Friday, 28 February 2014

Douglas - It's what you do with what you've got that matters.

Douglas Alexander has gotten a lot of publicity in advance of a speech tonight where he will advocate more powers for the Scottish Parliament. Mr Alexander urges Labour's devoiution commission to 'range widely and act boldly'. But he should remember, it's not devolving powers that is bold - it's using them.

The speech is of course part of the referendum campaign. But given that much of that has been at the level of Eddi Reader v Bowie ... and not so much perfect as a godawful small affair. It should probably be welcomed.

Not that UNISON is advocating for support for either side - UNISON has not as yet formed a view about what option is the best in the independence referendum. We are looking at both sides and challenging them to show how their priorities match up with our longstanding policies and priorities. These are outlined in A Fairer Scotland. But with the parties advocating a no vote developing plans for further devolution we've also put forward our proposals as to how we'd like to see that go; we've outlined those in A Fairer Scotland and Devolution. So when Mr A calls for expanding devo to mean "considering taxation, employment and skills policy or indeed the responsibilities of the Crown Estates, or the running of elections" we should be glad that he's catching up with us.

More powers are fine, good, even welcome. But if its a different Scotland we want, it's what is done with those powers that matters. As the STUC have pointed out at length and in detail in their second A Just Scotland report. There is plenty that could be done now. Never mind with the extra powers that will be coming under the Scotland Act, or the further powers that would come with independence. There are many areas where what's been missing hasn't been constitutional authority but political will.

Mr Alexander obviously wants to make an impact and build support for his side in the referendum. It's not our place to help him with that - but here is some advice (that applies every bit as much to his opponents). Perhaps he should say not what powers he wants the parliament to have - but what he wants to see done with them..

It's only a thought, but most UNISON members will probably be more interested in what he intends doing for people - rather than what he wants to see done to Parliament. His boss Ed Miliband has talked a lot recently (and accurately) about a 'cost of living crisis. If Mr Alexander gives us a bit of detail on how he would use more powers to tackle that - it might hold attention a wee bit more than proposals for institutional engineering.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

UNISON Scotland supports #EarthHour 2014 #BeBrilliant

UNISON Scotland is once again supporting WWF's Earth Hour, which this year takes place on Saturday 29 March 2014 at 8.30pm.

Earth Hour 2014 asks us all to #BeBrilliant for the planet. Taking part can be as simple as 'just' switching off the lights for an hour but in doing so you're part of the world's biggest celebration to highlight the need for action on climate change.

And of course everyone can take part - both at home and often at work. Many public bodies in Scotland are already involved and if your employer isn't you could ask them to sign up.

For lots more information from WWF about why we're all doing this, about taking part, and to sign up, click here.

This toolkit was developed for UNISON branches and has a range of good ideas for Earth Hour activities.

Push for European #Climate Action - Tell Cameron & Clegg to act

In March, Europe will be setting its climate targets for the next two decades. This follows the worst floods in the UK for 200 years – floods that leading scientists agree are climate related.

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland is urging supporters to email Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg to ask them to push for the ambitious action on climate change that the world needs.
The EU climate deal is a big deal and current proposals are too weak. The deal will shape Europe's carbon emissions and renewable energy development until 2030, and, if strong enough, could unlock global ambition.
Civil society, scientists, businesses and European citizens agree - we need strong climate laws to stop the worst impacts of climate change and to unlock green jobs and economic growth. The changing climate is already having an adverse effect on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities, on wildlife and the natural environment.
Click here to easily and quickly send an email to David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Public money does not belong in the hands of tax dodgers, says UNISON

UNISON is calling for an end to tax dodgers winning public contracts ahead of today’s (Thursday) parliamentary debate on the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill.
   In a briefing issued to all MSPs prior to the stage 1 debate, the union asks them to decide if they are on the side of the tax dodgers or if they will take action to tackle them?
    Dave Watson, UNISON Scotland’s head of bargaining and campaigns, said: “It is entirely wrong that companies who dodge paying their fair share of tax should be awarded public contracts. Almost £10bn of public money, over a quarter of the Scottish Government budget, is spent on public procurement. It is an important lever to change the behaviour of big companies who do not play by the rules”
   The union also says the Bill does not go far enough to tackle the issue of low pay.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

It’s time to care, says UNISON as survey reveals Scotland’s care crisis

A survey of Scottish homecare workers has exposed the shocking reality of the country’s care services.

