Friday 31 October 2008

Concern over loss of maintenance contract

Date: 31 Oct 2008

UNISON, Scotland's largest public service union, expressed concern over the impact of the loss of one of the three Glasgow Housing Association maintenance contracts to the private sector.

Mike Kirby, Convenor of UNISON's Glasgow City Branch said "We're disappointed that City Building has not secured the repair and maintenance contracts for all of Glasgow. Their commitment to a broad range of apprenticeships is well-known, and we hope that the loss of this contract does not threaten the overall number of schemes provided.

"UNISON will be working with City Building and our colleagues in the other trade unions, to secure the best opportunities for the future of building services in the city, and to deal with any implications for jobs caused by this news.

"We will also be looking for productive discussions with Connaught Partnerships to ensure continuity of service to the tenants and to protect employment opportunities."


For Further Information Please Contact: Mike Kirby (Convenor - Glasgow City Council Branch) 07803 952 261(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Extend in-house pledges to community health centres - UNISON comments on private GP surgery ban

Press release: Weds 22 October 2008

UNISON, Scotland's healthcare union today welcomed the Scottish Government's announcement that commercial firms are to be banned from running GP surgeries, but called for this to be extended to other community health facilities like health centres.

The union also condemned the criticisms of the CBI and Tories, as trying to return to the privatising agenda of the Thatcher government.

John Gallacher, Secretary of UNISON's Scottish Health Group, said "We entirely agree with the plans to ban commercial companies from seeking a profit from our healthcare, and the announcement stopping outsourcing of cleaning and catering in the NHS. We call on the government to take the logical next step, and withdraw the Scottish Futures Trust proposals, which not only seeks to extend PFI and PPP, but also introduces a model (called a 'Hub') that allows private firms to run health centres and similar community-based health facilities."

Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish Organiser said "Whilst this may mean a traditional practice might operate within a privatised hub, we would ask the Government how the running of a privatised health centre would be by anyone other than private employees?"

The union strongly attacked the statements from the CBI and the Tories. Dave Watson said "At a time when the flaws of the world's private businesses are being laid out for all to see, it is deeply worrying that the Tories and the CBI want to expose our public services to these same risks. The glorification of the market economy so loved by Mrs Thatcher, led to the current economic crisis - the last thing we need is to hand over our public services to the same failed system."

Notice for editors:
The Strategic Business case published for the Scottish Futures Trust proposes that it should promote full blown PPP in a number of ways, including the hub initiative, based on English Local Improvement Finance Trust (LIFT) PPPs to build new local health centre premises and other community facilities.

Ballot on new offer starts for 100,000 Scottish Council staff

Press Release: Weds 22 October 2008

Ballot papers asking over 100,000 UNISON members working for Scotland’s local councils their view of the latest local government pay offer, will start to land on people’s desks tomorrow (Thursday). The ballot covers members working for Scotland’s 32 local councils, local joint valuation boards and fire and rescue staff.

The union is recommending that members reject CoSLA’s offer of 3% for 2008 and 2.5% for 2009. Members of the other two unions representing local council staff (GMB and Unite(T&G))are also being balloted with a recommendation to reject the offer. They are due to declare at the same time as UNISON.

The new offer comes following two successful one day strikes by the unions. Selective action planned by UNISON members was suspended to allow consultation to take place.

Dougie Black, UNISON Regional Organiser and lead negotiator said “This offer is not a good offer – especially when inflation is riding around 5%, but our negotiators felt that we should put it before our members in a full postal ballot.

“It is clear from employers’ statements that they are digging in for a major dispute, and we will be telling our members that increased and longer strike action will be needed to deliver an offer that protects them from the major rises that they have experienced in food, heating and fuel.”

