Friday 30 January 2015

Recovery... well sort of.

We have recovered from the Financial crisis. Yes we have – it’s official. Well sort of, we currently have employment levels back at 2008 levels - 73%. 
Whoopee, let’s celebrate, let joy be unconfined amongst the masses pop the champagne corks and...ehh hang on. If we have recovered why are so many of us so much worse off?  
Well the reason is that while jobs numbers have recovered – wages haven’t. For most of us this is easily verifiable by checking the bank balance a couple of days after we’ve been paid and seeing what is left after the bills have come off. For anyone entertaining the idea that “It must just be me” – it’s not. The Institute of Fiscal Studies have just published a study of Earnings since the recession and it’s as cheery a read as you’d expect.
While this isn’t a happy picture for anyone – it is more severe for some sections of the workforce than others. Specifically young people have suffered most

There are a number of reasons for this decline in the value of wages. Frozen or almost frozen pay is probably the most obvious. But it’s far from being the only one. We’ve also seen a increase in part time contracts and zero hour contracts “under employment” in the jargon of economists.

Now it doesn’t have to be like this. Part of the reason for underemployment is a shortage of demand in the economy. This could be tackled through a policy of wage led growth. 
Investment in public services  could and should be an important part of this. With the promise of more  austerity at  UK level and tax cutting obsessed Government at Scottish level, this isn’t exactly the current agenda.
So you'll forgive us for not being exactly celebratory...but employment figures like this aren't the occasion for cracking open the champagne more like a can of Tesco value lager.

Friday 23 January 2015

'Stop dumping on waste management staff' says UNISON Scotland

Fri 23 Jan 2015

UNISON Scotland conducted surveys amongst staff working in waste management across Scotland’s local authorities. The results revealed a workforce under pressure facing increasing targets and declining budgets.  

In a report Dumped On – Working in Scotland’s Waste Management Servicesthe union details the experience and expectations of a workforce trying do their job in an a constantly changing environment. 

Waste management has become a more demanding task in recent years as demands for more and more complex recycling have been put on staff at the same time as budgets have been put under pressure.  These burdens are set to increase as targets for more waste to be recycled or reused are going up and council budgets are being squeezed still further.

UNISON Scotland Head of Bargaining and Campaigns Dave Watson said:

“The job is treating rubbish – It shouldn’t mean getting rubbish treatment. Councils and the  Scottish Government should start realising that. They can’t expect staff to meet more stringent targets when they are being cut back.

“ Waste management staff are vital for both environmental Health and the health of the environment . Every political party claims they want to increase recycling rates and is signed up to the idea of a Zero Waste Scotland. They need to be prepared to put their money where litter is.

“The aim is that more waste is reused and recycled rather than put in landfill – well if Councils and Government want less waste – they are going to have to invest in more people to make that happen. They can’t expect to get ever more complex demands from a  reducing and overstretched workforce


Notes for Editors
The report Dumped on: working in Scotland’s waste management services can be found at:

Thursday 15 January 2015

Union offers safety advice to staff following hospital sexual assaults

Thursday 15 January 2015

NHS union UNISON Scotland is advising staff to be more vigilant than normal after two separate incidents of sexual assault at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary (GRI) in recent weeks.

The union has also contacted employers demanding that specific advice about personal safety and relevant details are shared with local staff to ensure that they are aware of the issue and can take reasonable steps to ensure their safety.

Branch Secretary Cathy Miller said, “we have been in touch with the employers demanded extra security be put in place; that staff are given some basic information to help them stay safe at work and that local managers are pro active around staff safety when taking decisions.”

 “In the absence of any formal advice to staff UNISON felt it was important that we let our members know that we are aware of the issue and are pressing for action. We would urge staff to be extra vigilant; where possible to travel to and from work with colleagues (and not alone); to report any suspicious behaviour to your line manager and local security and if appropriate to record any specific concerns about safety in the datex system.”

The message being given by UNISON to staff in the GRI is;
 The chance of you becoming a victim of this kind of crime are relatively low – even in the current circumstance. Police Scotland advise that there are a number of simple steps you can take to further reduce the risk to yourself.

