Monday, February 21, 2011

CBI ‘living in a Thatcherite wonderland’ – UNISON response to CBI submission

Mon 21 February 2011

UNISON, Scotland’s largest union in public services, has criticised a submission by the CBI on the future delivery of public services claiming it is living in a Thatcherite wonderland.

The union says the CBI’s call for private companies to have a ‘right to bid’ to deliver public services would lead to a complex chain of contractual relationships with huge cost implications. It would also require an army of people to manage it, taking staffing resources away from where they are needed most – delivering frontline services.

In its submission to the Christie Commission – a group established by the Scottish Government to look at the long term pattern of public service delivery in Scotland – the CBI also talks of privatising Scottish Water, a move which would cost the taxpayer far more than keeping it in public hands.

Mike Kirby, UNISON’s Scottish Secretary, said: “Public money is for delivering public services, not lining shareholders’ pockets, and the CBI’s talk of a ‘right to bid’ for public services quite clearly shows they are living in a Thatcherite wonderland.

“The evidence on privatisation, outsourcing and shared services is not that they are cheaper and better run – quite the opposite. We have seen time and time again the huge failures of privatisation; a perfect example is the outsourcing of hospital cleaning which resulted in the number of cleaners being cut in half and hospital infections rising as a result.

“The CBI is merely bowing to the myth that privatisation will deliver savings and improvements while experience shows it breaks up integrated provision, lowers standards and costs the public twice as much.”


Notes to editors:
Other examples of the massive failures of privatisation are: 

1.     In November last year, a leaked report revealed that British Telecom was overcharging Liverpool City Council by £10 million a year for outsourced services. The controversial report, conducted by the council itself, criticised what has been regarded as one of the UK’s flagship outsourcing projects. It highlighted that the council could save £23 million a year by cancelling the contract for IT services and a call-centre operation, and taking the work in-house.

2.     Last week, it was revealed that two Scottish police forces are considering privatising cells in a bid to save money. Press reports revealed the two forces were in discussions with private security firm G4 Security to provide prison cells. UNISON condemned the plans as “crazy” and claimed it would result in another costly PFI scheme which would be bad value for money for the taxpayer. One of the police forces in England that tried this is Staffordshire. As a result of a freedom of information request from the UNISON police branch, we now know that the service costs three times more than the original cost of the in-house provision.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Police cells privatisation suggestion 'crazy' says police staffs union

Tues 15 February 2011 

Police staffs union UNISON today (Tues) called apparent proposals to privatise police cells "crazy" and claimed that they would result in another costly PFI scheme which would be bad value for money for the taxpayer. The comments came after press reports that two Scottish police forces were in discussions with private security firm G4 Security to provide prison cells.

The track record of G4 in handling prisoners and running prisons does not inspire confidence.

This is the company which ran the Oakington detention centre where violence against prisoners and racial abuse against inmates was exposed in a BBC documentary at the Oakington detention centre. The Prison Ombudsman’s report described the centre as having a "subculture of nastiness". Group 4 left the security manager in charge of the centre in post.

This is the company which ran the Yarls Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire where fire caused around £35 million in damages. Group 4 had ignored the fire brigade's warnings that a sprinkler system should be installed before the centre was opened.

This is the company which ran Campsfield detention centre - scene of inmate suicides and repeated complaints of violence against detainees. It eventually burnt down.

This is the company which runs HMP Rye Hill, about which in her latest report (Jul 2009) the Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales noted that against three of the four tests for a healthy prison the establishment was "still not performing sufficiently well." On safety Rye Hill was performing "reasonably well." This standard however has only been reached following three previous reports over eight years. Each time the chief inspector "raised serious concerns about safety at the establishment and expressed concern about the ability of staff to maintain order and control."

Amongst the latest findings "reception remained a poor facility and induction relied too heavily on prisoner orderlies." Staff at the prison "remained stretched" and this "limited the quantity and quality of interactions with prisoners." There remained a need for managers to be much more visible on the wings

This is the prisons company which made a 20% increase profit to £417.1 million for the financial year ended 31 December 2009.

UNISON Scotland organiser Dave Watson said:

"Privatising police cells would be crazy. If money is to be put into locking people up, that’s where it should go - not into the pockets of shareholders of a multinational security firm.

"Custody is about public safety not private profit. This is a company looking to using worries that police forces have about budgets to try and bounce them into PFI property deals which will be hugely profitable for the company but hugely expensive for the Scottish taxpayer.

"Scottish justice needs continuity and investment - not disruption at the hands of a multinational trying to fleece the taxpayer."


Thursday, February 10, 2011

'Don't handcuff our councils' says UNISON

10 February 2011

UNISON Scotland says Government moves to dictate how council budgets are spent is effectively ‘handcuffing’ local authorities and sounds the death knell for democracy.

