Thursday 27 August 2009

UNISON warns CoSLA ‘ Back off on pay freeze’

Date: Thursday 27 August 2009

In advance of discussions by council leaders at CoSLA tomorrow (Friday), UNISON, the largest union representing Scottish local council workers, warned council bosses not to threaten a five year pay cut, and to enter pay negotiations with an open mind.

Leaked discussion documents have suggested that up to a five year pay freeze will be on the table as council leaders sit down behind closed doors to discuss their response to the current recession.

Matt Smith, UNISON’s Scottish Secretary said:
"CoSLA leaders would be well advised to back off from any decision to freeze pay at all, far less for five years. Leaked papers suggest that CoSLA recognise the serious problem of low pay in local councils. Any freeze would increase that problem, de-motivate the workforce, impact negatively on services and damage communities.

"Knee jerk reaction to financial difficulties is no way to run local government. It is completely unfair that low-paid cooks, cleaners, care workers and clerical staff should be told that they are to pay the price of the financial incompetence of well-heeled bankers and financiers. Council leaders should talk to staff trade unions about funding, council tax and business rates rather than threatening their staff."

Dougie Black, UNISON Regional Organiser and lead negotiator said:
"It is disgraceful that CoSLA could think it is acceptable to threaten pay cuts to staff that deliver our services. There are appropriate bargaining arrangements to discuss pay. Why doesn’t CoSLA use these rather than leaking material to the media?

"Despite the persistent claims of the private sector, council staff are not well-paid, and have had below inflation pay increases in four out of the last five years. To suggest that it is acceptable for them to continue to have their pay cut for the next five years seems to indicate a macho, bullying attitude that CoSLA would do well to avoid, unless they are keen to provoke a dispute."

The previous pay agreement of a two-year deal ended with the award of 2.5% in April this year.

Negotiations for future years pay increases are scheduled to start in the autumn.


For further information please contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary 07771 548 997(m)
Dougie Black, Regional Officer – Secretary, TU negotiators 07958 121 851(m)
Chris Bartter, Communications Officer 07715 583 729(m)


Wednesday 19 August 2009

Social work union welcomes Brandon Muir reports

Wednesday 19 August 2009

UNISON, the union representing Scotland’s social work staff, today welcomed the two reports into the Brandon Muir case in Dundee.

Rory Malone, Dundee UNISON Branch Secretary said;

"At a time when some press and politicians appear to queue up to blame social work staff each time a family tragedy like this occurs, we welcome the findings of these independent and authoritative reports that no blame falls on members in Social Work.

"Dundee’s social care staff work very hard, often in difficult circumstances, to try and protect our children and all feel tragedies like this deeply. It is simply not possible to eradicate all risks, but UNISON has gone on record to identify a range of steps that can be taken to improve the position of social work staff and reduce that risk."*

UNISON has already started work with Dundee City Council to address some of the issues in the social work and will continue to discuss ways to implement recommendations in the report.


Note for editors:
*Helping people change their lives - UNISON/BASW manifesto for Scotland’s Social Work, outlines 10 issues that need to be tackled to improve the position of social work staff and the services they provide.

For Further Information Please Contact:
Rory Malone (Dundee UNISON Branch Secretary) 07595 893067 (m)
Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)


Tuesday 11 August 2009

Tories' privatisation agenda out of touch: UNISON

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Publicly funded hospitals and schools are still vote clinchers, and the Tories' privatisation agenda is out of touch with voters, according to a survey conducted for UNISON.

Despite worries about the economy, how the Government runs our hospitals is still at the top of people’s lists in deciding how to vote at the next general election. The results of the survey show the Tories latest plans for the public services are out of touch with public opinion. Their so-called “reform” of public services is nothing but thinly-disguised “privatisation”.

In an Ipsos MORI survey conducted for UNISON, 96% say the NHS will be an important factor in deciding how they vote at the next general election. This compares to the economy (important for 93%), crime (92%), public services (85%), schools (85%) and Britain’s relationship with Europe (70%).

The NHS is highly prized by the public with 76% believing it is crucial to British society and “we must do everything to maintain it”. Only 22% think that it “was a great project, but we probably can’t maintain it in its current form”.

Three-quarters of the public (75%) believe the NHS should be “run by the public sector to encourage a joined-up service”, with little support (21%) for it to be “run by the private sector to encourage competition” 78% believe that the health service should be run by the Government and public organisations, rather than by private companies and 73% agreed that people who provide health services should be employed by the NHS rather than by private companies.

UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said: “Although the economy is clearly a worry for many people, this polling shows the massive support that our NHS and public services have amongst the public. They don’t want them privatised, there is no appetite for competition in the services nor for profit-chasing. People have shown what we have always argued that most want good local schools and hospitals provide by dedicated public servants.

