Saturday 31 March 2012

Website puts lights out for Earth Hour

We've put the lights out on the UNISON Scotland website to remind you of WWF's Earth Hour tonight at 8.30

Thursday 29 March 2012

UNISON hopes new guide will Make a Difference in challenging Gypsy Traveller discrimination

Date: 29 March 2012

UNISON Scotland has today (Thursday) launched a guide to raise awareness of the discrimination faced by Gypsy Travellers and to offer advice to its members on effectively engaging with these communities.

UNISON produced the booklet – Make a Difference! – in partnership with Gypsy Travellers. It is designed to challenge the prejudices surrounding the community, dispel some of the common myths and to provide occupational guidance for members who are most likely to engage with these communities.

The guide offers a series of practical steps to manage issues such as housing, health and education and how to meet the current needs and expectations of the Gypsy Traveller community. It includes useful background information on their culture and heritage and some of the key obstacles the community faces in accessing services.

Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish Organiser, said: 
“We recognise that many of our members interface with the Gypsy Traveller community and many members are unaware of the issues facing the community and the legal framework.

“People are essential to the quality of service provided and it is vital that we support our members who deliver these services. We hope this guide will not only provide useful advice but also help highlight the very real problems that are routinely experienced by this community.”

Stephen Smellie, UNISON’s Vice Convener, said: 
“The harassment and discrimination Scottish Gypsy Travellers face on a daily basis – including access to employment, justice and social care – is one of Scotland’s hidden shames.

“Everyone has a part to play in challenging racism and we hope that by exposing some of the key myths surrounding the Gypsy Traveller community, we can break down some of the barriers that exist and promote greater accessibility to services.” 


Note to editors

1.     The booklet – Make a Difference! – will be distributed to members via local branches and is available online. To download a copy of the booklet please visit


Earth Hour 2012 - join in on Sat 31 March

On Saturday 31 March lights will go off for an hour at iconic landmarks around the world – and on the UNISON Scotland website!

Earth Hour 2012 is WWF’s annual hour-long power switch-off that has become a global phenomenon with a key environmental message.

Edinburgh Castle and many other Scottish landmarks will be plunged into darkness from 8.30pm to show support for tackling climate change.

All Scottish councils are signed up this year, with the Scottish Government encouraging all public bodies to get involved.

This year WWF and UNISON Scotland put together a special pack for branches, available on both websites.

It is a great event to get involved in as part of green workplace campaigning - and the pack can also be used to start planning early for Earth Hour 2013!

More details and sign up info on UNISON Scotland's Green Workplace web page.


Wednesday 28 March 2012

The reality of sickness absence – shocking survey findings revealed by UNISON Scotland

Date: 28 March 2012

Nearly half of public sector workers polled in a recent UNISON Scotland survey said sickness absence policies encourage staff to turn up ill or injured at work.

A quarter of workers (25%) said they had worked in the last month when too ill to do so, while almost two thirds (60%) said they had worked when ill during the past year.

The findings are the result of a UNISON survey which looks at the reality of sickness absence policies in Scotland and provides further evidence to dispel the myth that public sector workers are prone to taking sick leave.

One in seven (14%) of those polled said the sickness absence policy at their work is “unfair” and more than a quarter (26%) said the policy is badly implemented by management.

Of particular concern was the number of staff who reported ineffective stress policies in the workplace. Almost two thirds (60%) reported that the stress policy in their workplace was not effective, while 28% said there was no stress policy at all.

Scott Donohoe, Chair of UNISON’s Scottish Health and Safety Committee said: 
“Given the sort of jobs UNISON members do we should all be concerned that nurses, care workers, school staff and others are going to work when they are too ill to do so. Of even more concern is the evidence of poor sickness absence policies and little effective action on stress.

“From this survey, it appears that many public service employers in Scotland see managing sickness absence as forcing employees back to work as soon as possible, or disciplining those who are off work more regularly than others.”

Dave Watson, Unison’s Scottish Organiser, said: 
“This survey shows that the reality in Scotland is a long way from the ‘sickie culture’ that is often portrayed.

“Absence rates have been falling over time and it is a myth that there are easy savings from new policies that assume that sickness absence is mostly skiving.

