Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Chris Bartter's response to the Ryanair model and the "three wise men"

On Tuesday Douglas Fraser, the BBC’s Business and Economy editor raised a number of issues about public services, charging and the ‘three wise men’ in his blog BBC - Douglas Fraser's Ledger: Priority Boarding for Public Services. Fraser raised the prospect of a Ryanair business model for public services as promoted by PricewaterhouseCoopers consultants and quoted Crawford Beveridge as saying that "nothing was off limits".  UNISON Scotland's Chris Bartter was minded to comment on Faser's blog – here’s what Chris had to say:

"I suspect these three wise men do not, in fact, have an 'open remit'. All Mr Beveridge has said so far indicates that they are assuming that we need to cut public services. This is simply a big business driven assumption.

In fact, a) UK debt is not significantly larger than other comparable European countries, b) the deficit is not as large proportionally as after the War, when we were able to create the NHS.

What has happened is that a very large amount of public cash has been given to failing, private businesses (mainly banks) to stop them going bust. Now they and other private companies (including PriceWaterhouseCoopers – what is their responsibility for auditing these failed banks one wonders?) say we have to cut other public sector spending to pay for this.

I think the people of Scotland (and the UK) would rather like to consider other alternatives. For example:

We could make the sector that caused the imbalance in public sector spending, (if imbalance it is) contribute rather more than they currently are doing to pay off the money they owe. (Either by increased taxes, or by paying back loans etc). Indeed Ryanair themselves might consider a realistic payment to compensate for the climate damage they do.

We could look at the whole public spending package and see if there are genuine items of waste - UNISON has recently suggested cutting the use of private consultants by the public sector, not replacing Trident, or introducing ID cards, abolishing the Scottish Futures Trust and other forms of PFI. Are the three going to consider these options?

It may well be that (boosted by the continuing investment by the public sector) return to growth is faster than predicted. There are some signs of increased growth already. If taxation is fair, that is one method of cutting the deficit.

However the likely truth is that it will require some of all of this. What it does NOT need is for damaging cuts to be speedily implemented on our increasingly in-demand public services. That way lies increased poverty and suffering, more demand on public finances (via increased demand for benefits etc) and a real risk of a return to recession.

Are these items on the three's agenda? If not, they should be."


UNISON’s green workplace project wins Climate Challenge funding

Date: 31 March 2010

Public service workers in Lanarkshire today won more than £60,000 for a trade union climate change project.

UNISON Scotland congratulated branch members in South Lanarkshire on their successful Climate Challenge Fund bid. The ideas they come up with for greening the workplace could lead the way for similar union work across the public sector.

UNISON South Lanarkshire Branch Secretary Stephen Smellie said:
“We are very pleased to have been awarded funding for our Green Workers project which will help contribute to Scottish climate change targets.

“The aim is to raise awareness of the carbon footprints of our members, give advice on how to reduce emissions and empower members to raise ideas on how to make a difference not only at home but in their workplace.”

The project will work with UNISON members across South Lanarkshire Council, South Lanarkshire College, South Lanarkshire Leisure, Lanarkshire Joint Valuation Board and a number of voluntary and private sector employers.

It will focus on encouraging reduced emissions through energy efficiency and greener travel options. Members will be able to borrow energy monitors to check their energy use at home, and develop alternative public transport plans for each workplace. The UNISON branch will also audit its own activity to reduce carbon use – eg in communicating with activists and members.

UNISON Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said:
“This project will demonstrate the contribution trade unions can make to tackling climate change in the workplace by engaging with our members on the issue.

“By doing so members will not only start to reduce their own emissions but will be more likely to demand action in the workplace.

“More than two thirds of carbon emissions are work related and UNISON is encouraging similar action across Scotland.

“Most workplace projects on cutting carbon are led by employers. A bottom up project, promoted by the trade union, stands a much better chance of winning workforce support and making the real changes needed.

“As part of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, UNISON campaigned for the Climate Change Act 2009 to be as strong as possible with a clear duty on the public sector, ensuring it leads by example.

