Sunday, 30 October 2011

Support for pensions campaign

There was welcome support yesterday from all of Scottish Labour's Leader and Deputy Leadership candidates for the ballot on pensions as highlighted in today's Sunday Herald.

In the morning session, UNISON NEC member Gordon McKay introduced the pensions campaign to the debate. He called on the Party to stand with workers in defending their pensions.

At a lunchtime fringe meeting on pensions, UNISON Scottish Organiser Dave Watson explained the reasons for the dispute and set out the political context. He was supported by Unite's Jackson Cullinane in calling on Labour to unequivocally support the campaign and the planned industrial action on 30 November. 

In the afternoon, UNISON delegate Katrina Murray was first up to put the Deputy Leadership candidates on the spot on this issue and was followed by a Unite delegate with a similar question to the Leadership candidates. All answered very positively and we look forward to discussing these issues in more depth at UNISON Scotland's leadership hustings on Saturday 5 November. 

Friday, 28 October 2011

Fat cat pay shows pension fight justified - UNISON

Date:   28 October 2011

Public services union UNISON said today that the huge rise in Directors pay and rewards revealed today show that workers in public services are right to ballot for strike action to protect their pensions.

A report by Incomes Data Services released on Friday showed that FTSE Directors total reward has risen by 49% in the last year.  These pay packages include hugely generous pension arrangements – the median level is over £100K per year.

UNISON is balloting members for strike action  to resist changes that will see the value of public sector pensions devalue by 15% over time and - and impose crippling increase in pension contributions for many.

UNISON Scotland Convener Lilian Macer said:

“The same fat cats who are taking these unjustifiable pay increases also award themselves huge pension pots that will see them retire on thousands of pounds a week . Yet these same people are supporting the attacks on the pensions of school cleaners and nurses. Enough is enough - we will defend our pensions”

Stephanie Herd Chair of UNISON Scotland’s Local Government Committee said:

“Today’s report shows more than ever that the real divide in pensions isn’t between public and private - it’s between rich and poor.   Public servants receive modest pensions - and they are attacked as unaffordable by the same people who think nothing of awarding themselves pensions worth more in a month than most of our members earn in a year.  It’s completely unfair - and shows that we are absolutely right to ballot for strike action to defend our pensions ”


For further information contact:
Lilian Macer, UNISON Scotland Convenor  07939143353
Stephanie Herd, UNISON Local Goverment Chairperson  07989 544162
Stephen Low, Policy Officer  0795 685 2822

Notes to editors:

1.    Press Release  on  Incomes Data Services report can be found here:

2.    Fat cat pension details can be found here:

3.    UNISON’s industrial action ballot over pensions will close on 3 November


Friday, 21 October 2011

UNISON - if privatisation is a gamble in NHS, it's a gamble with Edinburgh Council

Date:   21 October 2011
UNISON has condemned Edinburgh Council for gambling with jobs and services as it sets out plans to sell off the city’s essential cleansing, waste and award-winning parks services.

The union has also condemned the Council’s refusal to publish its last minute MORI poll into the public’s views. The council is publishing the first of three controversial privatisation proposals with a recommendation that councillors pass all environmental services to Enterprise, the private contractor.

"Edinburgh council is gambling with essential services, jobs and livelihoods by proposing wholesale privatisation," said Peter Hunter, UNISON Regional Organiser.

"Privatisation can only be seen as a massive gamble. The council should be 'once bitten twice shy' after the fiasco with the tram contractor, but like a compulsive gambler the council is determined to solve its problems with one more roll of the dice.

"And like most gamblers, the council has an audience of friends begging them to step away from the table. Unions, community groups and even Audit Scotland have all highlighted the fact that the odds on a victory for Edinburgh are unattractive - but it would seem the die is cast.

"Councillors do not own Edinburgh’s services, they are merely the custodians of them. They have no right to gamble them in this way. When it all goes wrong it will be the taxpayer as usual who has to pay."

The council report endorsing the sell-off has been published at the end of a week when the council steadfastly refused to release the findings of the public consultation on privatisation.

"Having failed to tell voters about the privatisation plans for two years, the council hired MORI to capture public opinion at the last minute. Although the report is censored and FOI requests have been denied, the council leaked excerpts of the report to the press so we know what voters think.

"Edinburgh people are hostile to privatisation, they resent the profit motive of private contractors and they rightly doubt the ability of the council to win any contract dispute over service standards. We need an honest public discussion on today’s proposals and that must start with release of the MORI report," added Mr Hunter.