The majority of workers polled in the UNISON survey believe the service is not sufficient to meet the needs of the elderly and vulnerable people they care for – both from the time they can spend and the quality of care they can provide. Almost half of carers (44%) said they were limited to specific times to spend with their clients. One in two workers are not reimbursed for travelling between client visits, while three in four said they expected the situation to get worse over the coming year.

The survey – Scotland: It’s Time to Care – also revealed that one in ten are on zero hours contracts. This is being fuelled by the way councils commission care and is leading to worse services for the elderly and some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Monday, 17 February 2014

EU Right to Water hearing today

Water is a public good, not a commodity. Today there will be a hearing in the European Parliament on the European Citizens Initiative – Right to Water. You can watch the debate live online.

Nearly two million people signed this initiative across Europe. It invites the European Commission to propose legislation implementing the human right to water and sanitation as recognised by the United Nations, and promoting the provision of water and sanitation as essential public services for all. The EU legislation should require governments to ensure and to provide all citizens with sufficient and clean drinking water and sanitation. In particular, it wants water supply and management of water resources not be subject to ‘internal market rules’ and that water services are excluded from liberalisation.

Dave Watson explains why this is important to Scotland. Here you can read UNISON Scotland's case for defending Scotland's water

Saturday, 15 February 2014

'Keep Glasgow's older peoples residents safe’ say UNISON members as strike action goes ahead to defend standards and wages

UNISON members across Glasgow are embarking on further strike action after discussions with the City Council this week failed to reach a settlement.

Members are on strike from 8 am on Friday 14th until Monday 17th February at 8am.

Members have been in dispute since January and this the third strike action taken by the city’s care workers in response to the council’s decision to enforce new job roles, longer shift patterns and pay cuts of up to seven per cent.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Councils in Scotland bearing the brunt of cuts

The double whammy of austerity measures and the council tax freeze has left local government in Scotland bearing the brunt of cuts.

Local councils across Scotland are setting their budgets for 2014-15. Communities across Scotland will see services being cut.

There have been 39,300 job losses in local government in Scotland out of a total of 49,500 job losses across the public sector in Scotland. Local government is the only major Scottish spending portfolio to take a cash cut since the crash.

The union says cutting any vital services – which is a direct result of UK coalition government’s unnecessary austerity measures and the Scottish government’s council tax freeze – is not the way forward. Local people should have a say in their local services and should not feel powerless in the process. It is also the most vulnerable who will be most affected.

Mark Ferguson, Chair of UNISON’s Local Government Committee, said:

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Council budget campaign resources

As councils set their budgets for 2014, UNISON Scotland has produced three new communication materials (in pdf format) to help branches with local campaigns.

St Valentines Day Massacre. A general leaflet highlighting our key messages and actions.

An infographic on the Council Tax freeze, highlighting the regressive nature of this measure.

Public Sector Job Losses Infographic
An infographic on public sector job losses. This highlights how councils continue to take the brunt of the cuts and the job losses, well in excess of their share of the public service workforce.

Council Tax Infographic
Job Losses Infographic
More details at

Friday, 7 February 2014

‘Our libraries have never been under more pressure’ - UNISON Scotland

Fri 7 Feb 2014

On National Libraries Day (Saturday 8 February) UNISON warns that our libraries have never been under more pressure because of spending cuts.  National Libraries Day rounds off a week of celebrations that recognise the key role libraries play in our communities, schools, colleges, universities and in the workplace.

