Thursday 28 July 2011

Public sector pension talks jeopardised by naïve playground tactics - UNISON

Thu 28 July 2011

UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, today rounded on Government ministers for putting public sector pension talks in “jeopardy” by their ”naïve tactics” and apparent lack of negotiating skills. And called on them to abandon the playground games and get serious.

He said:

“We entered into the scheme specific talks on public sector pensions in good faith and we genuinely believe we are making progress, albeit slowly. But these talks are being put in jeopardy by the crude and naïve tactics of Government ministers who don’t seem to understand the word negotiate.

“The government must take its responsibilities seriously, and stop treating these talks like some kind of playground game.

“Let’s not forget that these talks are about real people, hard-working individuals who signed up to, and pay into, a pension scheme that is supposed to cushion them against poverty in old age. Extra contributions won’t go back into the pension schemes, but straight to the Treasury to pay off the country’s deficit – effectively a tax on public sector workers to pay for the bankers’ mess. That is totally unjust.

“It is totally unhelpful to the progress of these talks to release their bargaining position as though it is set in stone. If it is set in stone, then there is no point in having a single further meeting.”

The union insists that any changes should be based on evidence and not political ideology. Average pension in local government is £4,000, but for women its just £2,800 (£56 a week) and in health its just £7,500, and £3,000 for women. Members of those schemes pay in between 5.5% and 7.5% of their salaries to save for their retirement. If they did not save, they would end up on means-tested benefits at a cost to taxpayers.

Both the local government and the health schemes are cash rich and were renegotiated a few years ago to make them sustainable and affordable – longevity costs would be paid by the employee not the employer.

The union argues that making people pay more, work longer for a smaller pension is unnecessary, unjust and unworkable. People will leave the schemes, if they become too expensive, and they will collapse.


from UNISON Press Releases


Sunday 24 July 2011

Sponsor Stephen and Gail to 'Make a Child Smile'

Glasgow Branch's Stephen Ready and Dundee's Gail Miller are doing a sponsored parachute jump for the 'Make a Child Smile' fund on behalf of UNISON Sctland's Welfare Committee. You can sponsor them using the sponsorship form on the website.

Friday 22 July 2011

BDS Campaign: Israeli Democracy and Human Rights

In an open letter to The Herald newspaper in Scotland, Mike Kirby, Scottish Secretary questions potential attacks on the human rights organisation, B'Tselem, which has been supported by UNISON.

Thursday 21 July 2011

Southern and Scottish price rise - UNISON response

UNISON, the UK’s largest union, today reiterated its call for the government to take action to tackle fuel poverty, as Scottish and Southern Energy became the third major UK energy supplier to announce double digit price increases.

North East Pensions Rally

Mike Kirby says pension scheme members face a "double, double whammy". See the Aberdeenshire UNISON website for full details

Thursday 14 July 2011

‘Focus on cutting crime, not police staff’ says UNISON in response to new report

A new police report issued today (Thursday) has warned that cutting police staff will lead to a cut in frontline policing.

The Audit Scotland report talks of ‘reverse civilianisation’ where officers will be taken off the streets to carry out the work of police support staff – a process UNISON says has been happening for months.

UNISON, Scotland’s largest union representing police support staff, says it’s time the Scottish Government took heed of these warnings and focused on cutting crime, not police staff.

Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish organiser, said: “This report warns that cutting police staff will result in ‘reverse civilianisation’, where police will be taken off the streets to carry out the work of police support staff. The fact is, this has been happening across our forces for months, with officers carrying out jobs they are not trained to do and at a huge additional cost to the taxpayer.

“The Scottish Government claims it is protecting frontline policing by recruiting 1,000 extra police officers, but this is nothing more than a cosmetic political exercise. The truth is that police staff are being cut and police resources are being diverted away from frontline policing to plug the staffing gap.

“The public need to know how vital police staff roles are and the huge danger of cutting these jobs. It’s time the government focussed on cutting crime, not police staff.”

UNISON’s concerns were shared by Labour’s deputy justice spokesman, James Kelly, who today highlighted Lothian and Borders Police plans to cut 36 support staff in order to artificially maintain officer numbers in line with SNP targets. This is one of the most recent examples of reverse civilianisation, as the force plans to backfill these posts with police officers. The Labour MSP has now urged the Scottish Government to come clean on how many of the 1,000 additional officers that have been recruited would spend their days behind a desk performing civilian tasks.

New UK government figures show the true cost of PFI, says UNISON

UK government figures released today (Wednesday) show the true cost of private finance initiatives, says Scotland’s largest public service union.