“All public bodies need to comply with that duty from January next year. We are calling for negotiated green workplace agreements to help them do that.”


Notes for Editors:
1) The Scottish Government Climate Challenge Fund awarded £60,728 to this project, part of a £5.5m announcement. Details are at

2) UNISON has a Greening the Workplace toolkit for branches at

3) The STUC Scottish Government joint Communique on Climate Change is at
It promises partnership working to develop policies to green the workplace and states that: “The greening of the workplace has a central role to play in delivering emissions cuts and promoting environmental action throughout society. Worker involvement is the key to culture change in the workplace. Good practice developed in the workplace will also have a positive influence in the home and community.”


Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Sharks circling Scottish Water - UNISON

Date: 30 March 2010

The largest union in Scottish Water, UNISON, today accused government agencies of being part of a concerted campaign to use the financial crisis as cover for the privatisation of Scotland’s water.

In launching its policy briefing Defend Scotland’s Water, the union pointed to previous statements in favour of privatisation by the Water Industry Commission Chair, Sir Ian Byatt; the recent announcement by The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) that it is looking at privatisation; and the comments of one of the Scottish Government’s ‘Independent’ Budget Review panel members – Crawford Beveridge - on BBC Newsnight Scotland last night, suggesting this issue should be examined again.

Speaking at a meeting of UNISON water representatives, Dave Watson UNISON Scottish Organiser said:
“The sharks are circling again around Scotland’s greatest asset – our water. The regulatory regime has been preparing Scottish Water for privatisation for some time, driven by the ideological zeal of the Water Industry Commission Chair, Sir Ian Byatt. He has been joined by the SFT led by another privatisation advocate and banker, Sir Angus Grossart. Given this concerted campaign supported by the private sector who are keen to get their hands on our water at a knock down price, we need to make it crystal clear, that water is both, an essential public service, and, given the global water crisis, one of Scotland’s greatest economic assets.”

The UNISON briefing outlines the huge costs of privatisation to the water charge payer, including higher borrowing costs, billing systems, and dividends It also points to the beneficiaries of privatisation being the corporate financiers, consultants and company directors – particularly of the big overseas water multinationals who would target the privatised company.

UNISION also points to the continued ‘marking down’ of the value of Scottish Water’s assets, from £15bn when the corporation was created, down to current discussions of around £1bn, This is in order to make the package an attractive price for the private sector, particularly given the massive programme of investments the taxpayer has funded. Despite this investment and the additional costs of delivering this service in Scotland charges are lower than the UK average.

UNISON also rejects the supposed ‘alternative’ of mutualisation. Dave Watson said:
“In a capital intensive industry like water, mutualisation is not a co-operative solution. All services would be delivered by private water companies with all the costs of privatisation. It sounds cuddly and safe, but in reality it is a Trojan horse for privatisation. “UNISON, along with the STUC and the other unions involved in the water industry have been engaged in the debate about the future of Scottish Water, and we all believe that we should join with the worldwide movement in favour of democratisation of this essential service*.”


Note for Editors:

1) The UNISON briefing is available on the UNISONScotland website at

2) *The unions have produced a discussion paper It’s Scotland’s Water outlining ways to greater accountability for Scottish Water. It is available on the UNISON website at's_water.pdf


Friday, 26 March 2010

Save Britain's waterways by creating the first truly national park says UNISON

Fri 26 March

UNISON, the UK's leading public sector union, has today (26 March)
written to the Department for Energy, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA),
the Scottish Government, and British Waterways, calling on them to
secure the future of Britain's network of canals and waterways, by
agreeing to establish them as a cross-border national park.

DEFRA and British Waterways* are currently consulting on plans to turn
Britain's waterways into a charity, but the union fears that the tight
squeeze on third sector funding could see the nation's waterways fall
into disrepair, or locked up from public use entirely.

Inland waterways and national parks are both devolved functions in
Scotland, and funding for waterways in Scotland has had a positive
relationship in the public sector that many would be reluctant to lose.
A Canals National Park would deliver increased potential for
regeneration, and could provide a positive model for joint working to
regenerate areas of special interest. UNISON members in British
Waterways are well experienced and successful at this kind of
partnership working.