“Positive sickness absence policies are important, but there is most to gain from tackling the causes of absence, particularly stress, and helping people return to work.”


Notes to editors

1.     The UNISON Scotland survey polled public sector workers, asking them to share their experiences of the sickness absence policies in their workplace.

2.     The TUC report The Truth About Sickness Absence (2010) took the first detailed look at the public sector sickness myths. They found that public sector workers are more likely than private sector colleagues to work when too ill to do so and less likely than private sector staff to take a ‘sickie’ – a short period off sick. While public sector workers take longer periods off work on absence, many work in stressful and dangerous public sector jobs that can cause injury.

3.     Further information can be found online at:


UNISON backs Cosmopolitan's call for Equal Pay

Karen Jennings, assistant general secretary for negotiation and bargaining at UNISON is calling on UNISON members to back women's magazine Cosmopolitan's call for the government to make equal pay auditing compulsory.

Equal pay auditing means comparing the pay scales of men and women within the same organisation to make sure that women are not paid less than men on grounds of gender for doing the same work.

Ms Jennings, said:

“Cosmopolitan has set up an e-petition and with the power of the union behind it, we want to hit the target of 100,000 signatures as quickly as possible.

"UNISON has campaigned long and hard for fairness and equality for women. It is a sad fact that 40 years in from the Equal Pay Act, we still have a battle on our hands, with women still earning 17% less than men.

"We want employers to be transparent about how they pay their workers and to undertake full equal pay audits, so they can address any pay inequality that exists and to ensure women are not being targeted unfairly for redundancy.”

Sign the petition here:

Tuesday 27 March 2012

NHS pension strikes under way

Pictures just in from the Finance strike at Glasgow & Clyde NHS today.

Monday 26 March 2012

FE cuts

A recent Freedom of Information request by the EIS has added to the information previously collated by UNISON on the impact of cuts on Scotland's colleges. The Scottish Government cut funding by £68million and now 23 colleges out of 38 have cut courses and almost 600 teaching staff have been made redundant.  

Budget cuts are pushing colleges into mergers which will impact further on courses and jobs. A key value of college courses is that they can undertake them close to where they  live. This cuts down on travel and childcare costs: key barriers to unemployed people and those on low incomes accessing and completing courses. Travelling long distances also adds to childcare costs as children have to be looked after longer. While regionalisation or merging to create “super colleges” may save money (and that is yet to be proved) their role in supporting people to get the qualifications they need to find and keep work will suffer.

Courses being cut across Scotland include vocational courses like aeronautical and aircraft engineering, computer animation, digital gaming green-keeping, and horticulture. The EIS found that music law and business courses were also being cut. Some colleges are also reducing opening hours at a time when the Roe Report called for longer hours to offer more flexible learning opportunities to help learners combine work and study.

We have high rates of unemployment, in particular youth unemployment. These budget cuts mean opportunities for people to improve their skills and qualifications (or retrain) in order to find decent work. This also means there are fewer workers available for employers to grow their businesses creating  more jobs. These cuts are causing pain now and will make it harder for Scotland to escape recession.

UNISON protesters lobby Scottish Parliament as industrial action over NHS pensions continues

Health workers will be lobbying the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday (March 27), calling on MSPs to seek a Scottish solution to the proposed changes to NHS pensions.

UNISON protesters will gather outside the parliament as the second wave of selective strike action gets underway in Lothian, Greater Glasgow & Clyde and Lanarkshire Health Boards.

The move is the latest in a round of industrial action on NHS pensions, aimed at increasing pressure on the government for a Scottish solution to all aspects of the pension changes. This includes the year one increases to employee contributions of up to 2.4 per cent – which is effectively a pensions tax on health workers.

Finance staff from across the three boards will be undertaking a full day of strike action. Lunchtime demonstrations will also be taking place on the day at Hairmyres Hospital, East Kilbride; Wishaw General Hospital, and Kirklands Hospital, Bothwell.

Lilian Macer, UNISON’s Scottish Convener, said:

“We’re calling on MSPs to take a good look at NHS pensions and not to just blindly follow the UK Government’s proposals.