Notice for editors:
Ballot papers started being issued today (22 October) and the ballot closes on the 12 November. UNISONScotland organises local government staff in Scotland including social workers, housing staff, library & museum workers, cleansing and environmental protection staff, technicians and trading standards workers, early years workers, cooks, cleaners and classroom assistants. They have already taken two days of strike action on 20 August and 24 September.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Bring back in-house hospital services across UK, says UNISON

Press Release: Tuesday 21 October 2008

UNISON, the UK's largest health union, is today calling on the Government to follow the example set by Scotland and bring hospital soft services back in house. The Scottish Government has announced that all cleaning, catering and clinically related soft facilities management services in the country's clinical premises are to be exempt from contracting out in future schemes, whether funded through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) or not.

A letter from the Scottish Government to Hospital Chief Executives across Scotland says: "The provision of soft facilities management services such as cleaning and catering play a key role in the delivery of clinical services in NHS Scotland. The Scottish Government believes that NHS Scotland should therefore be responsible for the direct delivery of these services wherever possible".

Wales has recently announced something similar and in NI the majority, if not all services, have been retained in-house.

Karen Jennings, UNISON Head of Health said: "The rest of the UK is pointing the way towards providing quality in-house services such as cleaning, catering and portering. It's time that the government realized that these staff need to feel part of the NHS team.

"UNISON has consistently called for hospital cleaners to be under the direct control of ward staff, to fight infections such as MRSA and C difficile and boost patient and staff confidence.

"Only last week the Healthcare Commission released performance figures which criticised hospital cleaning standards across England. We owe it to patients and staff to raise standards across the country. The answer is a sharper focus on cleaning services that are a fully funded part of the NHS - not contracted out to private firms. An increase in the number of cleaners would help to speed up the rate of improvement."

In Scotland, UNISON welcomed the announcement, but said its campaign to bring back in-house existing PFI contractors would continue.

John Gallacher, UNISONScotland's Health Group Secretary said "UNISON welcomes this announcement by the Cabinet Secretary. The different approach to in-house provision in Scotland has meant staff work more as a team. This announcement means that future developments should continue that team approach.

"However we will be continuing our campaign to bring the remaining outsourced services in our large PFI hospitals back in-house as soon as they can be. Of course we would prefer if future developments were fully publicly funded and serviced rather than via PFI, PPP or the Scottish Futures Trust."

Monday 20 October 2008

Industrial action ballot starts in Scottish Water

Press Release: Mon 20 October 2008

Over 1,000 Scottish Water employees will start to receive ballot papers tomorrow (Tuesday) asking them if they are prepared to take action to overturn Scottish Water's decision to unilaterally impose a pay award on their staff.

The ballot which will ask members to vote for both strike action, and action short of a strike, starts with papers being issued today (Tuesday 21 October) and closes on the 10 November.

Scottish Water breached 6 years of partnership working with its staff in order to impose a 15 month pay rise of 3% (which equates to an annual offer of 2.4%).

Branch Secretary, Steve Scott said, "This pay cut is simply not acceptable when inflation is rising - recently reaching 5.2% - energy prices are rising by anything up to 30% and food by 11%."

Dougie Black, Regional Organiser said, "Scottish Water know that they have the money to pay a reasonable increase. They claim to be acting at the behest of the Scottish Government who want to restrict public sector increases to 2% in line with Westminster. They have an opportunity while the ballot takes place to convince the government to untie their hands."

The other trade unions are also balloting their members in Scottish Water over a similar timescale to co-ordinate the industrial action campaign.

Monday 13 October 2008

Voluntary Sector unites to demand Fair Funding

Press Release: Mon 13 Oct 2008

Early this week (W/b Monday 13 Oct) a broad coalition of voluntary organisations and unions will launch a petition calling for fair funding where Scottish public service contracts are undertaken by the voluntary sector.

The petition - jointly submitted by the STUC, SCVO, Unite, UNISON and Community Care Providers Scotland urges the Scottish Government to demonstrate commitment to the third sector by agreeing a National Framework for Public Service Contracts between the Scottish Government, purchasers and providers.

This is the first time voluntary sector employers and trade unions have joined together to campaign, demonstrating the danger posed to the contribution of the increasingly professional voluntary sector to high quality public services by current funding challenges.