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:

"Turning Britain's waterways into a National Park would breathe new life
into our network of canals, safeguarding them for future generations. It
would be a gift to Britain, on a par with the formation of national
parks last century.

"As a truly national park, linking England, Scotland and Wales,
Britain's waterways could still reap all the benefits of charitable
status, applying for lottery funding, and working with volunteer groups,
but the future would be more secure - for the people using the rivers
and canals, and for those working on them.

"Generations of children and families have enjoyed Britain's network of
canals and waterways - they are part of our cultural heritage. No longer
in use for transporting freight around the country, they provide
much-needed leisure spaces in cities, and are vital habitats for
wildlife and conservation.

"But they are stuck in a legal grey area, classed as transport
facilities, making it tough to attract significant funding, throwing
their future into jeopardy. The funding crisis in the third sector,
means that any plans to switch to charitable status would only fuel this

"Severe lack of funding for charities could see the locks and paths
along Britain's waterways fall into disrepair. Canals could fill with
debris and rubbish, threatening conservation efforts. Whilst boaters and
anglers already pay to use waterways, additional entrance fees may be
introduced to raise funds, taking away the public's right to use and
enjoy Britain's Waterways free of charge."

UNISON represents white collar workers in British Waterways.

*DEFRA consultation: 'Waterways for everyone' and British Waterways
consultation: 'Setting a New Course'.


Thursday, 25 March 2010

Streamlined pay bargaining should be added to Public Service Reform Bill

Scotland's largest public service union - UNISON - is urging MSPs to support a series of amendments to the Public Service Reform Bill in today's debate in the Scottish Parliament.

The union is supporting a series of amendments to the Bill (nos 217 -222) that provide for one bargaining committee, covering all Non Departmental Public Bodies, and Public Corporations. This would streamline the large range of different pay negotiating bodies in the sector and recognise the reality of the decision-making process on public service pay.

Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish organiser, said "Currently, the number of processes any pay discussions have to go through, mean that the bureaucracy constrains negotiations at local level, takes too long, and has lead to many recent damaging disputes. We think that, if the government is serious about streamlining and simplifying the exercise of public functions, this is a clear and definite step they could take."

Note for Editors:- UNISON is Scotland's largest public service union, representing well over 160,000 workers working in Scotland's public services. A briefing on the UNISON supported amendments is available on the website at

Threatened Edinburgh Staff Win UK Award

Staff at the City of Edinburgh Council, who face wholesale privatisation, have just received a UK award for delivering efficiencies that are unrivalled across the UK. The Government Business Awards cover a variety of categories and Edinburgh is the outright winner of the Financial Performance Award.

The City Council recently announced the intention to bring the private sector in to run a whole range of council services in the hope of delivering efficiencies and savings.

Reports to council expressed concern at the ability of existing managers to deliver budget savings and highlighted English examples of privatisation as an alternative way forward for Edinburgh. However, the Government Business Award for Financial Performance places a serious massive question mark against the benefit to be gained from breaking up a winning team.

Commenting on the award Kevin Duguid said: “We share the council’s aspiration to be the best and to provide efficient services to the tax payers of Edinburgh. What this award shows is that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence. UNISON has always had faith in the work of our members and we’re delighted that this dedication and efficiency has been recognised and rewarded at the highest level. And the people of Edinburgh share this view – 89% voted against privatisation in a recent poll. Its just a pity that the council sits alone in failing to see that when it comes to council services in Edinburgh – “Public Works”. Our message to the leader of the administration is simple “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”

More details and 10 points from UNISON's damning analysis of the council plans is at

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Campaign against sell-off starts in Edinburgh

UNISON has launched a campaign against 'reckless' council plans to sell-off services and over 3,000 jobs.

The "Our City's Not For Sale" campaign will work with other unions, community groups and the public to expose the dangers of the council's 'alternative business models'.

