Monday 16 December 2019

This COP has failed people & planet. People power, Climate Justice!

Climate campaigners from around the world have hit out angrily at UN climate talks in Madrid failing to deliver for the people and the planet.

Civil society organisations representing trade unions, environment NGOs, youth, indigenous peoples, women and many other campaigners made a series of highly critical statements as the talks, known as COP 25, ended on Sunday.

Francis Stuart, STUC Policy Officer, spoke on behalf of the global workers movement, represented by the ITUC. He said: "We represent 207 million workers from 165 countries. What we have seen in the last two weeks is nothing short of a disgrace. Unions are bitterly disappointed. 

"We were hoping to see governments agreeing ambitious climate justice policies that responded to the climate emergency that is threatening our lives, jobs, livelihoods, communities and dignity. What we have is the polar opposite. 

"Civil society has been locked out – while Governments backtrack on what has been negotiated over the years. What we have seen is nothing less than parties trying to dismantle the Paris Agreement."

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland warned today that the failings of COP 25 heap pressure on the talks in Glasgow in November next year.

Tom Ballantine, SCCS chair, said: “These climate talks failed to act on the calls of people across the world who have demanded faster and deeper action to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C.

“These UN climate talks remain the best, and only, global platform to build consensus on climate action and climate justice. But if they are to work, those governments blocking progress need to get out of the way and start listening. 

"The people are demanding a strong response to the climate emergency. The climate crisis is unfolding now, and public pressure will only grow in the months leading up to COP26 in Glasgow.

“All actors must now significantly step up their game... Scotland can lead by example by accelerating its response to the climate emergency in its next budget, committing new investments to rapidly reduce our emissions, and by increasing our financial support for people in the world’s poorest countries who are already being devastated by a crisis they did not cause.”

Ben Wilson, of SCIAF, who is chair of the SCCS international group, has written about looking ahead to the November 2020 COP.

He said that the history of Glasgow "simmers beneath its streets, and when the COP comes to the city, it will bubble up over the surface. Questions of colonialism, of its legacy of slavery, of industry, of strikes, and of social movements, will frame our discussions when the world comes to town on equity, loss and damage, human rights, climate justice and the just transition."

UNISON is part of the SCCS coalition and is working with them, the STUC, trade unions including EPSU and PSI internationally, and many other organisations local and international, including the school climate strikers, to help plan for how civil society puts the maximum pressure on Scottish, UK and world governments in the year ahead.

The ITUC address to COP25 included criticism of the Chilean Government, which presided over the Madrid COP, after saying that massive anti-government protests across Chile meant it could not take place there as planned.

Francis said (watch from 9 minutes into this video): "There is no respect for the science, no respect for human rights, no social justice, no ambition and no commitments to action.

"This failure cannot be disentangled from the crises we see around the world.

•           The rich getting richer while the poor suffer. This is exacerbated by climate change.
•           Trade unionists under attack.
•           Governments – including the Chilean Government -  attacking their own people.

"We need bold transformative action from Governments to pave the way for a Just Transition. Next year’s  COP will be in my home city of Glasgow. We need to see climate measures to protect workers rights and create decent jobs.

"None of this is reflected in this COP. This COP has failed the people and the planet. People power, Climate Justice!"

Friday 20 September 2019

Solidarity with the millions of school climate strikers & updates on #GreenUNISON Day

It's today!

(UPDATE 6pm - see below for a range of pictures of today's #GreenUNISON branch action in the workplace and on #climatestrike events - search the hashtags on Twitter for many more UK wide. And here's the blog from General Secretary Dave Prentis on climate change being the greatest single threat humanity faces. And check Greta Thunberg's Twitter feed for an idea of the scale of today's global events, inspired by her initial solo school strike!)

UNISON is sending solidarity to today's school #climatestrike strikes, marches and rallies in Scotland - and around the world.

Check out the Scottish climate strikes on the Scottish Youth Climate Strike website.

Our branches across the UK have been organising #GreenUNISON Week actions this week and in Scotland it's Green UNISON Day today.

Branches are holding green workplace events where members can talk about pushing employers for action on the climate emergency and can make their own pledges of green workplace action.

Many are also joining their local #climatestrike marches and rallies.