“The Tories are completely out of kilter with public opinion. Shadow Chancellor Osborne’s claims to have “progressive” ideas are nothing but cheap window-dressing.

“The Government should take note. If it is to have any chance of re-election next year, it must listen to what the people want.”

Ipsos MORI interviewed a sample of 1,001 British adults, plus a booster of 251 public sector workers, all age 18 and over by telephone between 12-14 June 2009. Data are weighted to the profile of the adult population 18+, and include a weight for public vs. private sector workers. The final weighted data indicate that 17% belong to a trade union.

The survey found that public sector workers have similar views to the general population.

Factors which will be important for public sector workers in deciding how to vote in the next general election are: the NHS (important for 96%); the economy (95%); crime (92%); public services (90%); schools (90%); Britain’s relationship with Europe (73%). 77% believe the NHS is crucial to British society; 81% believe it should be run by the public sector to encourage a joined-up service; 86% think that the NHS should be run by the Government not private companies and 79% agree that people providing health services should be employed by the NHS rather than by private companies.


Thursday 6 August 2009

New Children’s Hearing system will increase risk to vulnerable children – UNISON

Date: Thurs 6 August 2009

UNISON – the union that represents workers staffing Scotland’s Children’s Panel system, and social care staff protecting vulnerable children – has submitted responses to the Scottish Government strongly criticising their proposed reorganisation of Children’s Hearings (CH).

Both UNISON’s Scottish Children’s Reporters’ Administration (SCRA) Branch and the Scottish Council of the union have submitted responses which point out that the proposals remove protections for children that are currently in place, that they set up a whole new bureaucracy which could add confusion and increase paperwork, and that they move decision-making power away from Children’s Hearings and towards the courts.

The union, which represents social work staff working in local authorities is concerned that the reforms could undermine existing protections.

Kate Ramsden, from UNISON’s Scottish Social Work Issues Group said “We are seriously concerned that the Bill actually removes current protections from children who could be at risk in an abusive household, and also that children will only be referred for voluntary advice and assistance if they have already been subject to compulsory supervision. These are just some of many examples of the draft bill concentrating on the civil rights of adults at the expense of the rights of the children to be protected.”

The establishment of a new quango is likely to lead to a dual administration, meaning increased potential for confusion, and increased bureaucracy.

Yvonne Stewart, UNISON SCRA branch secretary said “The creation of a Scottish Children’s Hearing Tribunal (SCHT) and the split in the administration of the children’s hearing system can only lead to increased bureaucracy and a greater possibility of confusion and error. This will lead to a more complex system for children, families and other professionals to engage with, and increased cost while also increasing the risk to children.”

John Stevenson, from UNISON’s Scottish Social Work Issues Group agrees “The double bureaucracy proposed here is likely to add to, rather than reduce, the amount of paperwork social workers have to fill in. This is despite all the evidence that shows the level of form-filling is a major factor reducing the time social workers can spend with looked-after children.”
UNISON is also concerned about a shift of powers towards the courts.

John Stevenson said "The ability of a court to completely rehear a case decided by a Children’s Hearing and other changes means cases are more likely to be decided in an adversarial atmosphere of a court of law, rather than the hearing setting of all parties discussing the best option for a child.”

"We understand that some changes are needed to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights but those changes have already been made. UNISON believes the welfare principle of Scotland's world-leading Children's Hearing system is worth defending. We are worried that this draft bill is less child-centred than the existing ground-breaking legislation."

The vast majority of cases Children's Hearings deal with are about the care and protection of children - 40,000 out of 50,000 referrals last year - rather than offences.

UNISON will be seeking a meeting with ministers to urge them to redraft the bill to ensure that the welfare principle becomes the centre of any new legislation.


Notes for editors: UNISON’s responses can be found on the Scottish website at and

More information at


Wednesday 5 August 2009

Royal Assent for Scotland's world leading climate legislation

Attn: News Desks
Immediate Release
5th August 2009


Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II today made history by giving Royal Assent to The Scottish Climate Change Bill, the strongest piece of climate change legislation in the world.

The world-leading Act sets vital international precedents and an example for other wealthy nations to follow ahead of the UN’s climate change talks in Copenhagen in December, which will agree a replacement to the Kyoto Protocol.

The new legislation enshrines in law Scotland’s obligation to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 42 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050. Other rich countries need to adopt similar cuts to their emissions if catastrophic climate change is to be averted.

Queen Elizabeth signed the historic Act during a visit to her estate in Balmoral in Scotland. The Climate Change (Scotland) Bill was unanimously voted through the Scottish Parliament on 24th June this year.

