Saturday, 28 April 2012

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Publicly-funded childcare is the key to making work pay for parents, says UNISON

Launch of UNISON Scotland education manifesto for local government elections

Universal childcare will help children achieve their full potential as well as make work pay for parents, says UNISON.

Launching the union’s education manifesto for May’s local election today (Thursday), Carol Ball, a child development officer in Glasgow and chair of UNISON’s Education Issues Group, said publicly-funded childcare is vital.

Carol Ball said: “Becoming a mother is one of the most important factors in explaining gender inequality in the labour market, as the high cost of childcare is a major barrier to work for many women.

“We need sufficient publicly-funded centres for children, from birth to compulsory school age, staffed by qualified early education and care workers. This would not only help women back into work, but it would provide a massive boost to the economy and help families lift themselves out of poverty.

“However, we need to make sure that work pays for those who deliver the service as well as those who use it, and publicly-funded childcare is the best way to ensure this happens.”

Mike Kirby, UNISON’s Scottish Secretary, said: “Parents have very little choice when it comes to childcare and nursery classes rarely coincide with the working time of part-time workers – particularly those who work shifts or irregular hours.

“The only way to end this inequality and ensure the best care for our children is to introduce affordable, universal childcare that is funded by the local authority and available to all.”

To download UNISON’s education manifesto online visit

Upcoming events to mark May Day

Please find below a list of upcoming events to mark May Day.

For an up-to-date list of all the events organised across Scotland please see the STUC's website.

GLASGOW

April 28 - May 3

Antifascistas - British and Irish volunteers in Spain.
(28-29 April, 12-4pm; 30 April-3 May, 9.30am-4pm. Glasgow City UNISON branch, 84 Bell Street, Glasgow).

An exhibition from the International Brigade Memorial Trust. (for details contact: secretary@international-brigades.org.uk or 0208 555 6674)

May 1 - May 19

Mayfesto - theatre with an edge. (Tron Theatre, Parnie Street, Glasgow).

The Tron's annual programme of theatre, readings, talks and workshops that offer commentary on contemporary social and political issues. (for details contact: The Tron Theatre, 0141 552 4267 or click here.)

May 1, Tuesday

Morning Star - our class, our culture.
(7pm, The Hub Kilbowie Road, Clydebank)

Music and the working class movement - prof Bill Sweeney, Composer and Musician (for details contact: John Foster, 07913 239 373 or click here.

May 4, Friday

MayDay Concert.
(7.30pm, Community Central Halls, Maryhill Road, Glasgow)

Celebrate International Workers' Day, with Arthur Johnstone, Dave Anderson, Bruce Morton, Eleanor Morton, Tom Leonard, Marc Livingstone. Licensed bar. (for details contact: Fairpley, 0141 418 0562 or click here. Tickets (£8 & £6)

May 5, Saturday

A film by Ken Loach.
(4.40pm, GFT, Rose Street, Glasgow)

The Scottish premiere of Ken Loach's banned 'Save the Children' film. Introduced by Dr David Archibald (University of Glasgow), with post-film discussion on politics and cinema. (for details click here.

Mayday Soul Night. (8pm, STUC Centre, Woodlands Road, Glasgow)

Keep the MayDay faith with the new, legendary, MayDay Northern Soul Night. DJs and bar. (for details contact: Jennifer McCarey, j.mccarey@unison.co.uk)

May 6, Sunday

MayDay March and Rally.
(11am, assemble at George Square, Glasgow, march to Royal Concert Hall for rally)

This year's main event welcomes Owen Jones, author of 'Chavs - the Demonization of the Working Class', as keynote speaker. Bands, speakers and stalls. (for details contact: Jennifer McCarey, j.mccarey@unison.co.uk, or Tricia MacLaren, triciagtuc@hotmail.co.uk)

May 7 - May 13

Cuba - beyond the frame. (The Lighthouse, Mitchell Lane, Glasgow)

Exhibition of contemporary art from 26 of Cuba's leading artists in support of the campaign for justice for the Miami 5. (for details contact: Kath Campbell, 0141 221 2359.