Simon Macfarlane, UNISON's Lead Officer for the Community & Voluntary Sector said; "We hope there will be a massive response to this petition as our members in the sector are really suffering as a consequence of skewed tendering processes and real term funding cuts. Pay and conditions in the voluntary sector were already well below the public sector, but the latest funding crisis means there is increased downward pressure on pay. Our members look after the most vulnerable with compassion, dignity and respect. They deserve to be valued not caught up in a spiral to the bottom with the services they provide being shunted from one provider to the next based on who can provide the service cheapest."

Some voluntary organisations are being contracted to perform public services for less than those services cost to deliver - putting at risk the quality of services for the most vulnerable in society.

Stephen Maxwell, Associate Director of SCVO said: "The voluntary sector's front line workers are crucial to the sector's capacity to provide high quality personalised services to Scotland's 'at risk' citizens. Their contribution to essential public services deserves to be rewarded at the same level as their front-line colleagues in the public sector. Voluntary organisations need to be funded fairly to cover the full costs of employing front-line staff at this level, particularly when their alternative funding sources will be under added pressure as a result of the financial crisis".

Jackson Cullinane Deputy Scottish Secretary for UNITE said "UNITE fully supports this joint petition to highlight the grave issues affecting workers across the not for profit sector. We are committed to exposing the shameful funding cuts being carried out by local authorities where low paid workers, who are contracted to deliver key public services, are being expected to literally subsidise the state by sustaining cuts to their pay and conditions. These workers deserve pay equality with their colleagues in the Public Sector and we will be bringing a range of evidence to the Parliament to demonstrate the need for it to act urgently on this issue."

The petition urges the Scottish Government to agree a National Framework for Public Service Contracts between the Scottish Government, purchasers and providers, based on the principles in a 2007 pact agreed between the submitting organisations. It covers the key areas of concern: 
  • A commitment by public sector purchasers to fund wages and conditions of employment for front line workers in third sector providers at the same level as front line workers in the public sector
  • Five year contracts for third sector service providers to replace current short term funding arrangements
  • Agreement on the appropriate use of competitive tendering to minimise disruption to the users of services, reduce transaction costs and increase the stability of jobs and services
  • A government initiative to improve the standard of public sector commissioning to achieve the government's aim of high quality personalised services
  • Fresh Best Value Guidance to strengthen the importance of quality and effectiveness proportionate to cost; defining quality, how to measure it, and the role of service users, families, trade unions and the wider community in monitoring and assessment.

It is important to note that the voluntary sector in Scotland is worth just under £3.9bn and research by SCVO has found that the sector employs an estimated 129,000 professional paid staff, more than employment in Financial Services, and the Electricity, Gas & Water Supply industries. ENDS

Note to Editors:
The full text of the pact is available at

Friday 10 October 2008

UNISON to recommend rejection of new pay offer

Press Release: Fri 10 October 2008

Scotland's largest council union, UNISON, agreed to recommend that their members reject the latest below-inflation pay offer made by Scotland's councils at a meeting of the union's local government branches in Glasgow today (Friday).
UNISON will now institute a full ballot of their 100,000 members in Scottish Local Government - which will be declared in early November.

Following two highly successful one-day strikes by around 150,000 UNISON, GMB and Unite members in the last two months, local government employers increased their 2.5% offer to 3% for this year (April 08-April 09) - still less than the current rate of inflation. In addition they demanded that the unions commit to a fixed pay rise of 2.5% for 2009-10 - whatever the inflation rate.

UNISON Regional Officer and lead negotiator, Dougie Black , said "It is clear our activists do not accept that this offer is good enough. Our members, like others are suffering from the effects of the economic downturn. The recent increases in inflation - especially in basic necessities like food and fuel - impact particularly hard on low-paid members, and a 3% increase does not deliver the kind of help they need. Bankers and fat cats in the city get help - it is time for hard-pressed public service workers to get that help. Council staff in Scotland have delivered around £200 m worth of efficiency savings that councils should share with staff as well as with council tax payers."