“We have a separate scheme in Scotland and therefore we need to seek a Scottish solution. Taking money out of health workers’ pockets to give to the Treasury is not the answer.

“As the Scottish Government has the responsibility to address these issues in Scotland, we’re calling upon Scottish Ministers to delay the pensions tax and engage with us to find a negotiated settlement.”

Tam Waterson, Chair of UNISON’s Scottish Health Committee, said:

“The sad reality is that many of our members will not be able to afford these increases and will be forced to opt out of the pension scheme altogether.

“Our members don’t take strike action easily and this day of action is yet further testament to the anger and distress that is being felt among health workers.

“We’ve always believed public sector workers deserve decent pensions, and our members have shown they are willing to take action to defend these.”


Notes to editors

PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES: You are invited to send a reporter, photographer and/or crew to the following events:

· Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, 9.30am: UNISON members will be lobbying outside of the Scottish Parliament. Interviews will be available on the day with members and UNISON organising staff.

· UNISON members will be undertaking strike action at the following locations:

o Corporate Services Offices, Monklands Hospital, Airdrie, from 9am

o Pentland House, 47 Robb's Loan Edinburgh, from 9am

o Caledonia House, Fifty Pitches Road, Cardonald Park, from 9am

1. UNISON’s lobby of the Scottish Parliament coincides with a meeting of The Health and Sport Committee which will be considering the NHS Superannuation Scheme and Pension Scheme (Scotland) Regulations 2012. The meeting takes place at the Scottish Parliament at 10am on Tuesday, March 27.

2. This round of selective strike action follows on from a successful two days of strike action earlier this month (13 and 14 March) by UNISON members in the Central De-Contamination Unit at Ayrshire Central Hospital, Irvine.

3. The action will be supported by UNISON’s Scottish Convener, Lilian Macer, Chair of UNISON’s Scottish Health Committee, Tam Waterson, along with members of the Scottish health committee and colleagues from Health and Local Government branches of UNISON.

4. UNISON is Scotland’s largest healthcare trade union representing over 50,000 members working in NHS Scotland and related services. Our health members are nurses, student nurses, midwives, health visitors, healthcare assistants, paramedics, cleaners, porters, catering staff, medical secretaries, clerical and admin staff and scientific and technical staff.

Saturday 24 March 2012

Tories Kettled at Troon

Over 1,000 STUC demonstrators against youth unemployment kettled Tory delegates attending their Scottish Conference in Troon as they tried to leave for lunch today, as Mike Kirby, UNISON Scotland Secretary and STUC President, condemned this week's budget as "tax cuts for the rich few while a whole generation is consigned to mass unemployment because of crazy austerity economics".

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Budget analysis: this was Robin Hood in reverse...

From Dave Watson's blog:

Billed as the ‘Robin Hood’ budget the Chancellor not surprisingly turned out to be more of a Sheriff of Nottingham. As always with the Budget the devil is in the detail and that takes some time to digest. Missing from the budget are: action on investment, public services, young people and unemployment. But instead this is just the sort of Tory budget you would expect. Tax cuts for the rich, £40,000 each for 14,000 millionaires, paid for by everyone else. At least we didn’t get “we are all in this together”!

See Dave's full and detailed blog post on today's Budget at
Always an excellent analysis.


Budget: Tax cuts for rich and mass unemployment for youth is totally unacceptable - UNISON

Wed 21 March 2012

UNISON Scotland has condemned today's budget as "tax cuts for the rich few while a whole generation is consigned to mass unemployment because of crazy austerity economics".

Scottish Secretary Mike Kirby said that cutting the 50p tax rate was completely unacceptable while unemployment soars across the UK - and Scottish youth unemployment hits record levels.

Scotland's largest union, which represents 160,000 workers across public services, called instead for an alternative budget for jobs, confidence and growth.

Mike Kirby said:
"It is completely unacceptable for the government to cut tax for the rich few in society while a whole generation is consigned to mass unemployment because of crazy austerity economics. 

"Freezing the miminum wage for young people is unfair and will do nothing to address poverty or joblessness.

"Over 100,000 young Scots are now jobless - that's the highest figure for a generation. And that's why the STUC has called for a demonstration at the Tory party's Scottish conference in Troon on Saturday 24 March.

