Friday, 25 September 2009

Plinther praises public services during tribute to mother

Date: Fri 25 Sept 2009

A Scottish plinther will pay tribute to the public service that helped his dying mother during his hour on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square on Monday (28 September).

Kevin O’Neil, who works as an area organiser for UNISONScotland, will hold up speech bubbles featuring messages from the UK’s largest public sector union’s Million Voices campaign and its Scottish arm – Public Works - as part of Antony Gormley’s One & Other project.

The campaign is close to the 40-year-old’s heart, as the NHS helped his mother when she suffered a brain tumour.

Mr O’Neil, who started off working as a postman, has been working for the union for six years. He has also completed a number of sponsorship activities for various charities, including running and abseiling, to raise in excess of £17,000.

Mr O’Neil, who lives in Inverkeithing, Fife, said:
“I wanted to say something in memory of my mother, who died seven years ago of a brain tumour. The NHS is an amazing institution and gave her endless support. It is a shining example of how vital public services are, especially during a financial crisis, and I cannot praise the dedication of its staff enough and I know my mother felt the same.

“This is exactly the principles espoused by UNISON’s Public Works campaign and I am proud to be able to support this and add to our Million Voices from the plinth.

“I have always admired Anthony Gormley’s work and think it is fantastic that everyone can be involved in creating a piece of art. After watching the launch of One & Other on television I turned round to my wife and told her I needed to apply and I feel lucky to have been chosen.”


Notes for editors:

Kevin O’Neil will be appearing on the Plinth in Trafalgar Square, between 4pm and 5pm, on 28 September. UNISON members have been texting, tweeting and logging on to to add their voice to the campaign and a selection of their messages will be read out by Kevin.

The union, which has more than 1.3 million members, is using the Million Voices campaign and Public Works – its Scottish arm, to call for social justice, good jobs and quality public services. The campaign was launched in the UK at UNISON’s Annual Conference and the Scottish launch was yesterday (Thursday 24). This will be taken to all the party conferences during this autumn – including the SNP conference in Inverness where Scottish Convenor, Mike Kirby will address a fringe meeting run jointly with APSE (the Association of Public Sector Excellence).

Kevin’s oneandother page is at;
the Public Works site is at

See also


Thursday, 24 September 2009

UNISON car parking campaign gains huge public support

Date: Thurs 24 Sept 2009

UNISON, Scotland’s healthcare union, today welcomed unprecedented support for their campaign on car parking charges, and urged MSPs to back a private member’s bill to ditch them.

The campaign calls on MSP’s to support Paul Martin as he attempts to introduce a bill in the Scottish Parliament which will tackle the charges which still exist in some hospital car parks and require NHS Boards to have managed car parking schemes.

The campaign has already generated over 2,000 emails and 5,000 postcards to MSPs.

UNISON Regional Organiser Matt McLaughlin said:
“UNISON is right behind this bill and so are our members and the general public. It is a scandal that NHS staff are being forced to park in back alleys and side streets putting themselves at risk of criminal harm through fear of incurring a charge for coming to work.”

UNISON emailed 9,000 members asking them to email their MSP and to date 2,000 emails have been generated via the unions web link. However, some MSPs are refusing to back the bill meaning it is at risk of falling.

UNISON is reacting angrily to the response received by some members.

Matt said:
“Not surprisingly Tory MSPs have refused to support NHS workers. But it is also obvious from the responses from SNP MSPs that they are merely toeing a central party line, and refusing to back staff and patients on this issue. This do-nothing approach from the SNP will be a surprise to many people – after all their party was very vocal in the opposition to parking charges when they were in opposition.”

And Matt called on MSPs from other parties to back Paul Martin’s bill:
“With over 5,000 signatures gathered in less than 3 weeks on this issue it is clear that staff and public are not convinced the current measurers are working and think further action is required. UNISON calls on all the major parties not to let them down and to back this bill, ensuring that staff and patients get a fair deal from their NHS.”


Public service cuts will increase costs for ordinary families and delay recovery - UNISON

Date: Thurs 24 Sept 2009

A headlong rush to cut and privatise public services will lead to delays in coming out of recession, said the public service union UNISON today.

'Public Works', the Scottish arm of the union's 'Million Voices for change' campaign, is launched today with a leaflet demonstrating the importance of public services to everyone's lives and pointing to the huge costs that would fall on people if public services were not available.

Matt Smith - UNISON's Scottish Secretary, said:
"'A day in the life...' follows an average woman through her day and points out our dependence on public services - from water and sewerage, through environmental health and refuse collection, to education and health care, it is not only the disadvantaged who rely on public services, but all of us."