UNISON will also be making it clear to members that it will take a lot of pressure to get the employers to improve their offer. Stephanie Herd - Chair of UNISON's Local Government Group said "UNISON will be making it clear to our members that it will take a lot of pressure to get the employers to improve their offer. The employers are determined to keep the pay rise at the level of the current offer - if members hope to shift them we need to strengthen our industrial action strategy and members will need to be prepared to increase the level of their activity. There is no point simply voting to reject the offer - we have to intensify our industrial and political campaigning."

Thursday 9 October 2008

Comment from UNISON on today's announcement in the Scottish Parliament of a review into Scotland's secure accommodation

Press Release: Thurs 9 October 2008

UNISON - the union that represents staff working in child protection - said it was concerned that there was a danger that a simplistic look at numbers of vacancies could be used merely to cut provision and save money.

John Stevenson, a spokesperson for the union's Social Work Issues Group said "While it is true that secure accommodation is not full at the moment it is also the case that there are children waiting for appropriate places.

"What we need is to deliver on the recommendations of the Edinburgh Inquiry* so there is sufficient capacity across Scotland to allow a choice of placements to meet the needs of young people. It is not just an issue of providing any place for any child, there needs to be slack in the system to choose the best matched place for that child.

"UNISON will want to make that view heard strongly during this review"

NOTE for Editors *(Edinburgh's Children - The Edinburgh Inquiry into Abuse and Protection of Children in Care; Kathleen Marshall, Cathy Jamieson and Alan Finlayson January 1999) said:- "Recommendation 4: Provision of residential units must be at such a level as to allow a genuine choice of placements to best meet the needs of young people. In implementing this recommendation, the Council must accept that this will require units to operate at times at less than maximum capacity."

Monday 6 October 2008

Ofgem probe confirms UNISON prediction of 'golden hole' in flawed energy market

Press release: Mon 6 October 2008

Leading Scottish energy union UNISON Scotland responded to the Ofgem Energy Supply Probe by roundly criticising the failed energy market for which the regulator is responsible.

UNISON Scottish Organiser Dave Watson called for an end to the “market madness” overseen by Ofgem which has seen consumers pour billions into a “golden hole” of energy company profits.

Ofgem’s report fails to address the problems faced by consumers, or to propose any realistic solutions in the face of blatant profiteering by energy companies. But amongst the discredited and increasingly desperate Ofgem recommendations that customers try to make ends meet by switching amongst suppliers, the report reveals the ugly truth about price discrimination against the poor. The average annual bill for households on pre-payment meters is £118 higher than those better off customers who were able to pay by direct debit.

UNISON is calling for immediate windfall taxes on energy profits, and in the long term, wider intervention in the failed energy market to ensure that consumers stop funding company profits.

UNISON Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said: “In January of this year UNISON published a research report highlighting the huge increase in energy company profits at the expense of household consumers. We showed that companies made £2.5bn more than the increase in costs of producing and selling the electricity and gas. That is £100 a year extra for the average family. We called on Ofgem to take action to address the obvious failings of the competitive market. And we predicted that Ofgem would resist such an investigation because it undermines their ideological commitment to market solutions.

“We also predicted that when the facts and noise became irresistible they would produce a very long report that would say the market was working well. Sadly in today’s report they have done just that!”

Dave Watson added:

“No serious observer is claiming the companies act as a cartel. But equally it is clear that the market is not working and the report fails to address this ‘golden hole’ of energy profits. At a time when consumers are facing even higher energy bills, today’s report simply avoids the big issue. In the short term there needs to be a windfall tax on these profits to fund some much needed relief for consumers. In the longer term we need to end this market madness and ensure that consumers stop funding company profits.”

UNISON Scotland is also concerned at the wider impact of energy on public services. Increased energy costs are a major factor cited by the local government employers body CoSLA for their below inflation pay offer to council workers.


For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser)- 07958 122 409 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) – 07715 583 729 (m)


UNISON Scotland: UNISON is one of Scotland’s largest trade unions representing over 160,000 members,and is the biggest union in the Scottish power industry. Our members in other sectors including local government also have an interest in energy, particularly fuel poverty.