Figures outlined in the whole of government accounts – a new accounting process which has provided the first insight into future financial liabilities of PFI schemes across the UK – listed total capital liabilities arising from PFI contracts at £40bn.

UNISON, the largest union in public services, said the figures provided yet more evidence of how PFI schemes have no place in the delivery of public services.

Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser for UNISON, said: “These shocking figures provide further evidence that the scandal that is PFI is costing taxpayers billions of pounds more than public sector funding.

““There is a mistaken view among some politicians that privatising services improves service delivery and saves the taxpayer money – these figures proves this is simply not the case.

“Time and time again it’s been proven that the best way to deliver public services is by using a directly employed workforce, using in-house resources and funded by public money.”

Wednesday 13 July 2011

MOBILISE anti-cuts festival 13-20 August Edinburgh

Mobilise: A week-long Festival of Campaigning skills happening in Edinburgh from 13-20 August 2011. MOBILISE does exactly what it says on the tin - brings people together and prepares for action. The art of creative campaigning.

Monday 11 July 2011

Staff at one of Scotland’s largest charities left facing savage pay cuts of almost 25%

STAFF working for a Scottish charity face losing almost a quarter of their pay packet if proposed cuts go ahead.

All 2,000 staff at Quarriers – one of Scotland’s largest social care charities – face cuts of between three and 23 per cent of their salary in a bid to make the charity ‘more competitive’.

Quarriers staff were issued with 90-day consultation notices on April 27, with plans to re-hire them after this date on worse pay, terms and conditions.

UNISON, Scotland’s largest trade union in the voluntary sector, has been fighting the proposals and has been engaged in discussions to find alternative ways for the charity to protect both services and staff.

However, at a meeting on Friday (July 8), Quarriers bosses advised the union that it would not be considering other options and that it would be pressing ahead with its plans to cut wages.

The proposed cuts would see fully-trained support worker, earning around £20,000 a year, lose almost £5,000 of their salary. Project workers, who earn around £26,000 a year, would see a loss of almost £7,000.

Stephen Brown, branch secretary for UNISON Quarriers, said: “Treating staff in this way is absolutely appalling and staff have been left feeling angry and demoralised.

“It’s ironic that the Quarriers motto is ‘transforming lives’ – well, they’ll certainly transform our lives if they push ahead with these cuts. Our workers have been left facing a very uncertain future, with many worried about how they’ll pay the mortgage if their salaries are chopped.”

Simon Macfarlane, regional organiser for UNISON, said: “Our members are clear that savage pay cuts like these are unacceptable. They have already voted massively in favour of industrial action in a consultative ballot and I am confident they will do so again in a formal industrial action ballot.

“UNISON has a strong track record of reaching negotiated settlements in Quarriers and that remains our desire, this is evidenced by our request to go to ACAS. We need Quarriers to be more realistic; pay cuts of 23 per cent are simply unrealistic, unfair and untenable.”

Friday 8 July 2011

Ambulance workers reject meal break proposals

UNISON, the union representing ambulance workers in Scotland, has rejected meal break proposals put forward by the Scottish Ambulance Service.

David Forbes, regional organiser for UNISON, said: “Our members are rushed off their feet and greatly value this short, unpaid break, so it is no surprise that our members have rejected the proposals by the Scottish Ambulance Service.

“Ambulance work is very demanding and our members deal with life and death decisions day in, day out. That’s why it’s so important that staff are given a break during what are often long shifts.

“We will continue to actively engage in discussions with the Scottish Ambulance Service and the Scottish Government and hope to find a way forward that meets the needs of both patients and staff.”

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Public & Private Sector Pay

The usual suspects are running a story that the gap in average pay between workers in the public sector and those in the private sector has widened to 7.8%. 

The story is based on statistics produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). However, what the bald figures don’t show are the explanations for the difference in the same ONS paper. These include:

·         The figures exclude other benefits such as bonuses and other perks that are more prevalent in the private sector. The research is based on snapshot in April after the Jan-March bonus season.
·         They exclude the self-employed.
·         These are UK figures and in England many lower skilled and paid jobs have been outsourced to the private sector.
·         The average age of public sector workers is higher and older workers are paid more.
·         Public sector workers tend to have higher qualifications. In 2010, some 38% of workers had a degree or equivalent qualification in the public sector, compared with 23% in the private sector. Comparing the pay of these graduates flips the pay gap around, with public sector workers earning 5.7% less than those in the private sector.