UNISON warns that cuts to college, university and local authority budgets has meant libraries across Scotland being forced to make cuts to opening hours and staff – and in some cases even closures.
In a UNISON survey more than 40% members reported cuts in service and two-thirds felt staffing levels in libraries were inadequate. Nearly 90% indicated public support for the service, but nearly two-thirds felt that the service was not valued.

Gray Allan, UNISON’s Falkirk Council branch secretary (and a librarian), said: 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

More Higher Education strike photos

#fairpayinHE Photos are coming in from the Scottish picket lines as UNISON HE members are taking a third day of strike action - alongside colleagues from UCU, Unite and EIS - in the increasingly bitter dispute with the higher education employers over their offer of a 1% pay rise.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

People's Assembly Scotland speeches now on Youtube

Thanks to Cailean MacAulay and Tom Morrison, here are links to the speeches at the People's Assembly Scotland launch on 25 January.

Phil McGarry RMT Union
Andrew Murray UNITE the Union
Grahame Smith General Secretary STUC
Ricky Tomlison Shewsbury 24
Kevin McHugh PCS Union
John Stevenson UNISON Union
Contributions from the Floor

Support your local library on National Libraries Day

Saturday 8 February is National Libraries Day. It rounds off a week of celebrations that recognise the key role libraries play in our communities, schools, colleges, universities and in the workplace.

As a consequence of spending cuts our libraries have never been under more pressure. While closures in Moray grabbed the headlines, there has been a salami slicing of cuts to opening hours and staff in other local authorities. In a UNISON survey more than 40% members reported cuts in service and two-thirds felt staffing levels were inadequate. Nearly 90% indicated public support for the service, but nearly two-thirds felt that the service was not valued.

As local authority budgets are set next week, further cuts are likely as councils bear the brunt of cuts in the Scottish budget.

Scottish Labour MSP Jayne Baxter has tabled the following motion in the Scottish Parliament:

S4M-08949 Jayne Baxter: Celebrating National Libraries Day—That the Parliament considers that public library services are an essential part of communities across Scotland; welcomes what it sees as the role that they play in providing access to learning for people and in serving as community hubs; believes that the professional expertise and skills of library staff are important in delivering a quality service; considers that libraries best benefit society when they are well funded and supported through strong national leadership, and joins in celebrating the importance of the work of public libraries across the UK as part of National Libraries Day, which will be marked on 8 February 2014.

Branches should encourage members to write to their MSPs urging them to support the motion. Details on how to organise or support a local event are on the National Libraries Day website. You can also tweet your support using the hashtag #NLD14

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

UNISON Fair Pay for Scotland Council Workers: Local government day of protest

UNISON Fair Pay for Scotland Council Workers: Local government day of protest: Council workers up and down the country will be taking part in activities on Tuesday 4 February to highlight the continuing scandal of low...

Monday, 3 February 2014

Pay inequality in Scotland’s universities must end, says UNISON

UNISON Scotland is calling for urgent action to be taken to redress the pay balance in universities.

The growing inequality in pay in higher education between senior managers and the workforce as a whole has been under the spotlight in the run-up to further strike action called for February 6, 2014.

The union has criticised university bosses for taking above-inflation salary increases while low-paid staff are left to pay the price. Union members across Scotland will be embarking on a day of action on Thursday to highlight that they are worth more than the 1 per cent pay rise being offered to them.

Emma Phillips, Regional Organiser for UNISON Scotland, said: “The pay balance needs to be urgently redressed.

“If the money exists to pay whopping pay rises to university bosses, then the money exists for employer’s to improve their measly current 1 per cent pay offer.

“It is the hard work of employees in higher education that support the delivery of world-class education to students, yet staff have seen a 13 per cent decrease in the value of their pay in recent years.

“Staff are being asked to do more and take home less and it’s time for universities to reverse the wage cut.”