June 4, Monday

Disloyal Subjects - a comedy fundraiser for the Scottish Left Review.
(7pm, The Stand Comedy Club, Woodlands Road, Glasgow)

Scotland's favourite Left magazine runs its second counter to the Royal Hoo Ha! (for details contact: Bob Thomson, contact@scottishleftreview.org)

IRVINE

May 5, Saturday

March and Rally organised by Irvine and N Ayrshire TUC. (10.30am, assemble Woodlands Centre, Kilwinning Road, Irvine.)

Irvine's very own celebration of International Workers' Day. (for details contact: Arthur West. 07826 127 759)

DUNDEE

May 5, Saturday

March and Rally organised by Dundee Trades Union Council.
(12pm, assemble Hilltown Park and March to Albert Square for rally)

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Constitutional debate not about powers but what we do with them

#STUC12 As the STUC sets out on a historic campaign to engage working people in the debate on the future of Scotland, it should not be about what powers politicians want, but about “what they want to do with those powers”, UNISON’s Stephen Smellie told Congress this morning. See full story at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/stuc2012/18.html  

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Congress celebrates Edinburgh victory against privatisation

#STUC12 Congress applauded the victory by trade unions and community groups in Edinburgh in seeing off the threat of the privatisation of a huge tranche of council services and pledged support to unions and communities to fight privatisation in the future.

Pensions: NHS talks start but action not ruled out

#STUC12 UNISON's Lilian Macer told the STUC that NHS workers in Scotland were starting talks on pensions but warned, "We will talk - basing our case on decency and farness but as Mike Kirby said yesterday - if the force of argument fails we will use the argument of force". http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/stuc2012/10.html

Reform must improve public services, not cut costs

#STUC12 Quality public services are the mark of a civilised society and are necessary for any growing economy, UNISON's Stephen Smellie told the STUC today. Users and staff must be put at the centre of public services that prioritise long term prevention and promote equality.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Workers Memorial Day – Saturday 28 April 2012 - Cuts Cost Lives

This year, International Workers Memorial Day falls on Saturday 28 April so UNISON is supporting the TUC campaign to make 28 April a day of action to defend health and safety from the government's attacks, and to encourage branches and members to take part in or organise regional and community based events.

Details of events taking place in around Scotland are below and on the STUC website and materials can be found on the UNISON UK website health and safety pages.


Aberdeen 
Friday 27 April.   10:00 - 11:30 Conference room 4th Floor Marischal.  (Aberdeen City Council) Betty Lyon UNISON local organiser will do a short presentation. H&S manager, Environmental Services manager and GMB will also give presentations.
Bathgate
(West Lothian TUC)
Ceremony at Workers Memorial, Bathgate Sports Centre, Balbardie Park Torphichen Road, Bathgate, West Lothian EH48 4LA, Saturday 28th April at 12.30pm

Bonnyrigg
(Midlothian TUC)
IWMD Memorial, George V Park Bonnyrigg, Saturday 28th April, 12.30pm

Coatbridge
(North Lanarkshire TUC)
Commemoration at Summerlee Industrial Museum, Heritage Way, Coatbridge, ML5 1QD; Saturday 28th April, 12 noon. Speakers include UNISON Scottish Organiser Dave Watson.

Dundee
Commemoration at Memorial Tree adjacent to Discovery Point Riverside Drive Dundee, 12 noon, Saturday 8th April;

Dundee City Council Annual Lecture
27th April to be given by Asbestos Action Tayside, Friday 27 April 2012 12.30 - 2pm Dundee Congregational Church 6-8 Constitution Road, Dundee DD1 1LY

Edinburgh
Ceremony at the IWMD Tree and Memorial, West Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh; 12 noon, Saturday 28th April.

Falkirk
Ceremony in Falkirk Council HQ, Municipal Buildings, West Bridge Street, Falkirk, FK1 5RS; 12 noon Saturday 28th April

Fife
Ceremony at the Memorial Tree, Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy; 11.00 a.m. on Thursday 26th April

Glasgow
Commemoration George Square at 12 Noon on Saturday 28th April. Wreaths will be laid at the proposed site of the new memorial do be unveiled in 2013.