Today, in the Scottish Parliament, MSPs will be debating the Local Government Finance Order which will determine the budget allocation for councils in Scotland for the financial year 2011-2012.

In November’s draft budget, the Government presented councils with a Hobson’s choice: deliver key SNP policies, such as freezing the council tax and maintaining police numbers, or face an even bigger cut in your budget allocation. The Government claimed that councils who signed up to the ‘package’ of Government priorities would face a cut of 2.6 per cent, while councils who did not would face a cut of 6.4 per cent.

UNISON has branded the move a veiled attempt to turn local government into the administrative arm of central government and is urging councils to set a needs-based budget based on local need, not government dictat.

Trade unionists, community groups and members of the public will be lobbying council meetings across Scotland today to urge their elected members to put the needs of their communities first when setting their budgets.

Mike Kirby, UNISON’s Scottish Secretary, said: “To let the government dictate how council funds are spent is absolute madness and sounds the death knell for democracy.

“Democracy is the defining difference between public and private services and it is vital local authorities are able to allocate funds based on the local needs of their communities, not political ideology.

“This move by the Government is an attempt to handcuff our councils and our elected officials need to stand up for their communities and set a needs-based budget that protects our public services.”


Notes to editors

• UNISON has consistently challenged the need for cuts which it says are based on politics, not economics. The union has also condemned a continued council tax freeze as it prevents councils from raising vital funds and at the same time provides a real-terms tax cut to the wealthiest homeowners at the expense of vital services.

• UNISON has branded the Government’s demands to recruit 1,000 extra police officers a “cosmetic political exercise”. Giving priority to maintaining police numbers in a declining police budget simply means that large numbers of police (civilian) staffs will be cut. This will mean fewer police on our streets as they are taken off normal duties to perform administrative and specialist tasks they are not qualified to do at a greater financial cost to the public.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

UNISON urges Christie Commission to put users at the heart of public services

UNISON, Scotland’s largest trade union in public services, has called for a ‘bottom-up’ approach in the future delivery of public services.

In a hard-hitting submission to the Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services, the union criticised ‘top-down’ solutions and said staff and service users must be at the heart of public service delivery – not just through consultation but by working together in genuine partnership.

The commission, chaired by the former General Secretary of the STUC Campbell Christie, was established by the Scottish Government to look at the long term pattern of public service delivery in Scotland and will report on its findings in June 2011.

UNISON has called for the commission to focus on the design and delivery of services, not just structures, and said the basis for public sector delivery should hinge on five key public service principles: democracy, investment, fairness, excellence and partnership.

The union’s submission challenges the assumptions around the drive for ever bigger and more remote service delivery and structures. It argues that refocusing delivery on the needs of service users locally is more efficient and effective than splitting services into artificial front office/back office functions.

The submission evidences this new approach with many case studies across the UK and internationally.

Mike Kirby, UNISON’s Scottish Secretary, said: “The defining difference between public and private services is democracy and it is democratic structures that will make public services responsive to the needs of those who use and pay for them.

“It’s vital that the public are able to participate in the decision making processes about the areas in which they live, and staff in the services they deliver. “High quality public services benefit us all and public bodies should have a statutory duty to work with service users as partners, not as customers, in the decision making process.”

Please find UNISON Scotland’s submission to the Christie Commission at

Friday, January 28, 2011

‘Listen to the Scottish Government - come and talk to us’ UNISON tells Aberdeen City Council

Friday 28 January 2011

Aberdeen City UNISON has welcomed the Scottish Government’s intervention over Aberdeen City Council’s proposal to make more than 900 people compulsorily redundant. UNISON says its door is always open to the Council if it has new proposals to avoid compulsory job losses in the city.

John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, said today that it is "important" that Aberdeen City Council should "fully consider" the Scottish Government’s approach to avoid compulsory redundancies. Mr Swinney said he was working on a framework agreement that provides an assurance of no compulsory redundancies based on the delivery of flexibility in the workforce.

Karen Davidson, branch secretary for Aberdeen City UNISON said: "We have always been willing to talk about other ways to achieve budget efficiencies rather than sacking people. Over the last three years UNISON has co-operated with Aberdeen City Council to achieve reductions in staff numbers and cut spending.

"We have been very disappointed at the Council’s recent refusal to discuss realistic alternatives to compulsory redundancies - I hope that the Council will now listen to the Scottish Government and enter into meaningful talks with us.

"Obviously any proposals have to be acceptable to our members, who’ll be fully consulted on any new ideas that the Council comes up with to save money but also save jobs.

"UNISON wants to protect public services in Aberdeen and we need a financially stable Council – we do not think that sacking over 900 people will achieve either of these things so we’re willing to talk to our employer about alternatives."

