Monday 30 June 2014

Glasgow Life staff ballot on strike action after Commonwealth talks break down

Glasgow Life must stop treating staff as a second class workforce, says UNISON, as it calls for a fair deal for those working during the Commonwealth Games.

In contrast to other organisations, Glasgow Life has offered no enhancements for working overtime and has altered some workers shifts without agreement. UNISON believes that Glasgow Life workers who work overtime should be afforded the same deal as other council workers.

Poverty of NHS staff unable to pay for the basics, reveals UNISON survey

Thousands of health service staff are living below the poverty line, with almost half unable to afford at least three basic everyday necessities, a UNISON survey has found.

The study of workers with jobs in support, administration and nursing found that in 48 per cent of cases, their wages did not stretch to being able to buy items including books, a warm winter coat and new shoes.

Researchers found 80 per cent had some difficulty paying household bills, while 40 per cent could not manage to save £20 a month and one in ten had a second job.

Matt McLaughlin, regional organiser for UNISON, said the findings were a "serious wake-up call."

He said: "UNISON's not surprised that our members' standard of living has been affected by year on year of below-inflation pay rises.

"But we're as surprised as anyone that such a significant number of people are in work and in poverty.

"There is clear evidence of a direct link between poverty and ill-health and in particular child poverty and child ill-health."

Read the full article in today's Herald
Get the full report at

Sunday 29 June 2014

Remember to Vote!

UNISON and GMB members in England and Wales have voted to take strike action over pay. UNISON members in Scotland have till Monday 7 July to return their ballot papers on consulting on whether to move our pay campaign forward with industrial action. Remember to vote.

For more details see

Wednesday 25 June 2014

UNISON warns of a major assault on public services as 60 per cent of cuts are still to come

Date: Wednesday 25 June 2014

UNISON Scotland launched a report today (Wednesday) – The Cuts Don’t Work: The impact of ‘austerity’ cuts on Scotland’s public services – showing what’s really happening to public services across the country.

The report highlights that Scotland’s budget is being slashed by more than £6 billion in real terms. Around 50,000 public sector jobs have already gone with a further 60,000 expected jobs expected to go over the next 5 years. And local authorities have little choice but to put up charges for services like school meals, burials and cremations, day care and home care rates as they attempt to balance the books as a result of the ongoing council tax freeze.

While the cuts affect everyone in Scotland, it is the most vulnerable who are hardest hit, as services are cut back, jobs go, pay is cut and living standards fall.

Lilian Macer, UNISON’s Scottish Convener, said: “It’s impossible to take this level of funding and staffing out of public services without serious problems arising over time. And 60 per cent of the cuts are still to come. It’s a major assault on services everybody relies on.

“Some problems may become visible suddenly and dramatically if something goes wrong, for example in food safety, or hospital cleaning where lives can be put at risk. Others may not be noticed in headline news, but are also deeply damaging to the people affected, their families and communities.

“It could be local libraries closing, or the rushed - and very impersonal – 15 minute care visits your grandmother gets, or children whose lives could have been helped and turned around with proper social work support and intervention. Then there is the isolation of people who relied on day care centres that have closed down.”

The report also looks at how the cuts are piling on pressure to overworked, underpaid staff across Scotland including in hospitals, schools, police support staff, colleges and the voluntary sector and it is bringing public services to breaking point. Some of the comments included:

o “If I was given the time and energy to apply to the families that I work with I could change their lives forever, but currently we stick plasters on wounds that need stitches.” Social worker

o “Growing workloads are a real problem. We often have to work through breaks, or work late, just to do the job properly and deliver the right level of care.” Community midwife

o “It’s getting worse. I don’t know where it’s going to end, no one cares about the patient or client anymore.” Home carer

Lilian Macer continued: “This report shows the damage cuts do to local communities, local economies and the fabric of our society. They are the result of decisions and choices made at every level of Government; local, Scottish and UK. 

“We can afford public services. Cuts are neither necessary nor inevitable and UNISON will continue to campaign for the properly funded and accountable public services our society needs.”


Notes to editors:
• You can find the full report online here:

• The council tax freeze has cost more than £2.5 billion. While charges vary from authority to authority, some examples include: 

Costs for burials and cremations across Scotland have soared with some facing increases of more than 50 per cent

Charges for school meals continue to rise with some authorities seeing rises of as much as a third.