Fuel Poverty: The Scottish Government Review of Fuel Poverty in May 2008 showed that 543,000 households (comprising over a million people) were in fuel poverty - which means they have to spend more than 10% of household income on energy bills. And the sharp rises in fuel costs are making the situation worse: the Scottish House Condition Survey in March 2008 estimated that for every 1% rise in average annual fuel price, around 8,000 more households go into fuel poverty. See also

UNISON report on ‘Golden Hole’: Report Exposes Golden Hole in Energy Firms' Accounts - Inquiry Demanded into Missing billions UNISON Press Release 22/01/2008 on the publication of ‘Gas and electricity costs to householders’, produced by Cornwall Energy Associates and commissioned by UNISON and the National Right to Fuel Campaign, January 2008

Thursday 2 October 2008

New pay offer leads to strike suspension

UNISON Scotland news release
Thursday 2 October - Immediate

UNISON, Scotland’s largest local government union, said that an improved pay offer from Scottish local government employers meant that the union would suspend next week’s selective strike action, so that members could be consulted.

Dougie Black, UNISON regional officer, and leader of the negotiators said:

“After two strikes and previous fruitless negotiations, I’m pleased that we now have a new offer. It is at a level – 3% this year and 2.5% for next year – that needs to go back to members to get their view. In the meantime we have agreed to suspend the selective action to allow this to happen.”

Free school meals welcome, but councils need funds to provide the service

UNISON News Release
Date: Thurs 2 October 2008

UNISON Scotland today welcomed the rollout of free school meals for pupils in primary 1-3, but warned that without proper funding, councils will struggle to deliver this vital service. In addition the union warned, that councils with PFI schools may not have the facilities to deliver, or the flexibility to cover the extra within the contracts.

Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser, said "UNISON has long argued on health and poverty grounds that we should be providing free school meals for all children. We are pleased that the Scottish Government now wants to extend the pilots nationally.

"However, we have serious concerns about the pressures on local government finance and the announcement seems to make no mention of the extra costs involved. If the Scottish Government is serious about children's health and wellbeing, it must put its money where its mouth is. Otherwise the success of the rollout seems at serious risk. UNISON also warned that - where Schools were built and run under PFI contracts - inflexible contracts may mean expensive renegotiations.

Dave said "Contracts with private companies will have been based on the take up of school meals under the old system. If free meals lead to the major increase in take up that these pilots have indicated, will the contracts allow for this, and will there be the staff and space to cope? There may be some expensive contract renegotiation ahead."

UNISON is keen to see the provision of free school meals introduced, and believes that the evaluation of the pilots in Scotland provides strong evidence in support of the universal provision of free school meals. The trial resulted in significantly increased uptake of school meals among the target group of P1-P3 pupils not free school meal (FSM) registered - from 41per cent to 69per cent, and the uptake amongst registered FSM pupils also increased - both in the target group and in older pupils.

Dave added, "Investing now in nutritious meals for children provides a range of important health, educational and social benefits, and also will save on future costs to the NHS by reducing obesity and other health problems. Indeed the costs of NOT introducing this measure, would be seriously damaging to the Scottish health service and indeed to the Scottish economy."


UNISON Scotland launched a Food for Good Charter earlier this year, promoting fresh healthy & sustainable food provision across the public sector. UNISON produced a briefing for MSPs in October 2007, urging them to support the pilot schemes which are now being rolled out.

The Herald: Councils split over increased pay deal

Councils split over increased pay deal
Stewart Paterson
The Herald 2 October 2008

A split has emerged among councils over offering an increased pay deal to end a dispute involving thousands of workers, which has brought public services to a standstill and is due to cause further disruption on Monday.

While council negotiators have officially stuck to an offer of a 2.5% wage rise this year in their negotiations with unions, some Labour councils are privately pushing for a settlement of between 3% and 3.5%, The Herald has learned.

A further round of action in the protracted dispute is due on Monday, with a week-long strike planned by council call- centre staff, which will follow two 24-hour strikes involving around 150,000 workers across Scotland over the past two months...

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