Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Green UNISON Day 20 Sept - solidarity with school climate strikers

On 20 September hundreds of thousands of young people will take part in the latest of the climate strikes inspired by Greta Thunberg, the Finnish school student who decided to strike in protest at the lack of action and urgency by governments on climate change.

Several of these school student climate strikes have taken place this year in Scotland with protests organised in George Square in Glasgow and at Holyrood in Edinburgh. However the 20 September strike breaks new ground following Greta’s call for adults to join them. This has sometimes been expressed as a call for a general strike but some people have called on companies to also support the action.

Members of UNISON in Scotland have been active on climate change issues for some years, initiating the national union’s campaign for pension funds to divest from fossil fuels and setting up a Green Network for activists to come together to discuss how to take the issues up in the union and with employers. Last year, they organised a Green UNISON Day where branches held activities to raise awareness of the issues.

This year, the Green UNISON Day coincides with the 20 September Climate Strike Day and is a real opportunity for branches and activists to make the issue a priority for our members and our employers.

Due to our draconian anti-trade union laws UNISON and other trade unions are unable to call for strike action. However there is nothing to prevent workers taking annual leave or flexi-leave on the day to join school students marching in the streets to demand action.

Green UNISON Day creates opportunities for a wide range of activities which will demonstrate not only solidarity with young people taking action across the world but also practical steps to get union members and employers working to address the real climate emergency that confronts us all.

Scottish UNISON Branches are already making plans and these include:

·         Lunch time gatherings, meetings and lobbies.
·         Inviting school strikers to address workplace or branch meetings. UNISON’s Glasgow City  Branch have gone further and after inviting a school climate striker to speak to the branch have given financial assistance and asked other Glasgow branches to do likewise.
·         Calling on members to show support for the strikers using solidarity posters and pledges.
·         Promoting the day by publicising it to members in advance and in particular briefing members in schools on the Climate Strike movement, encouraging them to be supportive of school students taking action
·         Taking actions in support of UNISON’s campaign for Pension Funds to divest from fossil fuels, writing to Pension Fund Committees and Boards and local Councillors
·         Planting trees as symbolic of the need to restore forests
·         Publicising UNISON policy on Councils taking a lead on renewable energy by setting up Municipal Energy Companies to generate and locally distribute electricity
·         Calling on employers to declare a Climate Emergency and for Councils to work with UNISON and other unions, public sector bodies, employers and communities to devise plans within six months to address the emergency.

The past few weeks of extreme weather with record high temperatures followed by days of torrential rain disrupting train and road travel, threatening infrastructure like dams, has illustrated that climate change has already arrived and that the climate emergency that Greta and others have been protesting about is already here.

It is working people and the poor who will suffer most. Faced to live and work in increasingly difficult environments, prices of travel and food increasing, public service money to be diverted to repair and protect bridges, rail tracks and roads from weather damage, will force us all to pay for the climate crisis just as we paid for the banking crisis. Whilst the rich can afford their air-conditioning and moving to areas away from flood risks, working people will continue to suffer when temperatures soar and be given sandbags when flood waters rise.

UNISON branches participating in the Green UNISON Day, supporting the school strikers and demanding action from employers and governments are showing a lead to other trade unions.

Stephen Smellie, Depute Convener, UNISON Scotland.


Wednesday, 24 October 2018

No more cuts to public services summit - Clydebank

Clydebank TUC and West Dunbartonshire Joint Trade Unions are holding a local summit in Clydebank on Saturday.

The event is called "No More Cuts to Public Services" and has some great speakers lined up.

It is supported by UNISON, Unite, the EIS and GMB, and takes place from 11am to 2pm at Clydebank Town Hall on 27 October.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Busting The Myths Around #EqualPayGlasgow Strikes

Here are all the facts you need about the #EqualPayGlasgow strikes, from our blog published on @ScottishTUC site.

March & Rally 23 Oct 11.30 Glasgow Green to George Sq
@Unison_Glasgow @GMBGlasgowCC

MYTH:  The Unions agreed to the Glasgow pay system but are now suing against their own agreement.
FACT:  UNISON’s local branch and equality team vetoed the Workforce Pay and Benefits  Review (WPBR). The tribunal decision records that the unions walked out on the job evaluation process, took a grievance and formally complained to the council  leader. The council admitted in the litigation that the jobs were graded by managers and consultants alone. In no sense is WPBR a union scheme.

“Nothing agreed, nothing offered, nothing proposed.

We demand real negotiations.”

The council approved WPBR on 16th October 2006. The committee report reflects the fact there was no agreement. Instead the report recommends imposing WPBR and contemplates doing so by mass dismissals. Under a Labour majority,  the report was approved. Workers got three chances to accept WPBR over the winter of 2006/07. Then it was imposed.
All this is “on the record”. In 12 years of argument over WPBR, including 14 disputes, 10 strikes and over 12,000 legal claims, no council official has ever said this was a union approved scheme. Anyone saying that now is making mischief.