Other examples include bulk uplift of rubbish, residents’ parking permits, attendance at day centres for elderly and disabled residents, and meals for housebound residents.

For further information:

Friday 20 June 2014

Supporting stewards working with stress

Conference backed a South Lanarkshire call for research into the impact on the well-being of stewards given the demands placed on them, with a view to putting in place support mechanisms for stewards and members. #uNDC14

The branch's Margaret Gallacher told delegates that stress is the most common cause of long term absence and there is a proven link between lack of job security and poor mental health.

Public ownership of energy will transform lives

#uNDC14 Conference slammed the rise in fuel poverty which leaves many of our poorest citizens with a choice of whether to heat or eat, at the same time as energy companies have increased their profits by a massive 74%. UNISON will support an energy price freeze and will campaign actively for a re-nationalisation of the energy market.

An amendment from Bromley and Hackney, that no compensation should be paid “to the millionaires, major corporations or hedge funds” was supported with qualifications by the union leadership. Gordon McKay, Scottish NEC member said that public ownership has always been UNISON’s position, but now 52% of Tory voters also support re-nationalisation of the big six energy companies.

Lay tutors essential to challenge austerity myths

#uNDC14 Mandela said that education is the most important weapon that you can use to change the world, Scotland’s Stephen Smellie said, as conference set out a plan to take forward and encourage debate, discussion and education on the causes of austerity and broader political education.

Moving Scotland’s amendment, highlighting the excellent work of lay tutors’ involvement in our education programme in Scotland, Stephen said “Our most valuable resource is ourselves, our activists. We are experienced in representing members, negotiating, organising and fighting injustice daily.

Defeat UKIP by being bold, Gordon McKay tells Labour

Scotland NEC member Gordon McKay urged Labour to be bold and give members and their families a reason to vote Labour and 'wipe UKIP off the map'. #uNDC14

Gordon demolished the politics of UKIP. "When Farage says that parts of Britain are unrecognisable thanks to mass immigration, and that we should be concerned if Romanians moved in next door to us, that is aimed simply at spreading fear, hate and division based on race and colour.

Thursday 19 June 2014

The kind of Scotland we want to see

#uNDC14 UNISON Scotland's position on the forthcoming independence referendum in Scotland was backed overwhelmingly by delegates, after speakers queued up to lend their support.

Some of our colleagues in England and Wales seemed a bit wistful about the debate taking place north of the border and the young members welcomed the vote being extended to 16 and 17 year olds.

Bill of Rights for fairness and inclusiveness in Northern Ireland

#uNDC14 UNISON will press for a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland as conference applauded the stance of our colleagues in Northern Ireland UNISON in leading a public protest at the failure of government and politicians to agree a way forward on the "unfinished business" of the Good Friday Agreement.

A Scottish amendment highlighted the need to ensure that equality and human rights remain a priority for the whole of our union. It condemned the lack of political will by the Northern Ireland Government to use equality impact assessments to prevent historic patterns of discrimination for the most disadvantaged in society.

TTIP - Thatcherism's ultimate triumph

#uNDC14 The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement between the European Union and the USA has "catastrophic implications for public services, not only here in the UK but across Europe," Glasgow's Chris Stephen told delegates, as Conference backed a range of measures to campaign against the treaty's adoption.

"The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership represents Thatcherism's ultimate triumph," said Chris. "It takes us from a mixed economy to a market economy with all of our public services, especially the NHS, at the mercy of global corporations.

Colombia: Embrace Martha's spirit and her fight

#uNDC14 Falkirk's Ruth Young urged Conference to embrace Colombian trade unionist Martha Diaz's "spirit and her fight" and called for continued support for Justice for Colombia.

In yesterday's briefing we reported that Colombia is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a trade unionist.  Conference responded with an overwhelming show of solidarity as it pledged to continue to support Justice for Colombia politically and economically and to encourage all branches to affiliate.

Communication and organisation key to recruitment

#uNDC14 Campaigning and organising were high on the agenda once again this year, as Conference agreed to campaign "visibly and vocally" against cuts to jobs and services, to attract new members and to keep the ones we already have.

Supporting the motion Scotland's Stephen Smellie reminded delegates that there is a difference between recruiting and organising. "Other unions regularly make a push on recruitment. They visit workplaces they have sometimes never been before, sign up some members, sometimes poach a few and then are never seen again.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Disability leave policies needed to end discrimination

#uNDC14 Conference backed action to end the use of potentially discriminatory attendance management policies and called on branches to negotiate disability leave using UNISON's model policy.