"Services like front line customer contact, revenue and benefits, catering, cleaning, security, cleansing and vehicle and grounds maintenance, along with HR are all up for grabs with cultural services, transport and legal services also being primed for outsourcing through multi-million pound 'strategic partnerships' or 'joint ventures' - privatisation, to you and me", said Agnes Petkevicius, UNISON Edinburgh Branch Secretary.

"UNISON's own studies have revealed that, at best, council claims about savings are wishful thinking. No credible evidence exists to support them. Worse still, the evidence that does exist points to failures, worse services, increased costs and huge bills to bring failed services back in-house.

"To go ahead with this, in an exercise likely to top £1million wasted on consultants, without learning the lessons of the social care tendering fiasco is nothing short of reckless".
"If services are delivered in-house with no need to make a profit, how can they be delivered more cheaply while making a profit on top? Something has to give and that is usually the quality of the service or indeed the whole service - along with any decency in the pay and conditions of those delivering the service", added Branch President John Stevenson.

"You still pay your taxes but instead of the money going on the service and those who deliver it, it goes to company profits. Like the banks, or even perhaps the trams contract, these companies will become 'too big to fail' and will have the council over a barrel. It is time for the council to abandon these plans and concentrate on efficient and quality services in-house".

UNISON lead negotiator Kevin Duguid said, "The union has stressed that it is always ready to fully engage with the council on better and more efficient ways of delivering quality services. "However, the refusal to seriously look at in-house options means there is no real attempt to look at improving services, just a headlong drive to privatise".

"Nowhere is this more evident than the council leaving key issues out of the tendering advert like bidders having to comply with legal requirements such as the equalities duty, Climate Change Act etc, in case it deters them from applying".

"Staff are demoralised at how they are being treated with their jobs being sold from under them to the lowest bidder who will cut their terms and conditions to deliver profits for their shareholders first, with service delivery coming second."

More details and 10 points from UNISON's damning analysis of the council plans is at

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Private consultants cost Scots councils £42m in a year

Date: 23 March 2010

UNISON – the union representing staff delivering local services – today said that savings of over £40m could be made from local council costs, by cutting back on the amount of use they make of private consultancy firms.

Using the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act (FOI), the union asked all councils what they spent on consultants last year, and the figures that have so far been received - from 28 of 32 councils – show that last year councils poured over £42m of public money into the pockets of these private firms. Earlier figures obtained by the union show that nearly £6m of this went to one firm – KPMG, who are busy advising Scotland’s councils where they can save money by cutting services, staff and conditions.

Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish Organiser, said:
“Rather than concentrating on cutting services, politicians and the media might profitably look more closely at cutting the use of private consultants in local councils if there is a need to save money. UNISON has published an alternative budget at UK level that highlights much waste that could be saved including by ending central government use of consultants*, and this waste could also be cut in Scotland.”

The union also points to the huge increase in the Scottish Governments public service reform budget as a contributory factor in the high use of consultants.

Dave Watson said:
“It is clear that the use of consultants is hugely increased by the demand for reorganisations, shared services and investigating outsourcing services. Given the Scottish Government’s drive towards these, it is ironic that our earlier FOI question on the national use of consultants was refused by the government, and by the Improvement Service – who advise councils on this topic. We suspect that this information would drive up the amount of money wasted on private consultants.”

The council spending the most on consultants last year is City of Edinburgh, where the council is involved in a number of initiatives aimed at investigating outsourcing a huge raft of public services. They spent £6.4m last year on consultants. One consultant was adviser to Lehmann Brothers, Ernst & Young.

Dave Watson said:
“It is scandalous that it is same firm that endorsed Lehman Brothers’ methods of business-leading to the major world recession-that is now advising massive privatisation to Edinburgh City as their solution to the financial crisis, earning a nice fee for them as consultants. Our information is that Edinburgh plans to increase its spending on consultants as a part of this wasteful and damaging exercise.”


Note for editors: *UNISON’s alternative budget is at -

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Big business group rattled by UNISON video

Well it is clear who the Tax Dodgers Alliance see as their main opponent in their campaign to attack services for the people of the UK – they have been burning the midnight oil over at their plush offices in the right-wing enclave in Tufton Street (provided free by Avanta, and their Chief Executive David Alberto) to cut and paste their lists of so-called ‘non-jobs’ onto UNISON’s video attacking public spending cuts - which has been posted on the union's Million Voices campaign page .