Greenock
Saturday 28th April 11.00am Service and Wreath Laying Ceremony Clyde Sq, Greenock

Hamilton
(South Lanarkshire TUC)
Commemoration at the memorial, Council Offices, Beckford Street, Hamilton, ML3 0AA; Saturday 28 April, 12 noon.

Irvine
(North Ayrshire and Irvine TUC)
Commemoration at Memorial Gardens, at Burn Street, Irvine Memorial Gardens, North Ayrshire, 26th April at 6.30 -7pm

Kilmarnock
Kilmarnock & Loudoun Trades Union Council would like to invite all interested parties to our annual Workers Memorial Day ceremony on Saturday April 28th, 2012 at the Dean Country Park, Kilmarnock .
Assemble at 9.45am at Dower House, Dean Country Park, Kilmarnock
Programme
10.00am - Opening remarks
10.05am - Speakers including Alan McVey from USDAW
10.15am - Laying of wreaths
10.25am - Close
The ceremony will be followed by a short event to mark the production of an impressive piece of public art work which has involved pupils at St Josephs Academy . This work is themed around International Workers Memorial Day.
All welcome - please pass the word round. It would be helpful in our planning for the day if those organisations or individuals planning to lay a wreath could let us know beforehand. Phone Arthur West, Secretary, Kilmarnock & Loudoun Trades Unison Council, on 07826127759

Paisley
Paisley & District Trades Union Council will mark IWMD on Saturday 28th April at noon at the memorial stone in front of Renfewshire House, Cotton St, Paisley. Guest speaker Janice Godrich, President, PCS.
Stirling
Saturday 28 April 2012.  There will be a tree planting ceremony in the grounds of the Council Offices at Viewforth at 10.30 a.m.

.

Demand fair pay for local government workers

Questions to put to candidates standing for election on May 3

Local government workers have been doing ‘more for less’ for too long. Pay rises have fallen below inflation for several years and we are now in the second year of a pay freeze – a real terms pay cut – while inflation continues to rise. The forthcoming local government elections give you the opportunity to challenge council candidates on what they plan to do to change this.

Please find below a list of questions that you should ask candidates standing for election on May 3.

• Do you support the case for the living wage being introduced for all public
service workers?

• Would you support a campaign for fair pay?

• Do you agree that low pay in local government needs to be tackled?

• Would you pay local government workers the £250 that both the UK and Scottish governments said should be paid to low-paid public service workers?

• Do you agree that there should be an end to the current pay freeze – a real-terms pay cut – for local government workers?

Please circulate these questions to as many people as possible and urge them to put these questions to their local candidates. It’s time to put politicians on the spot over local government pay.

For more information on what is being done to tackle local government pay, please talk to your local branch. Keep a look out for information on our upcoming campaign to tackle pay in local government.

It's time to pull plug on this big business profits generator

PFI scandal: UNISON's head of bargaining and campaigns, Dave Watson, argues why it's time to pull the plug on private finance initiatives. (Daily Record, April 23, 2012)

Bungling maintenance crews turned the power off at Edinburgh Royal Infimary last week while an operation was still being performed. The ERI is a private finance initiative hospital, which means a company own and run the facilities. The terrifying blunder again put the spotlight on PFIs and similar public and private sector joint ventures. In today's Daily Record, Dave Watson explains why Scotland's largest public service trade union has always been opposed to PFIs.

The shocking picture of a surgeon stitching up a patient by torchlight in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary shows the risk of trusting private finance with public services. Here is a company getting £60million a year from the taxpayers and seemingly they can’t even keep the electricity meter fed.

Public Private Partnerships (PPP) is the umbrella name given to a range of schemes that give the private sector a chance to make money from schools and hospitals. The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) is the most common.

The key difference between PFI and normal ways of providing public services is that the public do not own the asset. The council or health board make an annual payment to a private company who provide the building and associated services.