All the info you need for today is on our last blog, pointing you to the resources on the Green UNISON Day page.

Our action is part of Scottish, UK and international trade union action in solidarity with the young people globally whose movement was inspired by Greta Thunberg's school strike. We want climate justice and a Just Transition.

Let us know what you're doing locally and send pictures. We'll be updating below on this blog later today.

PICTURES from UNISON branch action and #climatestrike action, mainly in Scotland. (more will be added tomorrow and look out for a full report in the next Scotland in UNISON):

In no particular order, and with thanks to everyone who shared pictures...


UNISON NEC member Kate Ramsden addresses the rally.


 (Pic from John Loughton's Twitter)

Fife Health


UNISON Scottish Local Government Committee reps:

UNISON Scottish Joint Council reps took time out of their meetings with
to send solidarity to all taking part in the School Climate Strike today #unisongreenday #ClimateEmergency

South Lanarkshire


Lanarkshire Health


If you have UNISON pictures from today that aren't here, apologies, please send them in or share on social media and we'll get more up asap. Well done everyone for all the work today for the school #climatestrike and #GreenUNISON Day.

Monday 16 September 2019

It's #GreenUNISON Week & school #climatestrike on Fri. Here's what you can do!

This week is Green UNISON Week UK wide - check out what's happening and what you can do!

On Friday 20 Sept our members here are marking Green UNISON Day with workplace action and sending solidarity to the global school climate strikes, inspired by Greta Thunberg.

If you want to join in, find out what your branch is doing this week and on Friday and help organise #GreenUNISON activities locally. There's some ideas, including a survey for branches talking with employers, in the resources section of the Green UNISON Day page.

You can also print off pledges and other material as well as finding social media resources. You can find a pledge card/poster and make a social media statement/selfie with your green workplace pledge and/or a poster showing solidarity with the young people on strike.

 More resources are also on the Green UNISON Week site.

To find out where the nearest school strikes and marches and rallies are, check the  Scottish Youth Climate Strike and UK Student Climate Network sites for updates.

Remember, this is global, with support from many trade unionists around the world. As we often say, it's a health and safety issue for the planet, and there are no jobs on a dead planet. The TUC, EPSU, PSI, ITUC and others want to see a #JustTransition and climate justice and are standing with the students. Trade Unions for Energy Democracy collated this list of statements.

UNISON is doing our bit - you can help, including by sharing this brilliant video now and joining in at your workplace and with the school climate strikers. Solidarity!

Friday 13 September 2019

No Deal Brexit

It’s increasingly clear that a no deal Brexit will impact on all of us. That said, the concerns of UNISON members who aren’t UK citizens are probably more urgent than others. Here is a brief summary of what is proposed for immigration rules in the event of No Deal:

  • The UK Government has announced the immigration arrangements they will apply to EU citizens and their family members moving to the UK after Brexit on 31 October 2019, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
  •  The Government intend that after Brexit, EU citizens will still be able to come for visits or short trips.  They will also be able to apply for a 36-month temporary immigration status if they wish to stay beyond 31 December 2020. This will be known as - European Temporary Leave to Remain (Euro TLR). It will be free of charge and open until 31 December 2020. 
  • It is important to note the Euro TLR arrangements do not apply to those EU citizens who are resident here before 23:00 hours on 31 October 2019 and their family members. The Government has been clear that we want them to stay and they are eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to obtain a UK immigration status which will enable them to do so.
  • Resident EU citizens have until at least 31 December 2020 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.( Around  1.5 million people have now applied to the EU Settlement Scheme, according to internal figures.)
  • There will be visible changes at the UK border, and tougher rules for criminals, otherwise though - on 1 November 2019 EU citizens will be able to cross the UK border as now.
  • EU citizens who successfully apply to the Euro TLR will be granted a temporary immigration status valid for 36 months.  They will be able to sponsor close family members – a spouse or partner, and dependent children under 18.


 The Government has  commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee to review the benefits of a future points-based immigration system, to be introduced from January 2021, and what best practice can be learnt from other international comparators including the Australian immigration system.