There are serious concerns that employers are using attendance management to get rid of disabled workers as a cost cutting exercise, often in contravention of the 2010 Equality Act.

Privatisation warning on social care integration

#uNDC14 Margo Cranmer from Lanarkshire Health warned Conference today that the commitment UNISON has won in Scotland of no privatisation in the NHS needs to be delivered for the integration agenda as well.

Backing a wide-ranging motion pledging a campaign to defend our NHS, Margo paid tribute to the Scottish Health Committee for “their relentless campaigning that has led to all political parties saying there will be no privatisation of the NHS in Scotland.”

Unite and fight for the pay we deserve

#uNDC14 Britain needs a pay rise, and our members need a pay rise, not only for themselves but for the economy as a whole. We must now unite and fight and fight for what we deserve. That was the rousing message from Scottish NEC member Jane Carolan, as Conference backed action, including co-ordinated strike action to win decent wages for our members.

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Tory health and safety proposals are ‘ideological nonsense'

#uNDC14 A fully funded and properly resourced Health and Safety Executive is the only safe and healthy option for our members and communities, said Glasgow’s Chris Stephens, as Conference pledged to fight the commercialisation and privatisation of the HSE.

Seconding a motion from Stockport, Chris told delegates that last year Glasgow had warned about the Westminster Governnment’s attack on the Health and Safety Executive and draconian changes to health and safety law.

Kirby praises ‘humour and spirit’ of referendum debate

#uNDC14 A packed fringe meeting today got the chance to discuss the detail of UNISON Scotland’s ‘challenging’ position on the referendum.
The meeting, addressed by Mike Kirby, UNISON Scottish Secretary and Lilian Macer, Scottish Convener, was held to put more meat on the bones than the strictures of the Conference hall debate could reasonably allow.
The union is challenging both camps to explain how their proposals will meet the objectives of our members.
Mike praised how the debate was being conducted in the union.
“It has been conducted with humour and in a spirit that should be a lesson to politicians. We need to take that same spirit out to and beyond the trade union movement”.

UNISON - Speaking up for Social Work, supporting radical practice

Scotland’s Social Work Issues Group (SWIG) hosted a very successful Fringe Meeting following Local Government Conference on Sunday, entitled “Challenges for Social Workers and the art of radical social work today.”
Chaired by Kate Ramsden, the audience of around 70 delegates, heard from Helga Pyle, National Officer for Social Care, and from SWIG’s John Stevenson and Colin Turbett.

Helga kicked off with a summary of the key findings from the UK UNISON report “Social Work Watch: inside a day in social work” which had been launched that week.

UNISON is the union for social workers

#uLGC14 Delegates backed a call from City of Edinburgh Branch to mount an awareness raising and recruitment campaign on the issues for members raised by the contempt of court proceedings in Scotland, and had welcomed UNISON’s actions in Scotland to protect and advise members and to press for legal changes.

Moving the motion, Edinburgh’s John Stevenson told delegates that the problem stems from a legal system that thinks only grown ups have rights.

“Imagine you have a law in Scotland that says the child’s welfare is paramount? Well we do?

Proper safeguards essential for the administration of medications in schools

#ulgc14 Delegates applauded action in Glasgow where pupil support assistants forced the council to withdraw proposals for all PSAs to administer medications to pupils with health needs and agreed a range of measures to campaign for enforceable national standards, backed up by comprehensive guidance and training.

Proposing the motion, Carol Ball, Scottish member of the Service Group Executive said that the administration of medicines and medical procedures continues to cause a great deal of concern for many of our members in schools and other educational settings.

“Often the responsibility for supporting these pupils is forced onto support staff, often without adequate safeguards.”

Monday 16 June 2014

Build confidence for members to act on pay

#uLGC14 As Local Government members in England and Wales await the outcome of an industrial action ballot on pay, Conference backed a wide ranging campaign to encourage members to take action for fair and decent pay.

Supporting, Renfrewshire’s Brenda Aitchison said, “The Tories talk of recovery and growth but we know that’s nonsense. Millions of people working and non-working struggle to make ends meet. The only growth I see is pay day loan companies, pawn shops, pound shops and foodbanks.”