Mike Kirby, Regional Secretary of UNISON said: "John Swinney said today that the Scottish Government’s priority is to maintain headcount as far as possible in the public sector. Throwing more than 900 hard working, dedicated council staff out of their jobs in Aberdeen flies in the face of that.

"UNISON and other unions have been working hard with the Cabinet Secretary and COSLA to reach agreement on avoiding compulsory redundancies and we’ve made good progress.

"Aberdeen City Council is very isolated at the moment in their approach to this issue but UNISON is still willing to engage positively with them. I hope that the Council will knock on our door soon with some reasonable new alternatives to compulsory job cuts."


Note for editors: 

What John Swinney said in Parliament
Friday 28 January 2011

In response to a question from Lewis Macdonald, MSP for Aberdeen Central, in the Scottish Parliament today, Finance Secretary John Swinney said: "I am working on the creation of a framework that will provide an assurance on the avoidance of compulsory redundancies based on the delivery of flexibility in the workforce to enable us to manage the financial constraints we face. The priority and aspiration for the agreement I am working to secure is to ensure that we can maintain headcount as far as possible in the public sector... On Mr Macdonald’s specific point about Aberdeen City Council I have of course discussed with the council the issues that have been raised publicly over the last few days. It is a matter for the Council to consider, but it is important that it fully considers the approach the Government has taken."


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cuts will hit the vulnerable - South Lanarkshire UNISON

Wednesday 26 January 2011 

The impact of the government's policies will be felt hardest by older people, disabled people, children at school who have additional support needs and poor families. This is the conclusion from an analysis of South Lanarkshire Council's budget cuts package.

Of the £27.7m of cuts that the council need to make following cuts in the budget as a result of the Tory-led government's public sector cuts, 20.6% of the proposals are directly targeted at these vulnerable groups.

The analysis of the proposals has been carried out by the UNISON in South Lanarkshire.

The union's South Lanarkshire branch secretary, Stephen Smellie, said:

"Of the proposals being considered by the council, £5.7m of them are either cuts in services, increased or new charges which directly impact on older people, disabled people, children with Additional Support Needs or poor families. If these are selected by the councillors this would represent 26.3% of the total cuts package.

"This is despite the council trying to protect the most vulnerable by firstly making savings in other areas.

"The government claim that we are all in this together is shown to be a lie. Whilst the poorest and most vulnerable in South Lanarkshire are paying for the crisis they had nothing to do with causing, the bankers are still to get their bonuses and MPs debate whether to give themselves a pay rise.

"Even at this late stage we are urging the council to look again at these proposals and try to protect the most vulnerable.

However it is government policy which needs to change."

The UNISON analysis has been sent to all South Lanarkshire councillors and council directors.

Click here for South Lanarkshire cuts will hit the vulnerable - a budget analysis by UNISON - January 2011' (pdf)


Aberdeen: Employer has treated staff 'with contempt'

Commenting on Aberdeen City Council's announcement of 900 compulsory redundancies, UNISON Branch Secretary Karen Davidson has said: "We have already started the process for potential industrial action. There have been no negotiations. It was a political decision to demand this 5 per cent pay cut. It was either we accepted it or rejected it and our members have rejected it."

"The workforce are deeply disappointed and disillusioned by the council's decision. The employer has treated them with contempt and it looks as if we are bound for confrontation with the council."

Speaking on the BBC's Newsnight Scotland, UNISON Regional Organiser Sarah Duncan said, "We will challenge them (the council) at every opportunity on the extent and number of redundancies".

She added, "Staff  are unsettled and  unhappy and extremely demoralised". She stressed that this was not a blueprint for other councils which may be 'better managed' than Aberdeen and pointed out that Aberdeen had already been through previous rounds of voluntary redundancies

Commenting on the council's previous attempt to break workers' contracts of employment by abolishing increments, she said "No other council has been foolish enough to propose that. No other council has been foolish enough to ask staff to take a pay cut to pay for job cuts".

UNISON Scotland's 'Public Works' campaign challenges some of the myths put forward by David Watt of the Institute of Directors Scotland on the programme. For example...

Public service job cuts affect the whole economy
For every one job cut in the public sector at least one is lost in the private sector. (Treasury report Guardian 29 June) Cuts don’t just damage essential services, they damage the whole economy.

About 70p of each £1 a public service worker earns is spent in their own community. Pay cuts and job losses will damage local businesses and local jobs. Not just services lost but at least 900 less people in Aberdeen paying taxes and buying in the local shops.

Cuts don’t just mean job losses.
They will mean cuts in the quality of our children’s education and the standards of our health service. Cuts attack the fabric of society.