 Once the future immigration system opens at the start of 2021, anyone without Euro TLR or another UK immigration status will have to qualify to stay in the UK under the provisions in the future immigration system or leave the UK.  The Government say those who hold Euro TLR status will have more time to transition into the future system and will not need to apply until their temporary leave expires. Euro TLR holders who transition into a route leading to settlement (indefinite leave to remain) will be able to count time on Euro TLR towards the qualifying residence period for settlement. 

Employers, landlords and other third parties will not be required to distinguish between EU citizens who moved to the UK before or after Brexit until the new, points-based immigration system is introduced from January 2021. EU citizens will be able to prove their rights to take up employment and rent property, as now, by using a passport or national identity card.

These arrangements also apply to citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Irish citizens will continue to be able to enter, live and work in the UK without requiring permission.
 The Government also intend to legislate remove the rights for post-exit arrivals to acquire permanent residence.

Oh – and we’ll be getting Blue Passports from the start of next year.

UNISON has and will continue to oppose a no deal Brexit. But regardless of what happens – and whatever colour of passport we end up with – UNISON’s priority will remain  the wellbeing of our members and the public services they provide.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Green UNISON Day 20 Sept - solidarity with school climate strikers

On 20 September hundreds of thousands of young people will take part in the latest of the climate strikes inspired by Greta Thunberg, the Finnish school student who decided to strike in protest at the lack of action and urgency by governments on climate change.

Several of these school student climate strikes have taken place this year in Scotland with protests organised in George Square in Glasgow and at Holyrood in Edinburgh. However the 20 September strike breaks new ground following Greta’s call for adults to join them. This has sometimes been expressed as a call for a general strike but some people have called on companies to also support the action.

Members of UNISON in Scotland have been active on climate change issues for some years, initiating the national union’s campaign for pension funds to divest from fossil fuels and setting up a Green Network for activists to come together to discuss how to take the issues up in the union and with employers. Last year, they organised a Green UNISON Day where branches held activities to raise awareness of the issues.

This year, the Green UNISON Day coincides with the 20 September Climate Strike Day and is a real opportunity for branches and activists to make the issue a priority for our members and our employers.

Due to our draconian anti-trade union laws UNISON and other trade unions are unable to call for strike action. However there is nothing to prevent workers taking annual leave or flexi-leave on the day to join school students marching in the streets to demand action.

Green UNISON Day creates opportunities for a wide range of activities which will demonstrate not only solidarity with young people taking action across the world but also practical steps to get union members and employers working to address the real climate emergency that confronts us all.

Scottish UNISON Branches are already making plans and these include:

·         Lunch time gatherings, meetings and lobbies.
·         Inviting school strikers to address workplace or branch meetings. UNISON’s Glasgow City  Branch have gone further and after inviting a school climate striker to speak to the branch have given financial assistance and asked other Glasgow branches to do likewise.
·         Calling on members to show support for the strikers using solidarity posters and pledges.
·         Promoting the day by publicising it to members in advance and in particular briefing members in schools on the Climate Strike movement, encouraging them to be supportive of school students taking action
·         Taking actions in support of UNISON’s campaign for Pension Funds to divest from fossil fuels, writing to Pension Fund Committees and Boards and local Councillors
·         Planting trees as symbolic of the need to restore forests
·         Publicising UNISON policy on Councils taking a lead on renewable energy by setting up Municipal Energy Companies to generate and locally distribute electricity
·         Calling on employers to declare a Climate Emergency and for Councils to work with UNISON and other unions, public sector bodies, employers and communities to devise plans within six months to address the emergency.

The past few weeks of extreme weather with record high temperatures followed by days of torrential rain disrupting train and road travel, threatening infrastructure like dams, has illustrated that climate change has already arrived and that the climate emergency that Greta and others have been protesting about is already here.

It is working people and the poor who will suffer most. Faced to live and work in increasingly difficult environments, prices of travel and food increasing, public service money to be diverted to repair and protect bridges, rail tracks and roads from weather damage, will force us all to pay for the climate crisis just as we paid for the banking crisis. Whilst the rich can afford their air-conditioning and moving to areas away from flood risks, working people will continue to suffer when temperatures soar and be given sandbags when flood waters rise.

UNISON branches participating in the Green UNISON Day, supporting the school strikers and demanding action from employers and governments are showing a lead to other trade unions.

Stephen Smellie, Depute Convener, UNISON Scotland.