UNISON has asked all political parties to pledge their support for a fair process but the union has a specific message for SNP councillors as the party of Government gather for their annual conference in Inverness.

"UNISON has great admiration for the SNP vision for quality, integrated services in the NHS delivered by public sector workers. We stand with Nicola Sturgeon in condemning Tory health plans as an 'experiment in privatisation' from the SNP conference platform today. But Nicola doesn’t need to look beyond the streets of Edinburgh to see the threat of private experiments. Her capital city has been put up for sale. The fate of public services in Edinburgh lies in the hands of the SNP and we ask them to join us in saying no to private gambling and experimentation".


For further information please contact:
Peter Hunter, Regional Officer for Edinburgh branch UNISON 0774 016 7777

Notes to editors:

1. There will be a public meeting organised by UNISON - to which all political parties on the council have been invited - on Monday night (27 October) at 7.00 pm in Appleton Tower, Crighton Street, University of Edinburgh.

2. UNISON along with other unions and community groups will be staging a lobby outside the City Chambers from 8.30am to 10.00 am on Thursday 27 October when the first contract will be voted on by full council.


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Bizarre twist in Edinburgh privatisation saga as council leader gives details of censored reports

Wed 19 October 2011

UNISON has accused Edinburgh City Council of behaving like “a bizarre cross between Dad’s Army and the KGB”, following a newspaper interview where leader Jenny Dawe revealed details of a survey that the council had been trying to keep secret, and also details of the confidential bidding process to run the city’s refuse collection.

Edinburgh City Council is planning the largest privatisation in the history of local government in Scotland. Pollsters MORI were commissioned to canvas public views on the process but, on the eve of next week’s crucial vote on the issue, the council refused Freedom of Information requests  to release the report on the grounds that it would ‘prejudice, substantially, the council’s ability to conduct its affairs’. Having done this, council leader Jenny Dawe discussed the contents of the report in a newspaper article.

In the course of the same interview the council leader also gave details of a confidential tendering process about the future of the city’s refuse collection services. 

Peter Hunter, UNISON's Regional Organiser for Edinburgh, explains:

“This privatisation process would be farcical if it weren’t so serious.  The council are combining the openness of the KGB with the competence of Dad’s Army. They keep information from the public - and gag trade union negotiators with confidentiality agreements – but feel free to leak things to the press.

"We asked to see the MORI report because we were eager to see if the people of Edinburgh support our campaign against privatisation. We were shocked when the council banned the release of their own report. We don't understand how a publicly funded opinion poll into the proposals of  public body can be kept private. Now we read that excerpts of that censored report have been leaked to newspapers by the leader of the council.

"According to press reports the MORI report says people of Edinburgh believe that the bidders are motivated by cost alone; that accountability for services will be lost; and that the contract could not be terminated if the service is poor. The council may not like what the voters think but their views cannot be ignored. In the light of the trams debacle we need more openness at the city council, not a growing veil of secrecy. If the report prejudices the position of the council why was it leaked to the press?  We will take this issue to the Information Commissioner, the Scottish Government and, ultimately, to the courts. The truth will out!"

Regarding the refuse collection proposal, Peter Hunter said:  

"Union officials have to sign confidentiality agreements before getting access to the process. So we were dumbstruck to read the council leader discussing key details of the bid process before the official report is released. 

"It’s true that both of the private bidders want to move to a single bin system for recycling but the in-house team are working to a higher environmental standard. 

"Councillor's Dawe's comments treat the private bidders equally but they undermine the argument for the in-house bid. We can't help feeling that the council see privatisation as a done deal before the vote even takes place."


Notes to editors:

1. Jenny Dawes is quoted discussing the MORI report and the refuse collection tendering proposals on the Scotsman website here:

2. The council refused to provide information requested by UNISON, applying the following exemption from the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. Section 30 (c) – Prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs. 

The council said, about information it has now passed excerpts of to the Evening News: 

“To release this information, at this stage, would cause significant harm to this process and would prejudice, substantially, the council’s ability to conduct its affairs in an effective and fair manner. In this regard, I consider that the public interest is best served in withholding the information as opposed to disclosing it at this point in time.”

For further information contact: 
Peter Hunter, Regional Officer, UNISON 0774 016 7777


Trams Without Wheels - Privatisation in Edinburgh

People in the Capital will be well aware of the SNP/Lib Dem administration in the Council and their  potentially catastrophic privatisation proposal. The official, title, for this process is the "Alternative Business Model  - or ABM .. it's more generally spoken of as " Another Trams Fiasco " UNISON locally has been at the forefront of opposing this nonsense  - and working closely with groups in the community, who,  the more they learn about the ABM , the less they like.