What general steps can I take?
  • Plan your journey.
  • Tell someone when and where you’re going and when to expect you to get there.
  • Carry a mobile phone and make sure it’s charged.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and look confident about where you are going.
  • Avoid listening to personal stereos which can make you less aware of what’s happening around you.
  • Personal attack alarms are good to have – makes sure you carry it in your hand so you can use it immediately. Choose a type which continues to sound if you activate and then drop it.
  • DON’T carry weapons or items such as pepper spray – this is illegal.
How do I stay safe on foot?
  • When out walking, always attempt to walk facing the traffic so that a car cannot pull up behind you.
  • If you think someone is following you, check by safely crossing to the other side of the street - cross more than once if necessary. If the person behind you crosses also and you believe that your suspicions are confirmed, stay to main, busy routes until you get to the first safe place and contact the police. Avoid using a phone box in the street as this gives the person following you an opportunity to trap you.
  • If you regularly go jogging or cycling, try to vary your route and the time you go. Stick to well-lit, preferably busy, roads with pavements and avoid wooded areas.
  • Don't take short-cuts through dark alleyways, parks or waste ground
Please pass this advice on to your colleagues across GRI.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Scrap plans for new women’s prison, urges UNISON Scotland

Tuesday 13 January 2015

UNISON Scotland, the public services union with many members working in Criminal Justice services has urged the Scottish Government to scrap their plans to build a new Women’s prison.

The union has written to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson saying that a tendering exercise for the construction of a new jail near Greenock should be halted.

The plans go against expert opinion and are at odds with the Scottish Government’s declared policy of reducing the number of women in prison. A new prison of this size is also against the recommendations of the Commission on Women’s Offending.

Stephen Smellie, Deputy Convener of UNISON Scotland, and Chair of the union’s Social work Issues Group said: 

“Prison is a very expensive way of not solving problems. Committing large sums of money to expanding prison capacity is to spend money on failure.

"Far better than spending some £60m on a new institution, with associated running costs, would be investment in the services which can help tackle the root causes of women’s offending – poverty, substance and alcohol misuse, mental health problems, histories of domestic and sexual abuse.

"Spending which attempts to tackle with these represents a far better use of public resource in a time of acute pressures on public spending."


Note to editorsUNISON ebrief on Women Offenders

Monday 12 January 2015

Protecting Public Services

UNISON, Scotland’s public service union tells MSPs that Scotland's public services are living through a lost decade as a consequence of austerity economics and we can do more to protect public services.
Tomorrow (Tuesday 13 January 2015) the Scottish Parliament will debate protecting public services. UNISON Scotland's briefing to MSP's draws from our recent report 'Austerity Economics Don't Add Up', which charts the impact austerity economics is having on Scotland’s public services and the staff who deliver them.
In addition, UNISON has identified some common themes for MSPs from recent UNISON surveys of public service staff. They flag up consequences that are not often recognised including:
  • The impact of cuts on service delivery and in particular on the most vulnerable in our communities. Social care is a particular concern with a race to the bottom in provision.
  • Corners are being cut to give the impression that services are being maintained. Whether its food sampling, inspections, hospital cleaning or the time elderly people are allocated for basic care.
  • Core infrastructure is collapsing while staff patch and mend. Sticking plasters won’t last forever.
  • Preventative work is being abandoned as staff focus on the basic statutory functions.
  • Moving staff around to manage one crisis after another. ‘Keeping the plates spinning’ is a very common comment from staff.
  • Growing levels of stress and related health issues. A particular challenge for what is becoming an ageing workforce due to recruitment freezes.
  • Delayering of structures results in quite junior staff having to take decisions, without adequate support from more senior and experienced staff.
  • Cuts in support staff and administration results in front line staff having to spend more time on paperwork - exacerbated by outdated or inadequate IT systems.
  • Increased aggression and violence from service users, frustrated by service cuts and delays.
UNISON Scotland’s Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, Dave Watson said:
“The overwhelming response from staff is that it’s bad now, but they believe it’s going to get worse. This is happening at a time when public service wages have been slashed in real terms placing significant personal pressures on staff.”
“We urge MSP's to recognise that there is a better way. Of course the driving force for austerity comes from the UK coalition government, but Holyrood doesn’t always make good choices. What is needed is the political will to challenge the view that austerity is necessary and to put in place better policies that deliver for all our communities.”

Notes to editor


1.    UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union. The MSP Briefing can be viewed here: 

2.    Our report 'Austerity Economics Don't Add Up' can be viewed here:

3.    Examples of the occupational surveys can be viewed on our Public Works page:

For more information contact:

 ·         Dave Watson, UNISON’s head of bargaining and campaigns, 0141 342 2840 or 07958122409