"If these services are cut back or privatised the increased costs of paying for them individually can only increase the cost burden on hard-pressed families. We estimate the average household gets more than £10,000 a year in benefits and public services. Public delivery provides value for money through economies of scale and stopping shareholders taking profits out of the pot. A year's domestic waste collection sourced privately would cost around £2,500, and the average cost of a year's education outside the public sector in Scotland is around £8,200."

UNISON is today (Thursday) briefing activists at meetings in Scotland, and will be campaigning to sign up members and non-members to back Scotland's public services at a time when they are under sustained attack from big business.

UNISON points out that cuts in public sector jobs, pay and pensions will only lead to less money being spent to stimulate the economy, and if public services were cut they would order and contract less with the private sector.

Matt Smith said:
"Far from being the drain on the economy argued by those who created the economic crisis, the public sector contracts for supplies and services from the private sector - especially important when private industry faces reduced order books.

"In addition money spent in the economy by public service staff will not be there if we accept the advice of the right wing think tanks to cut jobs, pay and pensions. Now is the time to build a fairer society based on social justice, good jobs and quality public services."


Notes for editors:

The union's 'Million Voices' campaign was launched in the UK at UNISON's Annual Conference and will be taken to all the party conferences during this autumn - including the SNP conference in Inverness where Scottish Convenor, Mike Kirby will address a fringe meeting run jointly with APSE (the Association of Public Sector Excellence).

Click here for a pdf of the 'A day in the life...'


Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Water industry must prioritise new climate obligations, says SCCS


Attn: Newsdesks, political & environment correspondents

Immediate release

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Water industry must prioritise new climate obligations

Climate change campaigners today urged Scotland’s water industry regulator to ensure that it and Scottish Water prioritise complying with new climate change legislation.

The call is a response to the Water Industry Commission for Scotland’s consultation on its draft determination (proposal), which sets price limits on water charges. The Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) coalition is concerned that the resulting current investment plan for Scottish Water, one of the country’s biggest electricity consumers, would only finance climate change objectives ‘if possible’.

The draft determination for 2010-2014 concentrates on Priority 1 objectives set by the Scottish Government, while climate change is Priority 2.

Yet all public bodies will soon have new duties under the world-leading Climate Change (Scotland) Act to contribute to greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and to plans to adapt to deal with flooding and other problems caused by global warming.

SCCS, which includes unions, environmental and international development organisations, said that excluding action on climate change objectives from the business plan that runs halfway to 2020 makes no sense when urgent early action is required to achieve the Act’s interim target of 42% emission cuts by 2020.

SCCS Chair Mike Robinson said: “The Scottish Government and wider public sector should be leading by example to help meet the important 42% target.

“It is extremely disappointing that Ministers set climate change as only a Priority 2 objective for Scottish Water, while limiting charge rises in a way that severely restricts options for spending on Priority 2 objectives.

“We have written to the Water Industry Commission for Scotland urging it to make funds available to Scottish Water so it can meet climate change objectives and new duties under the Act in this investment cycle.”

Lloyd Austin, Head of Policy, RSPB Scotland, said: "As one of the biggest electricity consumers, Scottish Water has the potential to make huge energy savings which will help reduce the long term costs to consumers.

"Early action on climate change adaptation and mitigation will not only help achieve statutory requirements but also ensure the long-term future and viability of the water industry."

Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser, UNISON, said: "There is a lesson here for all public bodies as their new climate change duties will come into force in less than 18 months.

"In planning ahead and preparing budgets, they should be ensuring they can comply with the new duties.

“At Scottish Water there is potential for huge savings in energy costs and this requires strategic planning and prioritisation of investment that the regulator must allow for. The overall objective is to protect the planet for future generations. People expect the public sector to take a lead on this crucial issue."


Notes to Editors

1. The deadline for commenting on the WICS Draft Determination is Wed 23 Sep. The Draft Determination is at
2. Sir Ian Byatt, WICS Chairman, is giving evidence on the Draft Determination today (Tuesday 22) to the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee at the Scottish Parliament.
3. SCCS believes that the Ministerial objectives on climate change as already given to Scottish Water are essential in fulfilling the new duties but without investment they risk not being achieved. Obviously objectives which are required by European Law must be met, and we have no argument with including, for example, Drinking Water Quality as a Priority 1. To reduce electricity consumption, investment is needed to help reduce leaks and encourage consumers to use water more wisely, thereby avoiding pumping water unncecessarily. Scottish Water’s energy demand is currently rising by one and two per cent each year. See
4. Information on the new public bodies Climate Change Duties is at
5. The Wave - Scotland’s biggest ever demonstration in support of action on climate change – takes place in Glasgow on Saturday 5 December 2009, timed to coincide with the crucial UN climate summit in Copenhagen. Tens of thousands of people will gather in Glasgow and London. The Wave is organised by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland.
6. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) is a diverse, growing coalition of organisations campaigning on climate change. The SCCS Coalition has 60 Scottish members, representing more than 2 million supporters (40% of the Scottish population), ranging from environment and development groups to faith organisations, trade unions, student societies, care providers and many more. SCCS was instrumental in securing a strong climate act for Scotland. For full details visit