Now even people within the SNP have realised this scheme has to stop

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Parliamentary Petition on The Great Pensions Robbery

Obviously the BEST thing you can do for the cause of pensions justice  is to vote YES in the ballot (and do your best to get as many other people vote YES as well) But there is another small action you could take to highlight the injustice of the change of pensions from RPI  to CPI...

Sign this petition

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Edinburgh Council censors critical report as UNISON launches privatisation pledge

Date: Sat 15 October 2011
Beleaguered officials at City of Edinburgh Council have censored a report which records public attitudes to the proposed £1 billion privatisation of council services.

Peter Hunter, UNISON's Regional Organiser for Edinburgh said:
“The council has a legal obligation to consult stakeholders on the great service sell-off and there has been growing criticism of the veil of secrecy surrounding plans for privatisation”.

Councillors attending public meetings across the city have witnessed the clamour for openness and transparency – a call endorsed in writing by UNISON, Audit Scotland and the council’s own independent consultants.

The censored report was written for the council by pollsters IPSOS MORI and it is based on the views of Edinburgh residents who came together to debate the council’s privatisation plan.

In response UNISON has launched a “Privatisation Pledge” - the union will be asking elected politicians to oppose privatisation of services until there has been full public consultation and proper scrutiny.

Peter Hunter explained the background:
“UNISON and the council’s consultants have been calling for consultation for over a year, but secrecy is the name of the game in Waverley Court. The MORI report was always just a fig leaf – it was only commissioned after the negotiation with bidders was finished. People never had the chance to influence the design of new services.”

Now the council faces further intense criticism for censoring public opinion.

Peter Hunter said:
“The lesson of the trams fiasco is that we need more scrutiny, not less. When we heard a rumour that the MORI report was being suppressed we made a Freedom of Information Request which has been refused. We’ll see what the courts make of that, but in the meantime we’re calling on councillors to make a stand. We want all councillors to pledge their public opposition to privatisation until we’ve had open and transparent consultation across the city. The city needs another tram fiasco like a hole in the head.”


PICTURE OPPORTUNITY: Sat 11.30 , The Mound - Launch of Privatisation Pledge – with giant Pledge card
Note to editors Elected politicians across the Edinburgh and Lothian area are being asked to sign the Privatisation Pledge. The pledge, which will be launched on the Mound at 11.30 am on Saturday 15 October, reads as follows:

“I think it’s best that vital public services are delivered efficiently by public servants, not private companies. So I’m very concerned about plans for wholesale privatisation of large swathes of Edinburgh Council services under the Alternative Business Models (ABM) process - especially since allowing bidders to close the pension scheme means that there’s not a level playing field for the in-house bid. Until there has been full public consultation and proper scrutiny I will oppose any moves by City of Edinburgh Council to appoint private companies to do its core work for it”

For further information please contact Peter Hunter, Regional Organiser, on 07740167777


Thursday, 13 October 2011

UNISON survey shows nearly 28,000 violent incidents against public service workers last year

UNISON, Scotland’s largest union in public services will launch its annual violence at work survey at a health and safety conference at Stirling University tomorrow (14 October).

The survey shows that 27,775 violent incidents were recorded last year by Scotland’s public bodies. While the overall numbers remained stable there was a reduction in incidents in the NHS (down 1281 to 13,552) but a significant increase in councils (up 780 to 12,168). While there had been some improvement in monitoring by 18 councils, others had taken no action to review their policies in line with the new guidance on managing occupational violence – more than a year after it was launched in 2010.

UNISON Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said:

“These figures highlight an appalling level of violent incidents perpetrated on staff who are simply doing their job. While some employers are taking this issue seriously, others are not doing enough.”

“There are also early signs that spending cuts are impacting on the number of violent incidents. 21,000 job losses mean that staff are being stretched thinly in many public services, particularly in local government. This means less support for staff in high risk areas. UNISON will be undertaking further work to monitor this in the coming year.“

The survey also shows 280 convictions under the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act, a small decrease on the previous year. This Act has limited scope and UNISON, together with other trade unions have campaigned for stronger legislation to protect public service workers.

Dave Watson said:

“The Scottish Government opposed measures to strengthen the law in this area when Hugh Henry MSP proposed the Protection of Workers Bill. There is a level of complacency over violence in the workplace that workers in the front line find bewildering. We need a combination of efficient recording, effective workplace measures, monitoring and stronger legislation to protect workers from unacceptable levels of violence.”


