Monday 27 April 2009

Big uptake in Memorial Day activity prompts recognition call

Embargo: For immediate release
Date: Monday 27 April 2009

Scotland’s largest public service union will be making a major input into the large number of ceremonies organised to commemorate International Workers Memorial Day tomorrow (Tues 28th April) – when the community remembers those who have died in the workplace. The union called for the government to recognise the Day officially.

Most UNISON branches in Scotland are taking part in ceremonies organised by local Trade Union Councils, but some are participating in activity organised jointly with local authorities and many are taking initiatives on their own behalf. (a list of those activities notified to unison is appended.

Scott Donohoe, Chair of UNISONScotland’s Health & Safety Committee said:
"At a time when business interests are lobbying for Health & Safety regulations to be relaxed as ‘costly bureacracy’, deaths of workers at Stockline and in the North Sea remind us all that safety at work is vital – not a burden on business. It is important that the TU movement uses this opportunity and it is heartening to see the way that this commemoration has taken off in the last few years. UNISON is calling on the government to take a lead from this activity and formally recognise Workers Memorial Day to remember dead colleagues and make employers think twice about health and safety."

Major ceremonies will take place in Glasgow’s George Square (by the Burns’ statue) at 1.00pm –and the Flag on the City Chambers will fly at half mast; in Edinburgh at the Workers Memorial Day Tree in Princes Street Gardens at 12 noon; in Bonnyrigg – in King George V Park at 12.30, where Louise Adamson from Families Against Corporate Killers will be speaking and a number of wreaths will be laid; and in Fife where a ceremony will take place in Beveridge Park, Kirkaldy at 11.00am.

In addition to the wreath-laying and plaque-unveiling, a number of UNISON branches are taking initiatives locally. In Glasgow City Council, the local branch is encouraging health & safety reps to carry out safety inspections this week, Scottish Water branch is launching its new website and UNISON’s South Ayrshire branch is taking part in an ambitious project to help create a natural Scottish woodland in Ayrshire.

The branch is dedicating five trees in the woodland to be a memory to every worker who has lost their life at work or to a work related disease, with the added knowledge of the positive environmental impact this will also have on the surrounding area. Other Branches have already taken part in earlier events run at the weekend.


For Further Information Please Contact:
Scott Donohoe (Chair – Scottish health & Safety Committee) 07866 952 765 (m)
Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)

Local information for editors:
International Workers’ Memorial Day Ceremonies in Scotland on Tuesday 28 April

Hamilton – 12 noon – South Lanarks Council staff unions holding a minute’s silence at midday followed by the unveiling of a memorial plaque on council grounds directly outside UNISON branch office.

Kirkaldy – Fife Branch will take part in a TUC Service at 11.00am at a tree planted some years ago in Beveridge Park.

Greenock – Inverclyde branch will lay wreath as part of Council run ceremony at 11.00am in Clyde Square Greenock – Pat Clark the UNISON Branch Chair will play the pipes

Edinburgh – 12 noon, John Stevenson, City of Edinburgh Branch President will lay a wreath as part of Edinburgh TUC’s ceremony in Princes Street Gardens

Bonnyrigg – 12.30, Tom Waterson, Chair of Lothian Health Branch; Agnes Petkevicius, City of Edinburgh Branch Secretary and Lesley Greig, Secretary of Midlothian Council branch will all be participating in the Midlothian TUC ceremony in King George V Park, Bonnyrigg at 12.30pm

Paisley – 1.00pm, UNISON’s Renfrewshire branch will take part in the Paisley TUC ceremony at the memorial stone.

New Cumnock– (see above) the planting is at Craigs Farm Estate near New Cumnock (Ayrshire) Contact. Campbell Peden (South Ayrshire) Tel 07714299673.

Glasgow – 1.00pm at Burns Statue, George Square. Wreath laying by reps from Glasgow City, Glasgow Housing and Dumfries & Galloway Branches. Speakers include Dave Moxham – Dep Gen Sec STUC.

Falkirk – Branch will take part in ceremony run by Falkirk TUC at the Municipal Buildings.

Coatbridge – 12 noon, Lanarkshire TUC has organised a ceremony at Summerlee Industrial Museum, Coatbridge. Speakers include STUC Gen Sec, Grahame Smith, and local MSPs and MP.

Dundee – 1.00pm. Memorial day Commemoration Tree ceremony beside Discovery Point.

Alloa – 10.00am - The Clackmannanshire Council trade unions are unveiling a memorial at the Council Head Office at Greenfield House, Alloa.


Wednesday 22 April 2009

Euro candidates must restore working people’s rights - UNISON

Date: 22 April 2009

UNISON, Scotland’s largest public service union, today called on Euro election candidates to back campaigns to overturn negative European legal rulings and restore the human rights of working people, following the approval by the Scottish TUC in Perth of a composite moved by the RMT union.