MYTH: If the unions had employed their industrial muscle on this long before now we wouldn’t be in this position.
FACT:  No current Scottish pay system has faced more disputes and legal conflict than
WPBR. There have been 14 separate WPBR disputes in 11 years and 10 strikes.

“Start looking at settlement proposals so negotiations can finally start.

All we have had for nine months are talks about talks.”

Nearly 6,000 workers have been balloted in WPBR disputes and 3,500 have taken strike action. In parallel with the strikes there are 12,500 legal claims, many of which date back to 2008. Are the council honestly saying we could or should have been MORE aggressive?
Militancy is not the issue. None of this conflict would have been necessary if the council had not suppressed the findings of the statutory investigation by the Equality & Human Rights Commission in 2010.
In 2010 the EHRC conducted a statutory investigation of WPBR and told the council it was discriminatory. That report was suppressed. In 2018 Councillor Aitken correctly ordered the release of the secret report. Although that instruction has not been met in full we know enough from the material released to say that discrimination should have ended long before now.
What was needed to resolve this dispute in 2010 was not greater union militancy or legal wizardry, but simply the regular transparency of a council meeting. The officials were able to block and suppress the EHRC until 2018 because councillors never met to discuss equal pay issues between 2006 and 2018. Councillor Aitken exposed the fact that all Glasgow councillors failed, and failed badly. That is something we agree on. The big questions are simple – who knew what about the EHRC, when did they know, and what did they do? How did they silence a statutory agency that held expert evidence of discrimination at the council?

MYTH: The reasons for the strike do not justify strike action.
FACT: The reason for the strike is clear – the claimants have lost faith in the willingness of senior officials to deliver Councillors Aitken’s instructions. In December 2017, the parties agreed to adopt a joint timetable with clear stages or milestones. The workers were already low on confidence in March 2018 when they told Anne Robinson’s BBC documentary that they were going to the union to demand a strike.

“The women know the reason for the dispute because it was the women who called the strike.”

In May, a consultative ballot extracted a council commitment to adequate funding, a new joint timetable with milestones and a deadline of Christmas. In August the council missed their milestones, tore up the timetable and told the unions there would be no money until April 2019. We don’t know if the officials had councillor approval for the actions that triggered the strike vote. We shared that information openly with the members, as a trade union should, and the reaction was as clear as it was predictable. The call for strike action was overwhelming. This is a member led campaign and the members are angry. Very angry.

MYTH: The women don’t know why they are striking because the union misinformed them.
FACT: The council get irritated when we advise them how to address equality issues but it has to be said that publicly patronising powerful women who have high value legal claims is a high risk strategy. The members meet at least once a month to plan and execute their campaign. The members went to the Court of Session and there were over 30 claimants at the recent tribunal hearing. They know how the scheme was designed, they know about the EHRC cover up, they know the detail of the 42 point settlement plan and they know the council tore it up. They have battled through 14 disputes over 11 years and they know this is the conclusion of a long slow battle. The women know the reason for the dispute because it was the women who called the strike. It’s that simple.

MYTH: The unions know that council officers are carrying out the instructions of the council leader.
FACT: Cllr Aitken told the officials to end the EHRC cover-up and produce the report in full. In fact she told them three times. But we are still waiting for the truth behind the cover up. Councillor Aitken asked for a time table with milestones and dispute resolution. The officials missed the milestones, tore up the timetable and refused to go to mediation before 2019. Was that what the officials were instructed to do? We genuinely don’t think so.

MYTH: Any delay in making payments is due to the strike, not the actions of the council
FACT: The claimants’ representatives have been available to talk, without condition, since December 2017. It was the council who left the talks in response to the strike notice. The strike does not delay settlement. What delays settlement is the council’s attitude to the strike – their decision to walk away shows a lack of respect for low paid women. Every dispute is settled by discussion. The only way forward is to talk.

MYTH: The union’s escalated the campaign when the SNP defeated labour in 2017
FACT: With 6000 workers in 14 disputes, 10 strikes and 8,000 legal claims the campaign was very assertive against the Labour administration. What escalated the scale and significance of the campaign even further was the Court of Session decision in August 2017. Labour presided over the WPBR years and the SNP administration has set a course towards equality. Accepting the Court of Session ruling and removing WPBR were strong decisions that have received credit from the workforce and their representatives. But the unions are clear – we are in dispute with the employer, not the elected members. Party politics is irrelevant.