Unison and others have consistently warned of the dangers of involving the private sector in delivering public infrastructure through PPP/PFI deals. They tend to be more expensive, inflexible, lack transparency and do not provide taxpayers with good value for money.

But the companies involved make millions.

PFI schemes cost much more than conventionally funded projects because governments can borrow money at much lower rates than private companies. The Commons Treasury Committee found the capital cost of a typical PFI project is eight per cent – more than double that of government borrowing. Audit Scotland have calculated these costs as adding £200,000 to £300,000 each year for every £10million invested.

Adding in other payments, UNISON Scotland’s At What Cost report calculated the additional cost of PFI schemes at £2.1billion.

You don’t have to take our word for it.

In April 2011, the National Audit Office (NAO) urged the UK Government to find alternative ways of funding major projects because of the high costs of PFI. They warned that the scheme had become increasingly expensive owing to the credit crisis.

And in August last year, the Treasury Select Committee “found no convincing evidence that savings and efficiencies made during the lifetime of PFI projects could offset the higher cost of using private capital rather than government borrowing”.

Supporters of PFI argue that it transfers risks to the private sector (but anyone in Edinburgh Royal last week will find that hard to believe) and that makes PFI value for money.

However, that claim doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The National Audit Office have called the value for money calculation “pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo.” When public finances were growing, these additional costs could be masked.

But UNISON warned it was likely that over the 25 or 30 years of a typical PFI contract, Scotland would face spending cuts.

The running cost of PFI schemes in Scotland is now almost £1billion a year and the share of public money being spent on PFI payments is growing. Unlike other budgets, you can’t cut PFI payments – the contractors and the bankers always get their cash.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

But isn’t this just a history lesson? Despite claiming they were against PFI, the SNP Government have set up their own version – called the Scottish Futures Trust.
This was meant to be a different way of doing things, but the trust are in charge of a £2.5billion Scottish Government PPP programme, one of the biggest of its type in Europe.

They have rebranded them as Non-Profit Distributing (NPD) or hub schemes and, in fairness, they are better contracts. But the expert adviser to the Commons Treasury Committee points out the long-term cost to taxpayers of NPD is “similar” to that of the classic PFI model and that all it really does is “make PFI a bit more politically acceptable without changing any of the economics”.

So where does all this leave NHS Lothian and its torchlight operating theatres?

If this was a normal service contract they could claim breach of contract and either replace the contractor or more sensibly bring the service back in house. But with PFI they don’t own the hospital. Consort Healthcare own it and bizarrely still will even after having received £1.28billion of public money by 2028.

They could buy the contract out as the government did with the Skye Bridge, but that will be costly in these straightened times. That leaves the option of re-negotiating the facilities management aspects of the contract. The aim should be to liberate the £60million a year paid to Consort for running the hospital and doing the job properly in-house as in a normal NHS hospital.

There’s precious little comfort in saying, “I told you so!” But we did warn of the costs, inflexibility and failures that would follow PFI.

Governments of all colours have chased a financial illusion, the taxpayer is picking up the bill and big business is laughing all the way to the bank.

You can read the full article on the Daily Record's website by clicking here

#STUC12 Austerity isn't working: Mike Kirby lays out the STUC's vision for domestic and international solidarity

In a wide ranging presidential speech today from domestic to international issues, UNISON's Mike Kirby laid out eloquently and comprehensively what we stand for as a movement and why there is a better way than austerity. Click here for his speech in full. http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/stuc2012/2.html

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Sack Lothian PFI contractor

UNISON response to Lothian Health Statement over failings by PFI contractor Consort
Health Board must sack PFI contractor. Say UNISON
UNISON Lothian Health Branch Secretary Tam Waterson Said:
“We’re glad the penny has finally dropped for Lothian Health about PFI. It’s just a pity that hundreds of millions of other pennies had to drop into Consort’s pockets before they realised.
“The Board say consort’s failings can no longer be tolerated. It’s taken them over a decade - but we are delighted that they have come round to our way of thinking.
“Staff in the ERI are undergoing a pay freeze, and paying a hike in the cost of their pensions, for which they’ll receive no benefit, yet nothing seems to stop the flow of money into the pockets of big business PFI merchants. Health Service Staff across Scotland are paying an extra £50m out of their wages this year, and doing more as staffing levels fall – Consort can underperform and still pick up £60m. It’s a scandal”
If Consort were a member of staff - they would have been down the road a long time before now”