Utilising the Telegraph blog of Tory MEP Daniel Hannan they have put a response video out in the media to claim (as they always do) that there are loads of non-jobs in the public sector.

Hannan, in case you don't immediately recognise him, is the man who recently rubbished the NHS as a ’60-year mistake’ in America (on Fox news - - it's worth a look too.)

The so-called Taxpayers' lists of so-called non-jobs are also instructive. Many of them (for all the fancy names) are about dealing with the media. Are they suggesting that the public sector doesn’t have to deal with the misinformation that they and others pump out on a daily basis? Indeed, I notice they themselves have just appointed a ‘New Media Co-ordinator’. I assume that is someone to co-ordinate, ‘new media’ rather than a ‘new’ co-ordinator of all media. So, assuming that someone deals with the ‘old’ media, that means that they have at least two. Well what is sauce for the goose …!

Dramatherapists? – I think most clinicians know the value of therapy in healthcare – obviously the TPA neither knows nor cares. Green jobs – doesn’t surprise me. What are the TPA’s policies on climate change? Do they accept that carbon emissions are increasing global warming or not? Do they think that the polluters are going to reform themselves without regulation? Most people actually think that the public sector should lead the way in reducing carbon emissions and carry out the function of protecting the environment – who do they think should do it? Exxon?

But the one I am most surprised to notice is the ‘Street Football Co-ordinator’. Maybe they think people have forgotten their most widely dropped clanger – but we haven’t. This post was created by Moray Council in 2006 and – two years later - the TPA whipped up its usual froth of righteous indignation about it. However Moray Council’s press office (yes that non-job) had other ideas and put the true story out.

The job was in fact part-time, and therefore the cost was half what the TPA – who had only noticed the top-line salary – claimed. It was only part-funded by the council, the rest being paid by the police, by other agencies and by the private sector – the TPA’s chums – who were delighted that the work was taking kids away from vandalism and other anti social behaviour. So much so in fact that the council has been able to secure funding until later this year –from all the original partners.

So now we know – if you want increased vandalism, environmental damage, poorer healthcare and authorities who are unable to put their views into the media – lets thank the TPA!

Chris Bartter
UNISON Scotland Communications Officer


Public Service Cuts Hurt: video

The latest Million Voices campaign video from UNISON.

See the Million Voices campaign page here: and sign up to support us in defending public services.

More UNISON videos at:
and at the UNISON Scotland YouTube page:


Monday, 15 March 2010

MSPs urged to ‘love their libraries’

Date: 15 March 2010

In the teeth of threatened public spending cuts, reduced opening hours, closures and reduced staff numbers, public service union – UNISON – has joined forces with Highland MSP Peter Peacock to promote the great service public libraries provide, and to urge the Scottish Government and local councils to maintain public support for them.

The union, which represents library staff in public, education and special libraries, has launched a UK-wide ‘Love your Libraries’ campaign, and in Scotland, has produced a special briefing for its branches urging them to scrutinise cuts proposals put forward by councils to identify attacks on library services, and to lobby their MSPs to get them to support the motion submitted by Peter Peacock MSP to the Scottish Parliament (Motion number S3M-05898).

Dave Watson – UNISON’s Scottish Organiser, said:
“Currently around 1 million Scots borrow books from Scotland’s 541 libraries and 82 mobile libraries, and many more use the much wider services that libraries provide via learning centres, and digital access. But there is evidence that authorities are cutting back on libraries, opening hours and qualified staff as a response to the unprecedented financial cutbacks.”

In a UK UNISON library members survey, more than 40% reported cuts in service, and two thirds reported inadequate staffing levels. In Scotland a number of UNISON branches are reporting proposed closures of libraries as the public spending squeeze begins to bite. The union is currently running a ‘Public Works’ campaign to defend public services from funding cuts.