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Government must support public services in crisis caused by market madness

Date: Thu 17 Sept 2009

Public services union UNISON Scotland today challenged the Scottish Government to protect jobs and services following John Swinney's Budget statement in Parliament.

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary of UNISON, said:
"The public will not support a budget which asks them to bear the brunt of cuts in the middle of this crisis caused by free market madness and bonus grabbing bankers.

"And make no mistake about it - what John Swinney is offering is cuts to public services.

"What we need in this recession with unemployment continuing to rise is support for the public sector to provide essential jobs and services – not cuts."

UNISON questioned the sustainability of Mr Swinney's announcement of a third year of council tax freeze given the additional funding pressures the recession is placing on local government.

Matt Smith said:
"The Finance Secretary makes the usual pledge to protect frontline services. But there are no expendable jobs. The false distinction between "front line" and "back office" is a mask for cuts which will impact on vital public services.

"We face real cuts in local government and a third year of a council tax freeze is regrettably not viable.

"Health boards also face a spending squeeze because of growing pressures on limited resources. And we are now seeing the resurrection of Private Finance in the Scottish NHS through the hub initiative, based on English Local Improvement Finance Trust PPPs.

"And the hard-pressed voluntary sector, which delivers vital services, will face even further constraints."

Matt Smith called for funding settlements to local government, health boards and the voluntary sector to sustain jobs and services and support the economy in the face of the recession.


Britain’s unions commit to a mass boycott movement of Israeli goods

Date: 17 September 2009

In a landmark decision, Britain’s trade unions have voted overwhelmingly to commit to build a mass boycott movement, disinvestment and sanctions on Israel for a negotiated settlement based on justice for Palestinians.

The motion was passed at the 2009 TUC Annual Congress in Liverpool today (17 September), by unions representing 6.5 million workers across the UK.

Hugh Lanning, chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: ‘This motion is the culmination of a wave of motions passed at union conferences this year, following outrage at Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, and reflects the massive growth in support for Palestinian rights. We will be working with the TUC to develop a mass campaign to boycott Israeli goods, especially agricultural products that have been produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank.’

The motion additionally called for the TUC General Council to put pressure on the British government to end all arms trading with Israel and support moves to suspend the EU-Israel trade agreement. Unions are also encouraged to disinvest from companies which profit from Israel’s illegal 42-year occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

The motion was tabled by the Fire Brigades Union. The biggest unions in the UK including UNISON voted in favour of the motion.

UNISON Scottish Convenor Mike Kirby, who recently returned from a Scottish Trade Union Congress fact-finding mission to Israel and Palestine, spoke in the debate.

"The delegation questioned the officials on Israel's failure to comply with UN security council resolutions, on the high number of civilian deaths and casualties, the political timing of the attacks on Gaza and Israel allowing the ceasefire with Hamas to expire. We did not receive any satisfactory answers to these questions", he said

"We need a campaign of focused and selective action against arms sales to Israel, against the illegal settlements and for a targeted consumer boycott. We need to get as many people involved as possible. Our aim is not to put jobs at risk, but to build political support and awareness. This is our generation's responsibility."

The motion also condemned the Israeli trade union Histadrut’s statement supporting Israel’s war on Gaza, which killed 1,450 Palestinians in three weeks, and called for a review of the TUC’s relationship with Histadrut. Britain’s trade unions join those of South Africa and Ireland in voting to use a mass boycott campaign as a tool to bring Israel into line with international law, and pressure it to comply with UN resolutions that encourage justice and equality for the Palestinian people.

Notes to Editors

• Media contact: Palestine Solidarity Campaign 020 7700 6192

• The full motion passed on 17 September can be viewed at:

• The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is the largest solidarity movement with Palestinians in Britain – and is supported by thousands of individual members alongside 18 national trade union and hundreds of local trade union affiliates.

For more information:

• The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement aims to pressure Israel into complying with international law.


Saturday, 12 September 2009

A million voices for change on the plinth

Kevin O'Neil
Fourth plinth

UNISON Scotland's Kevin O'Neil will promote UNISON's Million Voices For Change on Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth on 28 Sept.