UNISON Head of Bargaining and Campaigns Dave Watson said:
“We’ve consistently criticised PFI in general, and the set up at ERI in particular for many years. It’s a costly and inefficient way of delivering services. It’s meant to mean a transfer of risk , but when things go wrong the risk stays with the public sector– and at the end of the day, the public – because the companies expect to get paid.
“Many of consorts failings through the year stem from the PFI contract meaning that there are in effect two chains of command for many of the staff. This leads duplication and confusion.
“The Health Board should now be seeking an exit from this failed arrangement with Consort and at the very least be looking to bring facilities management at ERI back in house”


Notes to editors
1. Consort are due to receive £1.26 Billion pounds over the course of the ERI contract (after which they not Lothian health board will own the building). The capital cost of the hospital was £184m The value of this contract was first exposed by UNISON in 2003
2. UNISON Scotland report on the extent, and persistence of PFI in Scotland http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/b016_PolicyBrief_PPPPFIinScotland_December11.pdf
3. Consort catalogue of errors from Edinburgh Evening News

UNISON calls for a coherent strategy for social care services

Launch of UNISON Scotland social care manifesto for local government elections

Councils need a coherent strategy to ensure the sustainability of social care services, says UNISON. Launching the union's social care manifesto for May's local elections today (Wednesday), UNISON Scotland's Depute Convener Stephen Smellie said councils need to focus on putting care before cost.

Stephen Smellie, UNISON Scotland Depute Convener, said: "Social care staff are expected to perform miracles by helping people to change their lives. But increasing levels of unemployment, homelessness and poverty place ever greater demands on services and staff are constantly overstretched.

"We'll be challenging all the candidates in the forthcoming elections on their commitment to social care, and asking them to support the principles in our manifesto. We want to know that they are committed to putting care before cost when it comes to delivering the services that people depend on."

Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish Organiser, said: "Budgets are continually being cut and this has led to real fears about the sustainability of services. Councils need a coherent strategy for care services to reverse cuts in funding, boost staffing levels and cut service charges.

"Care services continue to be designed and imposed from above and this needs to change. People need to have a real say in how services are delivered in their communities and the only way to ensure that is to put users and staff at the heart of service design and delivery."

You can download a copy of the UNISON Scotland social care manifesto online at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/socialwork/minimanifesto.pdf.

UNISON Scotland's local government manifesto can also be found online at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/publicworks

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

UNISON supports annulment call on changes to NHS pension scheme

UNISON has voiced its support for an annulment of the NHS pension amendment regulations, which will be moved at the Scottish Parliament today (Tuesday).

At a meeting of the Health and Sport Committee in Edinburgh, Drew Smith MSP will call for the regulations to be annulled, leading to a debate among the MSPs.

The proposed changes outlined in the regulations include a year one increase to employee contributions of up to 2.4 per cent – effectively a pension tax on health workers.

There is no need for the increase as the NHS pension scheme across the UK is in surplus, and not one penny of this increase will go to the pension scheme.

The Scottish Government has said it is opposed in principle to these contribution increases, but it plans to implement them regardless.

Tam Waterson, chair of UNISON’s Scottish Health Committee, said: “The Scottish Government has the responsibility to address these issues in Scotland, so they have a duty to fully explore a Scottish solution for health workers.

“We welcome this call for an annulment of the regulations and would urge MSPs to put a halt on proposed changes until sufficient time has been given for negotiation and to look at alternative solutions.