Gray Allan, a UNISON Branch Secretary and library worker in Falkirk said:
“Libraries in Scotland are increasingly busy since the recession, and we need more resources to deliver the service that people want and need. More people in Scotland go to libraries than go to football matches. Our members deliver an essential service and people appreciate that, that is why I, many other branch members, and community service users will be marching in Glasgow on 10 April to Stop the Cuts.”

The union is also scathing about the attempt by Glasgow City Council to hive off its libraries to a trust, and suggests it has failed to deliver any of the planned extra funding.

Dave Watson said:
“Culture & Sport Glasgow, was promoted in 2007 in order to attract private finance. In fact the only money it has attracted is by tax avoidance, and the Trust is now facing a £1.7m cut this year, wants to freeze staff pay and close libraries. It has already drastically reduced book-buying in the final months of this financial year.”


Notes for editors: UNISON’s briefing is available on our website –
The Public Works campaign details can be found on


Thursday, 11 March 2010

Public service cuts threaten safety and care standards - UNISON

Reports from public service workers throughout Scotland indicate that vacancy freezes and lack of absence cover are threatening safety, and reducing the levels of care to vulnerable said the public service union UNISON today.

An email survey of members, undertaken over the last few weeks, for the union's Public Works campaign is showing that this is the main impact of funding cuts over the last two years.

Dave Watson - UNISON's Scottish Organiser, said "It is too early to provide a comprehensive picture of cuts through this survey, but over 50% of respondents identified a vacancy freeze operating in their workplace. As this survey only covers the last two years of cuts, it means that the horrendous future cuts threatened can only directly threaten the safety of both staff and service users.

"Members are highlighting to us the dangers to people in their care, the risk of reduced safety cover, and how backroom staff cuts force staff off the frontline. That is why we are calling a march and rally in Glasgow on April 10 to bring together communities and service deliverers to call on politicians to stop the cuts and to adopt UNISON's alternative budget "

UNISON's email survey of members is still being analysed but key findings have already come to light. Many members have taken the opportunity to identify concerns about how these cuts impact in their workplace.

A number of quotes from anonymous responders follow.

'The weekly food budget for residents of this care home has been reduced from £72 per resident to less than £17' - cook, residential care home

'In this small section, no cover has been provided for one maternity leave and two long term sickness absences...' - member, Environmental Health Section.

'vulnerable adults now get less care hours, and staff no longer have the time to spend on each individuals needs. They are left alone for a greater period of time, hence increasing the risk.' - member, care service

'Admin takes up an inordinate amount of my time. Time better used doing face-to-face work with young people.' - youth worker

Dave Watson said "Politicians shouting for public spending cuts should listen to the voices from the frontline. Services are already stretched to breaking point, the further cuts that some propose will bring service levels far below acceptable levels - either of care, or even of safety."


Notes for editors: The survey was taken from a random sample by email through UNISON's membership system and is currently being analysed fully, but of 269 responses, 144 identified a vacancy freeze and 28, no absence cover or overtime. Quotes have been provided under cover of anonymity.


Monday, 8 March 2010

Executives and CoSLA have undermined bargaining machinery - UNISON

Monday 8 March

UNISON, the union representing around 100,000 Scottish Council staff, today responded to the news that 32 high paid local council officials had agreed to waive their agreed pay rise.
Dougie Black, UNISON Regional Organiser, and Lead Negotiator said:

“It is unfortunate that the chief executives did not see fit to raise this first through the negotiating machinery, which delivers their pay. Neither should the employers have engaged in deals with one group which undermine the agreed procedures that affect a much larger number. Cosy deals with their most senior employees would seem to be more important than delivering for the low-paid workers, who are at the sharp end of service delivery.”

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Taxpayers' Alliance gets its sums wrong on local government pensions, again

UNISON has accused the Taxpayers' Alliance of deliberately manipulating figures to suit their claims that local government pensions face a black hole*.

The TA, a tax-cutting pressure group, in comparing liabilities to assets, is deliberately making a ridiculous assumption that everyone will retire at once, tomorrow.