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

UNISON on unemployment figures: Reform Council Tax to put people back to work

Wed 12 October 2011
As unemployment reaches its highest level in 17 years, UNISON, Scotland’s largest union in Public Services called on the Scottish Government to put people back to work doing the  jobs that need to be done. In Scotland, unemployment has reached 212,000, up 7,000 over the last quarter and standing at 7.9%.

The union has been campaigning for an alternative economic plan at UK level that includes taxing bank bonuses and transactions, using cash raised to protect jobs, and stimulate growth and recovery.  The union wishes the Scottish Government to use more fully the powers it has to promote employment
 Mike Kirby, UNISON Scottish Secretary, said:

The UK Government are clearly on the wrong set of economic tracks,  but while many of the tax levers remain out with the Scottish Government’s control, they still have the power to act.”

“The Scottish Government needs to bring forward plans for a fairer tax for local government. UNISON believes a property-based tax is the best way to fund local services – it is a reasonable indicator of wealth, simple to collect and hard to avoid. The wealthiest people tend not to be found living in small high rise flats in poor areas to avoid property tax.” 

“The only tax plan the Scottish Government seems to be working on is one that reduces taxes. Their claim is that this will create new jobs. There is little evidence that cutting taxes on business creates new jobs. If there is a link, it is marginal and there are more cost effective ways of using the same money to create more jobs. Most of the savings are likely to go into big company profits and shareholders pockets.”


For further information please contact:
Mike Kirby 0780 395 2261 or Stephen Low on 0141 342 2811/ 0795 685 2822


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Stow College strikers rally support in pursuit of a Living Wage

Tue 11 October 2011

“Where is this Living Wage the Scottish Government talk about?” - that's the question being asked by Stow College strikers.

The UNISON members at Glasgow's Stow College are staging a rally on Wednesday 12 October in support of their campaign to win a living wage from their employers.

Lunchtime on Wednesday marks the halfway point of a three day strike which began on Tuesday morning.  The UNISON members are striking over the College’s refusal to implement a living wage despite agreeing to do so as part of last year’s pay deal. 

Some of the striking staff also face being outsourced to a private company – with no guarantee that the previously agreed minimum wage deal will be implemented.

Chris Greenshields, a UNISON steward at Stow College, said:

“Our members provide valuable services to staff and students at the college, but many are living on poverty pay.

“The SNP Government promised to protect the lowest paid workers from the worst aspects of the recession, yet Stow College refuses to introduce the Living Wage for our members – many of who are low-paid women workers – and on top of this, we are now facing a real-term pay cut.

We were delighted when the Scottish Government said they supported a Living Wage for their own staff - but why won’t they use their influence to make sure other employers depending on public funding do likewise? “

PICTURE OPPORTUNITY – Wednesday 12 October 12.30pm Stow College, Shamrock St, Cowcaddens. Public rally to support Living Wage strike.

Notes for editors
1.    UNISON has 90 members who work in Stow College in a variety of roles including: learning support workers, admin / clerical workers, caretakers, cleaners and catering workers. Many are low paid with some earning just above the national minimum wage.

2.    For more information contact Chris Greenshields on 07504 975176, Brian Smith on 0141 552 7069 or Mandy McDowall, regional organiser for UNISON, on 07903 846 427


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Stop the Great Pensions Robbery - UNISON meets to plan Scotland's biggest ever strike ballot

Tue 4 October 2011

The members of UNISON’s Scottish Council - the decision making body for Scotland’s largest union in public services - meet on Wednesday to plan the biggest ever industrial action ballot in Scottish history.
The vast majority of UNISON’s 165 000 members in Scotland will be asked, at the same time as the rest of the Unions 1.1m members throughout the UK – to vote YES  to protect their pensions.
The decision to ballot on industrial action was not one that was taken lightly – but members are determined to protect their pensions.  Large increases in pension contributions are intended in the Health Service and all Public Sector pensions are being seriously devalued by a change from calculating future raises from Retail Price Index (Retail Price Index) to Consumer Price Index (CPI). This change will devalue future pensions by up to 15%.  In addition the threat of a raised retirement age means many face a triple whammy of paying more, working longer and getting less.
Currently the average pension in local government is £4,000, dropping to just £2,800 for women - less than £56 a week. In health, the average pension is £7,500 - higher because it includes doctors and consultants, but for women it is still around £3,000.
In the event of a ‘Yes’ vote the campaign of industrial action will begin with a 1 day strike on Nov 30th. Other unions with members in the public sector are also expected to strike on that day.
UNISON’s Scottish Secretary Mike Kirby said:
“There is a great deal of anger amongst our membership at these attacks on the pensions that we have earned  - which are modest enough without being delayed or downgraded.  Particularly as all of the money raised through these unfair measures will be used by the Government, not to sustain pensions, but as part of George Osborne’s plans to make ordinary people pay down the deficit run up to rescue the banks.“
“Our members are already dealing with a pay freeze, redundancies, cuts in pay and conditions and cuts in the services they deliver. This attack on pensions is the final straw. We need to take a stand across the UK to say enough is enough.  