The ONS paper makes it clear that the key to the difference in pay is the higher proportion of higher-paid jobs in the public sector. Also within the two sectors, the gap between the highest earners - in the top 5% - and the lowest 5% of earners is greater in the private sector than in the public sector. This shows that public sector pay is fairer than the private sector.

Put simply, the data is not comparing like with like.

Monday 4 July 2011

‘We’re all frontline’ says UNISON as it marks 63rd birthday of NHS

Mon 4 July 2011

UNISON, Scotland’s largest health union representing thousands of staff across the NHS, will tomorrow (Tuesday) mark the 63rd birthday of the NHS with the launch of its ‘I am frontline’ campaign.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the vital role each member of staff plays in delivering NHS services, and to dispel the myth of ‘frontline’ and ‘back office’ staff.

NHS workers and union officials will meet at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary at 12.30pm tomorrow (Tuesday) to mark the occasion with ‘I am frontline’ birthday cakes, cards and giant campaign posters. Similar events will take place at Raigmore Hospital, in Inverness, at 1.30pm, and Lothian Western General, in Edinburgh, at 12.30pm.

Thomas Waterson, chair of UNISON’s Scottish Health Committee, said: “The frontline, back office split is a myth and our campaign is designed to dispel this myth. We often hear politicians say they will protect frontline staff, but who are they talking about?

“Without cleaners, infections would spread across the hospital. Without porters to take tests to the lab, we would never know what’s wrong with patients. Without medical secretaries, ward clerks, admin and finance staff, patient records wouldn’t be kept, patient appointments wouldn’t be booked and supplies wouldn’t be ordered or paid for. So are these staff frontline?

“The fact is, we’re all frontline. It’s a whole team of workers who deliver NHS services and one cannot operate without the other.”

John Gallacher, regional manager for UNISON, said: “The NHS needs all its staff to keep the wheels of the NHS working.

“The 63rd birthday of the NHS is the perfect time to celebrate the hard work done by every single member of staff and to take a step back and say thank you. The best present the UK and Scottish Governments could give is to recognise the excellent work carried out by NHS staff and the important part we each play in delivering NHS services.”


Notes to editors

1.    The National Health Service was established on July 5, 1948. Since then, NHS Scotland has provided everyone with access to health care free at the point of use, funded by general taxation. The NHS has undergone many changes throughout its history, and continues to face challenges, but it remains vital to the lives of the whole population.

2.    The 60,000 UNISON members who work in NHS Scotland, and many more in local government and the voluntary sector, are key and committed players in the teams delivering the nation’s health, and all of our 165,000 members, their families and their communities benefit from the public health ethos of the NHS.

3.    For more information on the challenges facing the NHS in Scotland, please download our briefing at


SCCS: Urgent - email MEPs ahead of EU vote on emissions reduction targets

The European Parliament will vote tomorrow, 5 July, on whether Europe should commit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020 (the current target is a 20% reduction).

Although Prime Minister David Cameron has clearly stated the Conservative Party's position to support an increase in the EU targets, some rebel Conservative MEPs, including Scotland's only Tory MEP Struan Stevenson, may vote against it.

These votes could tip the balance.

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland is urging all supporters to take time today to email MEPs (via Christian Aid website) and David Cameron (via 38 Degrees website). You can also tweet MEPs.

The EU must show leadership on the issue of climate change. We need to put as much pressure as possible on MEPs before Tuesday.

Speaking ahead of the crucial European Parliament vote Tom Ballantine, Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said:

"Two years ago Scotland showed the rest of the world that if we are serious about tackling climate change we need to act. We didn't wait for others, we showed leadership and ambition. The EU should be following Scotland's lead and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland would be very concerned if one of our own MEPs decided to vote against an EU target of 30%.

"That is why, ahead of this crucial European Parliament vote, we call on Struan Stevenson to show leadership on climate change by voting in favour of the 30% target, and encouraging his Conservative colleagues to do the same."


Sunday 3 July 2011

We are frontline NHS events 5 July

A new video has been launched publicising events at hospitals across Scotland to say "Who do you think you are kidding mR Cameron - we are frontline". See the video at


Friday 1 July 2011

New Protect our Pensions leaflet

The UK Government’s strategy is clear. They want us to PAY MORE, WORK LONGER AND GET LESS when we retire. However, pension regulation is devolved to the Scottish Parliament - so MSPs have a choice to make. UNISON is calling on the Scottish Government to reject the UK plans and to protect quality pensions in Scotland. Our pensions are affordable - get the facts