the Scottish Parliament is being asked to reaffirm the social contract it has upheld through successive administrations since 1999, including free personal care and free access to higher education. The First Minister said: “In the face of the social and economic bedlam of the 1980s, there was a need, an overwhelming urgency, to establish a parliament for Scotland that could express a different concept of society one based on a sense of public good and the common weal. “And by and large, since 1999, the Scottish Parliament and this is the parliament as a whole, rather than any one party has upheld that contract. “Today the Scottish Parliament is being asked to reaffirm its commitment to universal public services not a something for nothing country but a something for something society.” The First Minister also used his address to reaffirm the Scottish Government’s joint working with trade unions, describing union rights as essential for “strong workplaces and a strong economy”. He said the union movement would continue to play a “valuable and important role” in Scottish life as he gave a guarantee that the position of the trade unions was secure with his administration. The congress will hear how members are concerned about the labour statistics in ongoing straitened economic times. STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said: “Politicians of all complexions continue to play fast and loose with employment data and are guilty of painting a far too rosy picture on employment. “Whilst it is true that we have seen a small recovery recently in unemployment figures in Scotland, this is largely due to people falling into inactivity but not claiming jobseeker’s allowance. “Even where jobs are being found, they are largely part-time and insecure. We estimate under-employment in Scotland to be around 500,000. “The analysis of ONS figures we are publishing today indicates that long-term youth unemployment in Scotland is 17 times higher than it was pre-recession, and that generally Scotland does not compare favourably with the rest of the UK on youth employment trends.” STUC analysis will also be published which, it is claimed, shows real terms wages in Scotland have fallen by an average of 6.4% since the onset of the economic crisis. It states the median wage earner is £27.12 a week, or £1,410.24 a year, worse off than if wages had kept pace with inflation.