MYTH: The union’s are covering their backs for their discrimination over the last 12 years
FACT: This briefing sets out our actions. We vetoed WPBR before it was adopted. We commissioned the leading UK expert to analyse its impact after it was imposed and went straight to mass litigation. Every member received advice and we encouraged them to join the campaign. Although we lost the tribunal and the first appeal we kept fighting. In parallel with the litigation we organised Cordia workers against the discrimination within the ALEO policy and Cordia’s daily practices. We closed Cordia down and took the workers home to equality within the council. Working with Action4Equality we had to change the law of equal pay to bring equality to Glasgow. UNISON organised the mass participation of low paid women and removed the discrimination of tribunal fees to restore access to justice for all – in Glasgow and across the UK. We succeeded where the EHRC failed. This is not “union back-covering”. This is pay equality & pay justice.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

New Video: Stephen Smellie on #GreenUNISON Day 13 Sept

Deputy Convener, Stephen Smellie talks in this short video about the importance of #GreenUNISON Day branch action on #climatechange & green workplaces, saying that we can all pull together to help stop global warming.
Every day there's more news about the urgent need for action at all levels - local, national and international - to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with this warning from the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighting the reality of the dangers of runaway climate change.
UNISON is working with Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and the Just Transition Partnership to lobby MSPs to strengthen the new Climate Change Bill. You can email your MSPs here or join the lobby on Wed 19 Sept by booking a place here.
Many thanks to branches who have already sent in their completed short audits and survey forms. If you've not yet, please do so and share any activities you have for Green UNISON Day on social media so others can help spread the word.

Stephen tells us in the video about his Green Workplace Pledge. Check the #GreenUNISON hashtag for examples of other pledges. You can make your own and share on Facebook and Twitter, with a selfie or a branch photo.
Green Workplace Pledge forms and other info here www.unison-scotland.org/green-unison-day-thurs-13-sept/  

Reminder: Next meeting of the Green Network, open to all members, is at 12.45pm, earlier than originally advertised, on Saturday 15 Sept in the UNISON Scotland office at 14 West Campbell Street, Glasgow G2 6RX, following the International Committee meeting.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Update for Green UNISON Day 13 September

Plans are stepping up for UNISON Scotland's day of workplace action on climate change.

We've just sent branches a guide and ideas for activities to involve members and we look forward to hearing about plans as they develop.

Branches have been asked to complete an audit of their own practices on things like recycling and use of plastic and a survey on what their employers do on things like green travel to work. Also, to elect/appoint a Green Environment Rep.

Members can make Green Workplace Pledges about what they will do on Green UNISON Day on Thursday 13 September. E.g. Cycle to Work or email MSPs to improve the new Climate Bill or do plastic free Friday.

More information will be posted here and on the UNISON Scotland Green Network Facebook page soon. Watch these spaces!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Our Green UNISON Day - Thurs 13 Sept

Some 'green' dates for your diaries this autumn, from UNISON Scotland's Green Network!
We are planning for a day of green workplace action that we hope branches will take part in on Thursday 13 September.
The idea is for branches across Scotland to join in some co-ordinated action for helping cut emissions at work.

A range of possible activities includes green audits, energy efficiency work, campaigning against single use plastics and for fair trade purchases, cycle friendly employer status and more.

A short guide and some ideas for promoting Green UNISON Day on social media will be circulated to branches soon. It’s suggested that these green workplace activities could also take place throughout the week running up to the 13 September, for those branches who would like to do more.

 We hope this will appeal to lots of members. All members are welcome to join our informal Green Network mailing list and come to meetings. Check out our Facebook page for occasional updates/info.

The next Green Network meeting will be from 1.30pm-3.30pm on Saturday 15 September in the UNISON Scotland office at 14 West Campbell Street, Glasgow G2 6RX, following the International Committee meeting.

 Then on Wednesday 19 September, please join the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland mass lobby at the Scottish Parliament, calling for a strong new Climate Act.

Info on the SCCS website here. Please also support the E-Action to MSPs.

If you are interested in being on the Green Network email list, please email Fiona Montgomery asking to join. f.montgomery@unison.co.uk


Tuesday, 5 June 2018

World Environment Day - Ideas for action

Today is #WorldEnvironmentDay The theme is to #BeatPlasticPollution and there are lots of ideas online about how to do that, globally and locally.

Check out the United Nations Environment Programme on today's theme - and look closer to home in Scotland through the work of some of the many members of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland.

UNISON is an active member of SCCS, whose AGM is in Glasgow today. We campaign with them and with the Just Transition Partnership for green workplaces, to have public services leading by example on tackling climate change and for a Just Transition to a low carbon economy.

If you're in or able to get to Aberdeen or Dundee this weekend, there are climate workshops and films organised by SCCS and Take One Action. Aberdeen info for 9 June here and info about Dundee on 10 June here. Details of both and similar events in Glasgow, Inverness and Irvine later in June are here.

Please also take a few minutes to support two important E-Actions on the disappointing new Climate Bill and urging the Scottish Government to Bring on the Food Bill.

SCCS is asking supporters to push for a strong Scottish Climate Change Act.

And the Scottish Food Coalition campaign is asking First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to bring on the consultation on the Good Food Nation Bill. We want a food system based on the principles of social and environmental justice.

Any UNISON Scotland members interested in our Green Network can check out our Facebook page and ask to join the mailing list by emailing f.montgomery@unison.co.uk