"Youth unemployment in Scotland is higher than the UK average and it is increasing more rapidly. Government should be creating jobs and investing in the infrastructure and services our economy and our people - especially our young people - for a better future. We need a halt to the failed austerity policies that are damaging vital public services.”

UNISON has published an alternative budget which shows that the cuts are not necessary.

The union is arguing for a number of popular options to help kick-start the economy, instead of tax cuts for the rich and spending cuts for the rest. Between £35bn and £70bn could be raised each year by tackling tax evasion by individuals, companies and other organisations - such as the £6bn HMRC let Vodafone off paying.

Mike Kirby said:
"There is plenty of money available to fund decent public services, it is just in the wrong hands. We need to get our people – especially our young people – back to work."


Note to editors:
1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union representing over 160,000 members working in the public sector in Scotland.

2. UNISON’s alternative UK budget is available on the UNISON UK website here:

3. The STUC has called a March and Rally against Youth Unemployment on Saturday 24 March in Troon venue for the Scottish Tory Conference.
Assemble 12 noon South Beach Esplanade (Victoria Drive)
March off: 12.30 pm
Rally 1.00 pm South Beach Esplanade (Titchfield Rd)

More details on the STUC There is a better way site


Daily Record: Budget 2012 - Young Scots on minimum wage to have pay frozen as George Osborne gives rich a tax cut

george osborne Image 2

"The millionaire Tory Chancellor, christened Gideon, will hand a windfall to fat-cats earning more than £150,000 a year by slashing the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p in tomorrow’s (Wed 21 Mar) Budget.

But he has frozen the minimum wage for 16 and 17-year-olds at a paltry £3.68 an hour. And young workers aged 18 to 20 will get no rise in their £4.98 rate.

Adult workers will get a rise of just 11p an hour to £6.19. That’s a 1.8 per cent increase – half the current rate of inflation.

The rate for apprentices will rise by 5p – to £2.65 an hour.

It’s the first time since the minimum wage was introduced in 1998 that it has not risen by above inflation. Young workers have also seen a rise each year.

Some observers fear yesterday’s decisions are the thin end of the wedge, and that the Con-Dems will eventually undermine the minimum wage."

See more of this story at 

See UNISON's alternative budget for UK here with Monday's news release:

Check back on this blog for UNISON Scotland comment on today's Budget.


Tuesday 20 March 2012

Supporting NHS workers in England

Wilma Brown from UNISON Fife Health joins the NHS demo in London today.

New UNISON study argues for proper service redesign instead of back office cuts through flawed 'shared service' models

Tuesday 20 March 2012

The front line starts here

A new 16-page report for UNISON Scotland argues that 'efficiency savings' which are often expected from piecemeal organisational change such as flawed 'shared services' models are rarely achieved. In fact, the vast majority of front line staff - around 90% - who have faced cuts to so-called 'back office' admin jobs believe this has been at the expense of their primary tasks.

'The front line starts here' document, published today, outlines the case for full service redesign to be explored as an option when developing shared front and back office service proposals.

Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, said:
"The UK National Audit Office reported this month that Whitehall departments have spent a staggering £1.4 billion over the past seven years - but saved just £159 million by ill-advised schemes for sharing 'back office' functions such as personnel and procurement.

"Our report highlights the importance of designing systems from the service user upwards - as opposed to piecemeal organisational change in the form of structures, which is resulting in the separation and fragmentation of services across the Scottish public sector.

"We want to end that kind of waste. Instead we want to work with public authorities to explore full service redesign as an option when developing shared front and back office service proposals."

The new report includes results from a UNISON survey of frontline public service worker in areas like social work and protective services, which shows that cutbacks in admin functions have damaging effects on vital public service, and are rarely effective or efficient.

Dave Watson said:
"The vast majority of the front line workers we surveyed - 94% - believed that it was more effective to provide administrative support in the same office than to centralise in 'shared service' type back office operations. 'The front line starts here' seeks to expose the flaws in creating artificial splits between the front and back office services when setting up shared service delivery arrangements, as back and front office services are interdependent."