Leading elements of the Scottish Act include:

· At least a 42% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 (based on 1990 levels)
· At least an 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (based on 1990 levels)
· Emissions from international aviation & shipping included from the start;
· Commitment to report annually on consumption-based emissions;
· Strong duty across the public sector to play a full part in tackling Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Scotland’s most senior Catholic clergyman and climate change campaigner said:

“Scotland is setting a crucial example to the rich countries of the world in efforts to prevent the unnecessary suffering of millions of innocent people through ever-worsening climate change. The scientific consensus is clear; unless rich nations make early and deep cuts to their emissions, as Scotland has agreed to do, the situation will get much worse.

“Wealthy countries have an unequivocal moral duty to reduce their own emissions and help developing countries who are already suffering the consequences of our profligate use of fossil fuels for economic gain.
“Scotland has had the courage to set a vital international precedent with its Climate Change (Scotland) Act. Others must follow this lead now if we are to have a long, safe, and prosperous future for humanity on earth.”

Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Climate Change in the Scottish Government, said:

“The Scottish Government recognises that climate change will have far reaching effects on Scotland's economy, its people and its environment and is determined to play its part in rising to this challenge.

“The world-leading legislation introduces targets to reduce emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050, and will drive new thinking, new solutions and new technologies putting Scotland at the forefront of building a sustainable low carbon economy.”

Mike Robinson, chair of the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland coalition, which includes Oxfam, Christian Aid, SCIAF, WWF, Friends of the Earth, as well faith organisations and trade unions, said:

“It is now enshrined in law that Scotland will do its fair share to tackle the causes of climate change. The world-leading emissions reduction targets provide a vital lead to other wealthy nations ahead of the UN’s climate talks in Copenhagen in December. Other rich countries must now follow Scotland’s lead and match the commitment to cut their emissions. I hope they will sit up and take notice.

“The scientific consensus is clear: unless developed nations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 42 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050 the problem of dangerous climate change will become irreversible.”


Notes to editors:

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) is a diverse, growing coalition of organisations campaigning on climate change. The SCCS Coalition has 60 Scottish members, representing more than 2 million supporters (40% of the Scottish population), ranging from environment and development groups to faith organisations, trade unions, student societies, care providers and many more. SCCS was instrumental in securing a strong climate act for Scotland. For full details visit

In December world leaders will gather in Copenhagen to agree a new UN international climate deal that will come into force when the first phase of the Kyoto treaty expires in 2012. For more info see

For more info on how the Scottish Act can make a difference in Copenhagen, see

On Saturday December 5, tens of thousands of people will gather in Glasgow and London to call for action on climate change. For more info see
NB: UNISON Scotland is a member of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland. For further information on UNISON's climate change and environment work see the Green Workplace pages on our website.

Monday 3 August 2009

Union 90% vote approves Single Status deal

Date: Monday 3 August 2009

UNISON, Dumfries & Galloway's largest public service trade union, and partner unions UNITE & GMB today announced that their members working for the local authority, have all voted overwhelmingly to accept a negotiated Single Status deal.

UNISON members delivered a majority of 89.6% in favour of the package of proposals with 10.4% of members rejecting. The turnout was 75%.

UNITE & GMB members also voted to accept the offer in a high turnout with majorities of, - Unite 94% and GMB 93%

Speaking shortly after the votes were independently counted Marion Stewart, Dumfries & Galloway UNISON branch secretary said; "I am pleased that our members have voted to accept this deal. The joint trade unions believed it was the best available through negotiation.

"It has been a long, often very difficult process, which started back in 1999. Recently, Trades Unions and the Council formed an effective joint project board, led by retired Chief Executive, Phil Jones.

"This is a prime example of what can be achieved by good joint working and we are pleased the Council has recognised and invested in our equality demands. The package has been subjected to three external independent checks and has resulted in fairer pay for many previously undervalued and under paid female groups."

This is believed to be only the second negotiated settlement to be achieved between unions and their employers in Scotland's 32 local authorities. The Single Status agreement affects 6500 Council employees and seeks to eradicate current inequalities that exist in local government pay and conditions.

Ann Patterson, Branch Chair for Unite the Union said after the ballot "I am pleased to announce that Unite members have voted to accept the Council's proposals within Dumfries and Galloway.

"The Joint Trade Unions believed that the Council's proposals were the best that could be achieved via negotiation but recognise that a number of members will be subject to pay protection. We remain assured by the Council's commitment to pay equality for all staff and both sides recognise that this is just the beginning of an ongoing process to eradicate pay inequality."
Marion Stewart continued: "The result of the ballot marks a significant milestone. The focus of our work now will be to help colleagues who want to appeal their grading, to work to improve the position of those groups of staff who are subject to pay protection and to continue UNISON's ongoing support for members who have lodged equal pay claims."

As part of the Single Status agreement those groups of staff who are Pay Protected will be included in an exercise between the Joint Trade Unions and the Council to seek to establish "job redesign or job enlargement" which could potentially remove detriment.