The local government pension scheme is affordable and sustainable and its income exceeded expenditure by almost £6 billion in the last year.

Dave Watson (UNISON Scottish organiser), said: "The so-called Taxpayers' Alliance deliberately distorts the true picture to suit their claims and their tax cutting aims. Their claims are based on the nonsensical supposition that everyone is going to retire at once, tomorrow. Neither do these pensions cost £1 of every £5 of council tax, because council tax makes up only a small percentage of funding.

"Local government pensions are affordable and sustainable. A new scheme has recently been agreed that increases staff contributions. They are funded by employers, employees and by investment income. The LGPS generates one-third of its own income, and contributions from employers in Scotland are going down.

"Remember, too, that we are not talking about gold-plated pensions, here. Local government workers like classroom assistants, home carers, social workers, refuse collectors, and dinner ladies, contribute all their working lives to gain a pension that averages just £3,800 pa, yet the Taxpayer's Alliance, would apparently prefer them to have that pension cut and force them to rely on state benefits. What we need is some perspective here and a move away from a race to the bottom on pensions.

"The real pensions scandal in this country is that the majority of company directors can retire at 60, with a final salary pension 25 times higher than the national average which they accrue twice as fast as both their workforce and the public sector workforce. They then campaign for low paid public service workers to take a pension cut.

"The so-called 'Taxpayers Alliance' would be better employed directing their firepower at the real gold-plated pensioners. Big business bosses who award themselves generous pensions while closing decent schemes for their staff. But they won't of course, because this would be biting the hand that feeds them".

* Council pensions report by the Taxpayers' Alliance

Note for editors:
1. It is funded by employer contributions, employee contributions and investment income.
2. It is cash positive - member benefits paid out in 2008-2009 were £5.6 billion against gross income of £10.2 billion.
3. The total value of combined assets in England, Wales, Scotland and NI was £143 billion (in 2008).
4. That's 5 times greater than the largest single pension fund in the UK.
5. Total assets of the 89 LGPS funds are equivalent to 10% of GDP.
6. 60% of the fund is invested in equities or shares - in UK and global stock markets.
7. By 2008, more than £1 billion was invested in each of the top four FTSE companies and it owned 1.3% of seven of the top nine companies in the UK.
8. £4.7 billion invested in the big four banks - Barclays, HBOS, HSBC, RBS and
9. £2.3 billion in the 49 largest companies delivering UK public services in local government, the NHS and the utilities.


Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Troubled city college merger faces further challenge

One of the Colleges making up the new proposed 'super college' in Glasgow is being referred to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission over their closure of a staff and student nursery, the education union, UNISON said today.

A complaint is being made to the EHRC by the union, and they have asked for an enforcement order to be served against the college to ensure the nursery remains open.

The College of Nautical Studies has been in a wrangle with its staff unions over the closure of the Thistle Nursery with the loss of 23 full time jobs, since July 2009.

Despite a successful industrial action ballot, a campaign to save the nursery, and a commitment to examine the union's case, the college subsequently reconfirmed its decision to shut the nursery from July this year.

Assistant UNISON branch secretary Scott Donohoe said: "Despite admitting the closure of the nursery would impact unfairly on female staff, the Equalities Impact Assessment provided by the college is totally inadequate, and was only done after the decision hade been taken, when UNISON asked to see it. The college seems to be simply ticking boxes, and even then only after they are pushed by UNISON."

UNISON maintains that the closure of the nursery is connected with the merger, where, despite the large amount of public money invested, no nursery provision is planned. News of the complaint comes just a day after teaching unions warned the new City of Glasgow College about concerns regarding compulsory redundancies and terms and conditions. UNISON argues that the new college should have a nursery on campus.

Scott Donohoe said "Many parents, students and staff use the nursery. Closing the facility will threaten the chances of many women to take life changing opportunities. In particular, forcing low paid women out to the expensive private sector could mean having to choose between study and the dole."


Notes for Editors: The Equality Act 2006 amended the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and introduced an Equality Duty on public authorities when carrying out their functions to ensure services, practices and policies are developed with the different needs of men and women in mind.