Note to editors:

1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union representing over 160,000 members working in the public sector in Scotland. Our members work together in the teams providing vital public services for all our communities - whether they are regarded as 'frontline' or 'back office'.

2. 'The front line starts here' was prepared for UNISON Scotland by APSE – the Association for Public Service Excellence (Scotland) - and is available for download here: thefrontlinestartshere_mar2012.pdf 

3. Results of UNISON Scotland survey 2011 included in 'The front line starts here' document:
In 2011 UNISON Scotland surveyed a sample of ‘front office’ staff on administrative support. Primarily professional staff in local government such as social work, planning, protective services etc. The key findings included:

• 87% reported that their administrative staff support had been reduced.

• 92% of those using replacement selfservice systems felt that this had added to their workload at the expense of their primary tasks.

• 84% indicated that they were being expected to perform clerical or administrative tasks that used to be performed by staff trained to perform those functions.

• Of those who were undertaking additional administrative tasks:
- 26% said up to 2 hours per week
- 24% said between 2-4 hours per week
- 37% said between 4-7 hours per week
- 13% said more than one day per week

• 94% believed that it was more effective to provide administrative support in the same office than to centralise in back office operations.


Monday 19 March 2012

UNISON: Time to kick-start the economy


“It’s time for the Chancellor to kick-start the economy and stop kicking the public sector” said UNISON Chief, Dave Prentis today (19 March). The union is warning that the Government’s mono-policy of cuts and more cuts* is a road to nowhere and what’s needed is fresh thinking to set the country on a course towards building confidence and growth.

The Government needs to start creating jobs and investing in the infrastructure and services our economy needs. We need a halt to policies that are damaging vital public services. Cutting homecare, closing libraries, shutting day centres for the elderly leave all the people who rely on them high and dry and the people that provide them needlessly without a job.

The government’s pay policy should be reversed and tax and benefit changes that reduce the incomes of those on low to middle incomes shelved.

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said:

“Cameron should have strong words with the Chancellor following his visit to the US. President Obama has shown that you can build the economy by investing in jobs and infrastructure. And Vince Cable hit the nail on the head by describing the Chancellors efforts on economic growth as “piecemeal’.

“Instead of pursuing his mono-policy of cuts and even thinking of tax breaks for the rich, Osborne should look at how investment creates a virtuous circle. Creating more jobs takes people off benefits, renews consumer confidence and spending which in turn boosts small businesses and powers economic growth.

“Fairer taxation would be a good start with the money raised being re-invested in creating jobs and homes. Significant sums could be raised without affecting the incomes of the majority, if the government made sure the financial sector and the super-rich paid their fair share.”

The union is arguing that the Chancellor does have a number of popular options available to him to help kick-start the economy. Between £35bn and £70bn could be raised each year by tackling tax evasion by individuals, companies and other organisations - such as the £6bn HMRC let Vodafone off paying.

In addition, if the Government dropped their hugely unpopular Health and Social Care Bill they could save £1bn, which could be invested in patient care, not creating a profitable private sector market.

* The cuts aren’t working: UNISON’s alternative budget for jobs and public services - attached.


Link to a PDF document on this siteUNISON's alternative budget (PDF) 


Thursday 15 March 2012

Just Banking: conference at Edinburgh Uni on 19-20 April supported by UNISON Scotland

15 March 2012

You will not need any reminding of the banking crisis that caused the deficit, recession and most of our current woes.

Ensuring that the next generation of UNISON members doesn’t have to go through the same pain is therefore important to us all. For that reason UNISON is sponsoring a conference at the University of Edinburgh ‘JUST BANKING: building a banking sector that serves society’ on 19/20 April 2012.

More details on the attached flyer and at the website

We hope you will be able to support this event.


Wednesday 14 March 2012

Treasury confirms VAT bill for single fire and police services

Date: Wednesday 14 March 2012

UNISON Scotland has received confirmation from the Treasury that if the single fire and police services are established as proposed by the Scottish Government they will lose the current VAT exemption (known as s33 status). This means Scottish taxpayers will have to foot an additional bill of around £26m for the police and between £4m and £10m for the fire and rescue service.