The composite calls for a ‘Social Progress Protocol’ to be inserted into the Lisbon Treaty – to hold employers to national collective agreements and to back the right to strike.

Jane Carolan, from UNISON’s National Executive announced that UNISONScotland had released a European election manifesto, which calls for a range of measures to be introduced to defend workers rights, and is calling on Scottish members to judge the policies of the political parties on a range of issues – workers rights, the environment, anti-racism and others - before they cast their vote.

Jane said “Recent decisions of the European Court of Justice have asserted the primacy of the economic freedom of business and undermined national labour law and collective agreements. The Viking, Laval, Ruffert and Luxembourg judgements have made clear that the market rules, and that public services and employment and collective rights are therefore always under attack.
“Unless we defend our rights we will end up in a Europe in which capital roams free and where labour is cheap, plentiful and unprotected – neo liberalism writ large.

“The European Trade movement needs to develop teeth to deal with a capitalist system fighting for its own survival and one that has already proved that it has little truck with the problems of working people.”


Note for editors:
The Viking judgement said that the collective action by the Trade Unions contravened Article 43 of the EU Treaty. The right of business to freedom of establishment anywhere in the EU. In Laval, the collective action of trade unions was deemed to be in breach of business freedom to provide services within another EU state. The same considerations apply in Ruffert and Luxembourg.

UNISON’s European manifesto is available on the UNISON-Scotland website


Tuesday 21 April 2009

Cuts and tendering threaten social care - social workers warn

Date: 21 April 2009

The Scottish TUC today heard that Scotland’s social care system is on the brink of crisis. UNISON, the union representing the vast majority of Scotland’s social services staff, says that a combination of increasing demand and cuts in funding threaten further tragedies.
The situation is worsened by the use of tendering processes for home and residential care, that end up with low-cost companies taking over and driving down standards of care.

The union also blames the concordat between the Scottish Government and councils as a ‘straitjacket’.

UNISON delegate, Kate Ramsden, herself a social worker, said to the Congress “The continuing understaffing of children and families work is getting worse with the increasing demand for more savings, and as demand increases the widening gap can only increase the chances of further tragedies, such as Brandon Muir or ‘Baby P’.”

In moving a motion calling for a campaign to demand quality social services in Scotland, Kate also pointed out that although child protection is the sharp end of social care, care for other vulnerable people is also threatened.

“Last weeks Panorama investigation sharply pointed out the problems of relying on cost to supply home care.” said Ms Ramsden .

“If the only issue being judged is price, you end up with privatised services, delivered by poorly trained, under resourced staff who have no time to deliver proper care.”

A UNISON UK-wide survey of social work staff, published in January 2009, identified reduced resources, staff vacancies, increased caseloads, inadequate supervision, remote leadership, lack of focus on the rights of the child, agencies passing the buck to social work and excessive bureaucracy with a lack of admin support as issues making things worse than they were six years ago.

Kate said “Our members want to work to high standards. Whether they work for the council or the voluntary sector, they want to be accountable, want to protect children, and provide proper home care services. But they tell us that too often they are being asked to do this with one hand tied behind their back”.

“Inspections rightly point to practice and leadership issues but they never explicitly address resources. To ignore the fact that there are too few people to achieve the standards we all want just covers up the problem,” she added.


Glasgow outsourcing tax scam removes democratic control, and attacks fair pay

Date: Tuesday 21 April 2009

UNISON, the main union representing Glasgow council staff, has condemned that council’s increasing reliance on outsourced trusts and Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) to deliver public services. Currently around 15,000 staff are employed by nine LLPs, trusts and partnerships in Glasgow.

In a speech to the Scottish TUC in Perth today (Tuesday 21), Mike Kirby, Scottish Convenor of UNISON, the largest public service union and Chair of its Glasgow City Branch will denounce the rush to outsource services as a tax scam that abandons democratic control, and allows the council to avoid its legal duty to pay men and women equally.

Mike will say “A recent Glasgow Council report into these ‘arms length external organisations’ admits that these ALEOs are a tax scam, that they lead to loss of democratic control by councillors, and that they can avoid more equal pay claims because they have fewer comparators. So much for the Labour Government’s public sector equality duty.”

Mike will also point to the farce created by an earlier outsourced organisation when the Glasgow Housing Association Ltd awarded one of their repairs and maintenance contracts to a private building company – Connaught, only to find they couldn’t meet the contract specifications on covering the workforce pensions.

Mike will say “Connaught had to be sacked and that workforce returned to their previous employer – City Building, after they spent 2 days travelling around the city – from Hampden Park, to Connaught, to GHA, to Glasgow City Council.”

Moving the composite motion on Public Services, Mike will also point to the huge waste of taxpayers money being paid to management and IT consultants to recommend efficiencies and shared services. Billions of pounds that should have been spent on the services themselves. The composite will set out a charter to defend and build on the public service consensus in Scotland.