He will be taking part in Anthony Gormley’s One and Other on Monday 28th September. He will be on Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth from 16:00 to 17:00 to promote UNISON’s “A Million Voice for Change” campaign.

He has attached his “plinther” profile, please check it out and if you’re in London on Monday 28th September, then please come along and support him.

If not, then please watch on line and please leave a comment on the One and Other web site for Kevin.;


Thursday, 10 September 2009

BBC Scotland: Private prison victory for union

Private prison victory for union
Page last updated at 09:08 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 10:08 UK

Scotland's Information Commissioner has ordered the release of key financial data from a £50m PFI contract for Kilmarnock jail.
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and the private jail's operator had resisted giving the information to the union Unison.
They argued it would substantially prejudice the contractor's commercial interests.
Unison said it was "a major victory for the public's right to know". ...

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Information Commissioner orders release of key data from PFI prison contract

Date: Wed 9 Sept 2009

Scotland’s Information Commissioner has ordered the release of key financial data from a controversial £50m Private Finance Initiative prison contract.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and Kilmarnock Prison Services Ltd (owned by Serco) had strongly resisted providing the contract’s financial model to UNISON Scotland, arguing it would substantially prejudice the contractor’s commercial interests.

UNISON’s Scottish Organiser Dave Watson today welcomed the decision by the Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, describing it as “a major victory for the public’s right to know”.

Mr Dunion ruled that, at the time of UNISON’s initial request in 2006, the significance of the information would have diminished substantially since the 25 year contract was signed in November 1997.

Dave said: “UNISON has long argued that there is excessive secrecy around PFI and Public Private Partnership (PPP) contracts. Too often the public is denied information about the costs of hospital, school and prison contracts on the grounds of commercial prejudice or commercial confidentiality.

“This decision is extremely important and should help pave the way for greater access to information about all PFI/PPP contracts.”

UNISON had also requested the Full Business Case (FBC) for the Kilmarnock Prison, but Mr Dunion accepted this was not held. Scottish Ministers informed him that in the early days of PFI/PPP projects, FBCs were not always prepared.

Dave added: “The fact that there is no Full Business Case for the prison speaks volumes about the way public funding has been wasted on PFI/PPP. The public was always told these projects would deliver value for money but has seen these claims unravel spectacularly over the years. The figures have frequently been manipulated, or withheld, or in this case, were not even calculated beforehand in any meaningful way.

“Mr Dunion’s decision will help shine a light on this contract and, hopefully, on others so the real costs to taxpayers can be assessed.”


1. Full details of ‘Decision 104/2009 UNISON Scotland and the Scottish Prison Service’ are on the website of the Scottish Information Commissioner at: (This details that a range of other information on this and the Addiewell prison contract was also withheld initially but later published voluntarily by the SPS during the investigation by the Scottish Information Commissioner.)

2. The Kilmarnock Prison Contract, with redactions, is on the SPS website at:

3. Mr Dunion has called for the extension of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 to cover private companies carrying out public contracts (and other relevant bodies) and the Scottish Government is currently considering this.

4. The UNISON Scotland At What Cost report on the aggregate costs of PFI/PPP projects in Scotland is at:


Wednesday, 2 September 2009

UNISON Scotland slams privatising panic

Date: Wed 2 Sep 2009

UNISON, Scotland’s leading public sector trade union, today slammed a proposal for privatisation of huge swathes of public services - including health and education - "from the people who brought you the economic collapse".

UNISON Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said that a speech proposing "major reform" of Scottish public services with "health and education opened up to competition from the private sector" by the Chief Executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce Ron Hewitt was an attempt to create a panic reponse to current economic problems.

Dave Watson said:
"It is pretty incredible that leading representatives of big private business interests should be demanding more control over our public services. This comes from the people who brought you the economic collapse.

"We see this idea from the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce as yet another attempt by private interests to create a panic reponse to current economic problems - which have in fact been brought on by the private sector itself, with the big banks being the main culprits.

"In the frantic calls for still more privatisation I am reminded of a gambler who imagines that one last throw of the dice will solve everything.

"In reality, it is the public sector which has stood up to the economic crisis. We need to see more support for our public services from government, and not less. That is what the public wants too."

An Ipsos Mori poll conducted for UNISON in August showed that support for public service remains strong. In particular it showed that increased private involvement in running public services such as the NHS attracts little support. The poll found that over three quarters of the British public (78%) believe "health services should be run by the Government and public organisations, rather than by private companies".


For Further Information Please Contact:
Dave Watson(Scottish Organiser) 07958 122 409(m)
Malcolm Burns (Information Development Officer) 0141 342 2811