The consequences for the police alone will result in a further 800 police staff posts being lost with major consequences for policing in Scotland. This is on top of the 2000 posts to be lost in ACPOS estimates.

The Financial Memorandum to the Police and Fire Reform Bill states that “the Scottish Government is currently liaising with HMRC regarding whether the service could be given s33 status” and ministers have indicated that they continue to lobby the Treasury on this point.

However, Treasury Minister David Gauke MP in a letter to UNISON states “The eligibility criteria for Section 33 are set out in HMRC’s published guidance and the Scottish Government was aware of them when formulating the current reforms”.

UNISON Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said:

“The Scottish Government has held out the prospect of resolving the VAT exemption throughout the Bill process. It turns out that they knew at the outset that this would not be the case.

“UNISON has argued that you could have a single police force established as local government joint board, funded through a precept and retain s33 status. Of course that would mean less direct ministerial influence over the police, but it would strengthen local democratic accountability.”


Note to editors

1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union representing over 162,000 members working in the public sector in Scotland, and represents police staffs in Scotland.

2. Other documents giving analysis of the Police reform process and the campaign for a balanced modern police force – rather than cutting thousands of police staff jobs – are available on the UNISON Scotland website:

·         UNISON Scotland Evidence to Scottish Parliament Committees on the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill published in Feb 2012 is available on our website
  • Evidence to Justice Committee:

·         UNISON Scotland’s document ‘Future of Policing in Scotland - Response to Scottish Government consultation’ published in May 2011:

·         UNISON Scotland commissioned Stewart Research to examine the benefits of police staff – the report ‘Civilianisation of Police in Scotland’ published in May 2009:

Aberdeen UNISON calls on city council to do the right thing and keep services in house

Date: Wednesday 14 March 2012

Aberdeen City UNISON has called on councillors to keep vital public services in house and abandon flawed privatisation plans . The city’s powerful Finance and Resources committee meets tomorrow (Thursday 15 March) to decide on a report which recommends abandoning the Alternative Delivery Model – in other words outsourcing to privateers –  and keeping the services in house instead.

UNISON Branch Secretary Karen Davidson told councillors:
“The ADM project is at a critical stage – you must now decide whether to plough on with it or back staff and management proposals to make efficiencies in-house.

“If services are retained in-house there will be no management time wasted on managing relationships and contracts with multi-national companies. There will instead be continued direct, democratic control of services. And you will be able to keep savings achieved for re-investment in public services, rather than providing private sector profits for multi-national companies that are not based in Aberdeen.
“UNISON is urging you to do the sensible thing and back the in-house option. Please now dump ADM, and show trust and confidence in us – your Council staff.”



Union-News Video: UNISON NHS strikers “show government we’re serious” about pensions fight

Union-News: UNISON pension strike continues at NHS Scotland

From Union-News:  14th March 2012, 8.04 GMT
UNISON health workers are on the second day of a 48 hour strike over pensions cuts in Scotland.
It is the first in a series of targeted actions across the NHS north of the border, aimed at forcing the SNP government to negotiate a reduction in staff contribution rates under the new career-average pension scheme being introduced from 1st April.
UNISON rep at the Ayrshire Central Hospital, Elaine McLeod (pictured, left) told UnionNews: “It’s to let the government know we’re serious about this.
“It’s the whole issue around the pensions – the length of time we’ll need to work. I can’t imagine anyone working in my unit at 68.”
The specialist sterilisation unit where the strikers are based was opened by the Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon last week.


STUC Budget Submission 2012 proves there is still a better way

Budget Day is Wed 21 March - and ahead of that the Scottish TUC has published its latest Budget Submission which makes the case against austerity and provides credible alternatives to the disastrous ConDem cuts.

General Secretary Grahame Smith said: "The STUC has consistently argued that the mistakes of recessions past are being repeated. The big danger now is that a significant proportion of currently high unemployment becomes structural. This would leave a terrible human, social and economic legacy for Scotland to deal with. The Government has to act now to prevent it happening.”

You can see the fuller STUC release here - and click here to download a copy of STUC economist Stephen Boyd's authoritative analysis and credible alternatives.  It's not light reading - but it's highly illuminating!