“MSPs have to realise that asking hard-pressed NHS workers who cannot afford to contribute more to their pension at a time of pay restraint just doesn’t make sense.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. The motion to annul the National Health Service (Superannuation Scheme and Pension Scheme) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2012 will be laid in front of the Health and Sport Committee meeting at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh today (Tuesday, April 17).

2. UNISON, Scotland’s largest health union representing NHS staff, is calling on the Scottish Parliament to reject these regulations.

For more information please see our briefing at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/MSPBriefing_NHSPensionsRegs_March2012.pdf 

Friday, 13 April 2012

Local Government Pension Scheme Funding

Members may be concerned about an article in today's Scotsman that claims "THE pensions of more than 230,000 council workers in Scotland could be at risk after a black hole of more than £4 billion was uncovered in a report published today."

However, unlike the Scotsman, most members will recognise that the "report" is produced by an organisation called 'Taxpayer Scotland' and therefore less than credible. This is an offshoot from the far-right business funded body the 'Tax Payers Alliance' that has a long standing agenda of undermining quality public service pension provision. They are not a pensions body and have no expertise in this field.

As anyone who understands pensions could have told the Scotsman, it is frankly absurd to take a snapshot look at pension funds and claim that  "the country’s 32 local authorities do not have enough funds to pay their employees’ pensions."  

The LGPS (Scotland) is the largest pension scheme in Scotland and not surprisingly each of the administering funds have professional valuations that ensure the scheme can meet its obligations. In addition under an agreement reached in 2008 there is a cost sharing provision that ensures that the cost of doing so is fairly shared. We are awaiting the final details of the 2011 valuations, but all the indications are that the schemes are in good health. So much so that the largest scheme (covering half of Scotland) has cancelled planned increases in contributions over the next two years.

Doesn't sound much like a 'gaping pensions deficit' does it? That's because it doesn't exist. The administrators of an equivalent private sector scheme would love to have the funding levels of our efficient LGPS in Scotland.

The Tax Payers Alliance (better known to us as the 'Tax Dodgers Alliance') have a long track record of producing this type of daft scare story. Reputable newspapers should know better than to reproduce their nonsense and cause unnecessary concern amongst large numbers of Scots who rely on this pension scheme.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Council elections 3 May 2012 - 10 Questions to put to candidates

Use your vote for public services on May 3

1. How will you protect public services?

2. Will you oppose any proposals for privatisation of key council services?

3. With budgets going down, how will you protect standards in social care?

4. How can you ensure that the amount of personalisation or self-directed payments are at a level for elderly or disabled people to purchase an adequate amount of care?

5. Should everyone delivering public services - council staff and those working for contractors - be paid the Living Wage?

6. Will you recognise the contribution made to our children’s education by classroom assistants by supporting them in opposing cutbacks?

7. Will you oppose the 3,000 planned job losses among police staffs?

8. What will you do to lessen the impact of the UK Government’s Welfare Reforms which will see many families losing entitlement to a range of benefits including council tax benefit, housing benefit and working tax credits?

9. Do you think it’s fair that council staff should have their pay frozen while inflation is high and the rich are getting richer?

10. Will you support the council negotiating a Green Workplace agreement with trade unions to help meet climate change targets?

http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/publicworks/questions12.html

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Aberdeen wins battle against privatisation

Aberdeen City UNISON branch is celebrating after its campaigning to stop the privitisation of of 'corporate governance' services proved sucessful.

The council had been looking at a so-call "alternative delivery method - ie slling off - for services such as finance, human resources, customer care, ICT, benefits and regulations. But last night it voted to keep the services in-house.

Branch secretary Karen Davidson said: "These services will now remain in house, where committed and dedicated council staff can provide the best service for the citizens of Aberdeen.

"The branch have campaigned hard for 18 months for this outcome," she added. "We are sure that the councilors who voted in favour of in-house staff recognise the excellent service our members provide."

Aberdeen is the second major Scottish council to reject privatisation plans for major services after a UNISON campaign, following an earlier decision by Edinburgh.

Edinburgh halts privatisation plan (19/01/12)

Aberdeen City UNISON