That is why it was so important for the sectors which are unionised to push even harder for fair pay and show what can be done to give hope to others, added Brenda, calling for support for co-ordinated industrial action.

Earlier Scotland's Dougie Black did a joint presentation with Heather Wakefield (UNISON's Head of Local Government) on pay research which gave a damning picture of how wages had fallen behind for local government workers.

Sign up to Ethical Care and give home carers a living wage not poverty pay

#uLGC14 Renfrewshire’s Brenda Aitchison brought a Scottish dimension to the Ethical Care debate as conference backed a wide ranging strategy to keep up the pressure to improve the working conditions of our members in the care sector and the quality of care to our most vulnerable citizens.

Brenda told delegates that Renfrewshire was the first Scottish Branch to sign up to UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter, after home care members in home care met the Labour leader of their council and gave him a “no holds barred” account of the invaluable work they do.

Collective bargaining 'essential to the survival of the trade union movement'

#uLGC14 In an inspiring presentation Professor Keith Ewing of Kings College London yesterday called for union members to demand of the politicians seeking our vote, a commitment to renew, rebuild and restore collective bargaining structures “to raise wages and restore fairness at work. “

This is “essential to the survival of the trade union movement,” he said.

Give us back our employment rights

#uLGC14 UNISON will launch a Local Government Fair Employment Charter before the next general election to underpin a range of employment and human rights as delegates backed calls for a future Government to restore and improve on contractual rights.

Speaking in support at UNISON Local Government Conference on Sunday, Edinburgh’s Duncan Smith reminded Conference that their branch had successfully fought off attempts to privatise large chunks of their council services.

Friday 13 June 2014

UNISON celebrates big victory for low paid care workers

UNISON welcomes Capability Scotland’s decision to introduce the Scottish Living Wage back dated to 1 April 2014. UNISON Scotland’s recent report Scotland: It’s Time to Care highlighted the issue of chronic low pay in the sector.

UNISON has been part of the Scottish Living Wage Campaign for many years and a key concern is care workers, particularly those working in the private and charitable sectors. Capability Scotland’s decision to pay the living wage will bring an immediate benefit to over 400 staff. It is a big improvement to the pay of a largely female workforce who provide vital care for disabled children and adults across Scotland.

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Deregulation of meat hygiene inspections will result in tragic consequences, warns UNISON

Tuesday 10 June 2014

UNISON, the union which represents meat hygiene inspectors in abattoirs and meat plants, today (Tuesday, 10 June) warned MSPs that any deregulation of meat hygiene inspections will result in unsafe meat entering the food chain, with potential tragic consequences.

A recent freedom of information request revealed that since April 2012 meat inspectors and vets have prevented over a million instances of diseased animal carcasses from entering the food chain. This included:

·         659,000 instances of the Liver Fluke parasite
·         427,000 instances of pneumonia in red meat carcasses
·         100,000 instances of adult tape worm
·         100,000 tumours in chickens
·         1100 instances of parasitic lung worm in cattle, from entering the food chain.

Dave Watson, head of UNISON bargaining and campaigns, said: “This shows what a vital job meat inspectors do. We are calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that Food Standards Scotland is focussed on safety of consumers not food industry profits. Meat inspectors and vets must be able to carry out thorough independent inspections, free from food industry influence.”

Sunday 8 June 2014

North Lanarkshire Council are treating low paid women workers with contempt, says UNISON

UNISON, the trade union representing the equal pay claims of low paid women workers in North Lanarkshire, have reacted with utter disbelief to today’s statement released by North Lanarkshire Council regarding Equal Pay of low paid women workers

Low paid women workers, represented by UNISON, have been fighting for over six years for fair pay.

North Lanarkshire Council eventually conceded at an equal pay tribunal in March 2014 that it had wrongly scored the jobs of thousands of low paid women employees. Many hundreds of low paid women are still waiting for compensation.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

UNISON calls on Glasgow’s councillors to end attack on workers’ rights

Wed 4 June 2014

UNISON, the union representing care workers, has lambasted Glasgow City Council for taking action against more than 60 hard-working carers for participating in official, lawful industrial action earlier this year.

The union is calling on the city’s councillors to step in and put an end to this attack on workers’ rights.