Monday 20 April 2009

Budget must tax the greedy, not cut public services - UNISON

Date: 20 April 2009

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary of UNISON – the public service union – will today (Monday 20 April) tell delegates at the Scottish TUC that the economic crisis must be paid for by fairer taxation, and more investment in public services..

In a hard-hitting speech on the first day of 2009’s Scottish TUC in Perth, Matt will point out that the crisis has been caused by relying on a ‘get rich quick’ philosophy, and that the proponents of that philosophy are still arguing for the failed policies of deregulation and attacks on the public sector.

Matt Smith, will say:
“The richest one per cent in our society have doubled their share of total income since the 1980s. Today, they pocket more money than the entire workforces of the NHS, state education and local government put together. And they pay back nothing like their fair share of tax. Almost £20 billion is lost from the money to pay for our services every year because of the use and abuse of ‘tax havens’.”

He will go on to call for a budget that closes these tax avoidance loopholes, reject the ‘free market’ and say that the government must invest those funds in regenerating the economy, providing loans and mortgages and protecting those on low pay and on benefits. This should be done by supporting communities to keep as many as possible in useful employment.

Matt Smith will say:
“There is no more efficient way to promote a better society than by directing funds to meet unmet needs and to employ those who are cast aside by the actions of others. Government must listen when working people call for a just society that rejects free market economics.”


Note for editors:
Matt will be speaking at the Scottish Trades Union Congress, meeting in Perth from Monday 20 – Wednesday 22 April. The debate will take place on Monday morning shortly after 11.00am. The STUC represents over 650,000 working people in Scotland.


Thursday 16 April 2009

Glasgow Council refuses UNISON attempt to resolve Community Service strike

For immediate release
Date: Thu 16 April 2009

Offenders sentenced to Community Service in Glasgow, are still sitting at home following the refusal of the City Council to involve ACAS in the fourteen-week long Community Service Supervisors dispute. The 21 UNISON members have been on strike since 6 January, following the refusal of the Council to pay them the right rate for the job. Despite attempts by UNISON to refer the dispute to conciliation, Glasgow City Council has refused to discuss the dispute with ACAS

UNISON Branch Secretary Brian Smith accused Glasgow City Council of treating the striking workers with "contempt".

He said: "Glasgow City Council has refused to formally involve ACAS as a third party, which we requested in an effort to resolve this dispute. We have waited six months for information on how the Council evaluated these jobs, yet they have refused to even answer basic questions. The Council is trying hard to make this a "forgotten strike".

"Meanwhile, the pay grades of council senior managers who faced wages cuts have all been sorted in the last few weeks. It's as if there is one rule for the bosses and another for the workers. Now we hear that private agencies are in discussions with the Council as part of the so-called 'service reform' to deliver some of the services which our members provide.

"The contempt with which Glasgow City Council has treated the Community Service Supervisors is unbelievable. Our members perform a vital service and they now feel as if they are being victimised by the Council for pursuing a legitimate claim. After fourteen weeks of strike action, our members remain determined to win their dispute."


Note for editors:
The 21 Community Service Supervisors in Glasgow oversee offenders working in the community. The City Council’s refusal to settle the strike has meant that this important alternative to prison in Glasgow has been suspended since the strike began on 6 January 2009.


Saturday 4 April 2009

UNISON urges public service investment and anti-racism in European campaign

Date: Sat 4 April 2009

UNISON -Scotland's largest public service union - today (Sat 4/4) launches its manifesto for the forthcoming European parliamentary elections. The document calls for the EU to co-ordinate increased public sector investment to tackle the economic recession, and for it to take a lead in tackling racism across Europe.

Mike Kirby, UNISON's Scottish Convenor, said:
"While it would have been fairer for the G20 to agree a substantial global fiscal stimulus, including investment in increased public sector works and direct support for those hit hardest by recession, it is now crucial that these policies are adopted at European or failing that, at national level."

The union has published a manifesto that will be launched today at its Scotland-wide meeting of branches in Glasgow. This is being publicised via the internet and [email] to its 160,000 Scottish members - urging them to compare the policies of political parties standing in the election before they vote on 4 June. Another key policy called for by the union, is to tackle racism in Scotland, and across Europe.

Mike Kirby said:
"We have seen recent attempts by the far-right to turn genuine job grievances into attacks on migrant workers, and we know how they can exploit fears in a recession. The EU needs to ensure they tackle this racism, and UNISONScotland will be campaigning strongly against the BNP and other ultra right organisations wherever and whenever they seek to peddle their lies."


Friday 3 April 2009

Hartley decision - UNISON reaction

Date: Friday 3 April 2009

Commenting on the Tribunal's ruling on Agenda for Change, Mike Jackson, UNISON's Senior National Officer for Health, said:

"The old NHS pay system was unfair. It took years of negotiation and a lot of commitment from our members to implement the new system.

"The Tribunal has now agreed that it does what it set out to do deliver - equal pay. "It is a fairer and more transparent pay system."