PICTURE OPPORTUNITY – Wed 11.20 Strathclyde Suite, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. UNISON Members will prevent Pensions Thieves Cameron & Clegg  (in burglar outfits) from stealing their pension  

Notes to Editors

1.     The ballot will involve almost all of UNISON’s members in Scotland including , Local Government, the NHS , Police  and Fire service civilians, further and higher education, some members in the Community and Voluntary sector,  and Scottish Water.

2.     The average pension in local government is £4,000, dropping to just £2,800 for women - less than £56 a week. In health, the average pension is £7,500 - higher because it includes doctors and consultants, but for women it is still around £3,000.

3.      For further information contact Mike Kirby, Scottish Secretary 07939 143355, Dave Watson, Head of Policy and Bargaining, UNISON Scotland 0795 812 2409.


Monday, 3 October 2011

Reps or Negotiators, Yes. But "Pilgrims"? I don't think so.

Taking a look at the Tory Conference in Manchester (I'm trying to get some faces memorised for the Crimewatch Special on "The Great Pensions Robbery"). I happened to notice Eric Pickles, in his best cheery victorian mill owner style, complaining about Trade Union facility time in the public sector.

What interested me most wasn't his attack - grinding the faces of the poor is after all this Government's speciality - it was more his language. People seconded from their day to day employment are, according to Mr Pickles, 'pilgrims'.

I don't know what it say in Mr Pickles dictionary " but in mine a pilgrim is "someone who journeys to a sacred place".

There are many ways to describe the HR offices where seconded reps go with members to assist with disciplinary hearings or return to work interviews. Or the sort of committee rooms where negotiations with employers take place. "Dingy"springs to mind,"Cheerless" is another and "This place could do with a lick of paint" is fairly common,but "Sacred"? Never. And given the way Mr Pickles and his millionaire Cabinet chums are insisting public assets are sold off to the private sector - I can't really believe that's how they think of them either.

So it's rather a curious term for the Tories to pick. Maybe they think that people will find it unsettling - who knows. However,given it's a term deliberately designed to obscure the truth about what people do it's not a term we should acknowledge or recognise.

For information about what people are doing on facility time and how we all benefit from it - try looking here

Meanwhile should have nothing to say about pilgrims - if someone wants to talk about "union reps" or "negotiators" - that's different.

For Pilgrims - try Lourdes.

People First Oct 1st demo - UNISON Scotland pictures and video online

We've posted some pics of Saturday's amazing demo - amazingly wet and amazingly well-supported despite that - on our Picasa album here:  People First demo 1 Oct 2011 - Glasgow

This is UNISON President Eleanor Smith (holding No Cuts placard) along with Scottish Convener Lilian Macer (sporting UNISON bib) in front of the UNISON Scotland banner on the march from Glasgow Green to Kelvingrove Park.

Check out our report of the day and some more pics on the UNISON Scotland website here:

Plus check out our YouTube channel for Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Branch's video of the day - including the speeches by our Scottish Secretary Mike Kirby and socialist veteran Tony Benn at the rally in Kelvingrove Park.

Also the STUC has excellent footage of Tony Benn's speech here:


Saturday, 1 October 2011

15,000 of the 'real big society' brave the rain to say 'Put People First'

15,000 hardy souls braved torrential rain to demonstrate in Glasgow on 1 October to demand the Government 'puts people first' through a redistribution of wealth across Scotland through fair taxes and living wage jobs and protection for the hardest hit through decent services and fair benefits.

Faith, equality, anti-poverty and trade union groups across Scotland came together to campaign for the alternative to cuts and to say 'there is a better way'.

Ex government minister and veteran campaigner Tony Benn addressed the rally and slammed the excesses of the bankers while working people were being forced to 'pay the cost'.

Calling for 'dignity' for working people, Tony praised the spirit of the march and rally. With that spirit and with so many young people turning out, Tony told the rally 'We will win!".

UNISON Scottish Secretary Mike Kirby, this year's STUC President, praised the trade unions, community groups, faith groups and wider public who had braved the rain to turn out in their thousands. "You are the real big Society", Mike told them.

More photos on the website at