Glasgow’s care workers took part in industrial action as a last resort to defend a series of attacks on the services they deliver to the most vulnerable people in the city. In the last year, Glasgow City Council has closed three of its seven day centres; reduced the number of service users from more than 500 to around 150; cut the workforce by more than 40 per cent (from 248 to 147) and sought to impose new duties on the lowest-graded staff.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

The Joy of Serco (or why avoiding tendering exercises is a good thing)

So the sleeper service to London Will be run by SERCO. Now trains, as such, aren’t really a UNISON thing but this is worth looking at.

At face value Serco don’t seem the most obvious people to run a railroad. Certainly less obvious than the people they beat to the contract – Arriva and First.

But Serco do run lots and lots of other things IT contracts and prisons, and detention centres and catering and criminal tagging and air traffic control and pathology services and cleaning and so on and on and on. You may at this point be wondering what the common thread of Serco’s various very very profitable business is (well other than the overcharging landed them with a £68.5m fine.)
It’s winning public contracts.

UNISON welcomes call for early careers advice for Scotland’s young people

Tue 3 June 2014

UNISON response to Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce Final Report

UNISON, the union representing careers advisers, has welcomed the Wood Commission’s call for earlier careers advice for Scotland’s young people.

The union has long-campaigned for careers advice to be provided to school students long before S4. It also has to be delivered by qualified careers advisers who can provide the face-to-face support that is vital for pupils.

Derek Cheyne, Branch Secretary of UNISON’s Skills Development Scotland branch, said:
“This report highlights what we as careers professionals have been saying for a long time. Young people need to be provided with the best possible information and advice from the outset, with continued support throughout their high school years.

“Young people face the worst jobs crisis in recent times and we must do all we can to enable them to reach their full potential and move into rewarding careers.”


Notes to editors
  1. You can view the full report – Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce – at 
  2. UNISON has been critical of over-reliance on the role of My World of Work web-based service as opposed to crucial face-to-face support. Although a website can provide information to those who can access it, it cannot provide the kind of support and guidance that most people require. Young people in particular need to be supported to have a realistic view of their competencies and aspirations to ensure they make the right choice and this requires face-to-face interactions with fully-qualified careers professionals.

Gradual drip of privatisation has reached epic proportions in Scottish Water, says UNISON

Tue 3 June

UNISON, Scotland’s largest public service union, says new figures showing the extent of privatisation in Scottish Water should be a major wake-up call to the Scottish Government.

A recent FOI by insider website ‘Utilities Scotland’ has revealed that 92.5 per cent of Scottish Water’s capital programme has been delivered by private contractors over the last four years, while just 7.5 per cent was delivered by Scottish Water staff. UNISON, who has long campaigned to keep Scotland’s water in public hands, says it is merely privatisation through the backdoor.

While Scottish Water is a public service, there has been an incremental drift towards privatisation. Firstly, through the hugely expensive PFI schemes and then by a broader PPP scheme which has seen the extensive contractorisation of Scottish Water.

Scotland’s main political parties have supported public ownership, however, the White Paper ‘Scotland’s Future’ has no mention of a public water service should Scotland vote for independence in September. UNISON is seeking clarification from the Scottish Government that this is simply an omission.

Dave Watson, UNISON Scotland’s Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, said:
“Scottish Water is a public service success story, but we are only too aware that there is a powerful lobby for privatisation. Water is a service, not a commodity and we need a service that puts people before profit.

“These latest disclosures show the gradual drip of privatisation has reached epic proportions. The privatisation sharks are still circling Scottish Water and we need to remain vigilant - Scotland’s water is not for sale.”


Notes to editors 

2. You can find more information on the FOI at

3. Scottish Water is a public corporation that delivers a publicly-owned water and sewerage service to the people of Scotland, unlike the privatised service in the rest of the UK.

4. Scottish Water has delivered a massive capital programme to update our aging infrastructure. It spends just under £500m a year on infrastructure including pipes and treatment works, funded largely by the water charge payer with borrowing support from the Scottish Government.

5. The SNP, Scottish Labour and the Greens have supported public ownership of Scottish Water with only the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats making the case for privatisation.

6. Campaigning against the privatisation of Scottish Water doesn’t mean clinging to the status quo. In UNISON Scotland’s paper ‘It’s Scotland’s Water’ we highlight other public service models that demonstrate that a more democratic structure can deliver a more efficient, socially responsible and more accountable public water service. Find out more here: