Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Glasgow Community Service Supervisors to strike from 6 January 2009

Tuesday 23 December 2008


Community Service Supervisors within Glasgow City Council’s Social Work Department are set to strike from Tuesday 6 January 2009.

UNISON members employed as Community Service Supervisors voted overwhelmingly in favour of continuous strike action following the refusal of Glasgow City Council to pay them the right rate for the job.

UNISON members have been telling the Council for some time now that their pay is incorrect. Members had been told by the Council that the new pay and grading system would resolve their issues, but it has not.

Brian Smith, UNISON Glasgow City Branch said “Members are angry that despite promises the employers continue to fail to recognise the job they do and pay them a fair rate for the job. Members don’t want to take action and cause problems but they have been left with no other option”.

Community Service Supervisors in Glasgow oversee Community Service Offenders working in the Community. This strike will mean that this alternative to Prison Service in Glasgow will stop as of 6 January 2009.

Friday, December 19, 2008

UNISON member wins case against lawyer

Date: 19 December 2008



Thousands of council and NHS workers in Scotland who signed up with an English lawyer to fight their equal pay claims are in line for windfall payments after a home help took him to court and won.

The Court of Session ruled yesterday that Newcastle-based Stefan Cross’s contract with Edinburgh council worker Jacqueline Quinn is unlawful and unenforceable in Scotland, and banned him for pursuing her for his bill of £500.

But the real winners could be low-paid health and local authority workers all over Scotland who can now reclaim the 10% plus VAT that Mr Cross routinely deducted from their equal pay settlements – some of which were in excess of £10,000.

UNISON’s Scottish secretary Matt Smith said: "Having your own contract with your clients declared unlawful by the Courts must be the ultimate humiliation for a lawyer.

"The unions have always warned against the false allure of commercial solicitors who claim that they can deliver compensation more effectively or quickly than a trade union.

"We urge all our members to claim back the thousands of pounds Mr Cross has unlawfully deducted from their settlements.

"We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mrs Quinn for exposing the flaws in these contracts.”

Home help Jacqueline Quinn, from Edinburgh, said:"I thought Mr Cross would get me a quick settlement of my equal pay claim, but I didn't realise there was a horrific penalty clause in his contract.

"When I got fed up waiting for him to do something and went back to the union lawyers, he started demanding £500 and that made me really angry – especially since he had done nothing.

"I am delighted to have won my case and will be even more pleased if it means colleagues can keep all of their hard-earned equal pay settlements."

Syd Smith of Thompsons Solicitors, who fought the case on the union’s behalf, explained: "The Court of Session ruled against Mr Cross because his contract gives him a financial interest in the outcome of the case, but the Scottish Courts have held that, for the protection of clients, such contracts are unlawful and therefore unenforceable.

"Nor can solicitors in Scotland charge blanket fees regardless of the work involved as Mr Cross tried to do in Mrs Quinn's case.

"Mr Cross chose not to defend Mrs Quinn's action."



See: Home help takes equal pay lawyer to court
Also: UNISON UK News

Glasgow NHS ‘twists the knife’ over car parking charges - UNISON

Date: Friday 19 December 2008



NHS union UNISON today accused Glasgow’s health chiefs, and NHSGGC of ‘twisting the knife’ after they announced that car parking on Board NHS sites would be limited to 4 hours, with fines of up to £40 for drivers who go over the 4 hour period.

This will impact primarily on staff, who are the main group who need to park vehicles for longer periods of time.

UNISON Branch Secretary Cathy Miller said, “UNISON appreciates that we can’t go back to the free-for-all parking systems that applied historically on some sites, but this latest dictate from Dalian House shows just how out of touch with staff these people really are.”

The proposal, announced yesterday, comes into force on 1 January and is supposed to comply with previous Scottish Government decisions that car parking charges should be abolished in the NHS.

UNISON Regional Organiser Matt McLaughlin said, “Glasgow and Clyde’s track record on this issue is not very impressive. Consistently they have taken an over-aggressive approach and punished the workforce and genuine users of car parking facilities on NHS sites, because there is a limited problem on a limited number of sites.

“It’s clear that they simply do not care or comprehend that staff - many of whom are specialists - live some distance from their place of work. They need to travel to work, but will now be fined if they can’t find a designated parking space. It’s no wonder that morale across this board is at an all time low.”

Monday, December 15, 2008

UNISON welcomes Committee backing for Health Board Elections

Date: 15 Dec 2008


UNISONScotland today welcomed the report of the Scottish Parliament's Health and Sport committee, which gives conditional backing to the Government Bill introducing directly elected members to Scottish Health Boards.

The union, which is the largest in the Health Service, backed a previous private members bill on the topic.

Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish Organiser said: "Although the committee's support is conditional, their backing for the pilot projects proposed in the bill, is positive. Since it was created in 1948, the NHS has not been directly accountable to or engaged with the public. It has been a top-down organisation, a 'we-know-best' organisation that thinks that all the issues are far too complicated for mere mortals to understand and that democracy is therefore not appropriate. We have to change that culture, and that is why we need direct elections."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Government should accept public view and extend FoI to private contractors - UNISON

Date: Wed 10 December 2008


UNISONScotland today, welcomed new research that shows the Scottish public backs extending Freedom of Information to cover private companies building schools and hospitals under PPP/PFI contracts, and other non-public bodies delivering public services.

Research for the Scottish Information Commissioner published today, shows 75%-79% support for making private companies subject to FOI legislation. UNISON is pleased that there is also very strong public support for including other organisations such as private prisons, housing associations and trusts providing local authority health and leisure services.

UNISON's Scottish Communications Officer, Chris Bartter said: "The public rightly thinks that all bodies delivering public services should be subject to the same accountability as the public sector.

"Such high levels of support will hopefully make the Scottish Government think again about its disappointing approach in the discussion paper, where, for example, Ministers have argued that hospital cleaning services may not be a public function!

"UNISON believes that changes to the legislation should be based on the principle that any organisation which provides a public service should be accountable to the public.

"It is unacceptable that information that is open to people where a service - such as social housing - is provided by a public authority, could be hidden from them where private or other non-public bodies deliver it.

"In the case of PPP/PFI contracts, the scandalous waste of public funds on these could have been greatly reduced if full information about the projects had been open to scrutiny, letting the public see the credit card levels of charges being run up for the next generation to pay."

Friday, December 5, 2008

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland welcomes Scottish Climate Change Bill

For immediate release 05/12/08


Stop Climate Chaos Scotland – the leading coalition of environment, faith and development organisations – welcomes the Climate Change Bill introduced to the Scottish Parliament and calls on all MSPs to ensure it becomes a genuinely world leading piece of legislation.
Stop Climate Chaos includes UNISON Scotland amongst its main supporters.

Mike Robinson, Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland said,

‘The Scottish Government had more than 21,000 people respond to its consultation process, and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland welcomes this strong Scottish Climate Change Bill with enthusiasm. This Bill could be the most significant for a generation and is warmly welcomed by the members of more than 30 of Scotland’s most respected organisations campaigning on climate change.

‘But, as Lord Turner’s report for the UK Climate Committee showed on Monday, there is no reason to back down, and every reason to be even more ambitious in investing for a green economy.

‘We call upon MSPs from all parties to back strong measures already in the bill, and to work constructively to improve it further so it becomes genuinely world leading legislation.

‘Poor people around the world are already feeling the real impacts of climate change – changing weather patterns undermine their ways of life while increased disasters threaten their lives. Our natural environment is already showing changes and heralding the devastating problems ahead if we don't cut greenhouse gas emissions. Scotland has had huge benefit from fossil-fuel based energy; we can and should be leading efforts to shift to a more efficient and sustainable low-carbon economy.’

ENDS

For more press information please contact:

Claire Aston, Christian Aid on 0131 240 1523; 07961 303481 or caston@christian-aid.org or Mandy Carter, WWF Scotland on 01350 728200; 07771 818677 or mcarter@wwfscotland.org.uk

For more information about Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, please contact:

Ruth Dawkins, SCCS on 0131 311 6512, 07790 386 329 or ruth@stopclimatechaosscotland.org


Notes to editors

1. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) is a diverse, growing coalition of organisations campaigning on climate change. The SCCS Coalition has 40 Scottish members, representing more than 1.5 million supporters, ranging from environment and development groups to faith organisations, trade unions, student societies, care providers and many more. For full details visit www.stopclimatechaosscotland.org

2. SCCS will be holding a Climate Change Rally in April 2009. All coalition members and their supporters are being encouraged to spring into action for a strong Scottish Climate Change Bill. We will be gathering to lobby MSPs outside the Scottish Parliament, from 11am – 2pm, on Wednesday 22nd April 2009. For further details of the rally contact SCCS Co-ordinator Ruth Dawkins (contact details above)

3. SCCS is calling for the Scottish Climate Change Bill to:

* Set a target to cut all greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050
* Establish statutory annual targets to reduce emissions by at least 3% year on year
* Include all emissions from international aviation and shipping in the targets.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

UNISON Scotland on the march against racism and fascism

 
UNISON Scotland's banner joined with other unions, political parties and community organisations on the streets of Glasgow for this year's St Andrews Day Anti Racism March and Rally.  The demonstration against racism and fascism is an annual event organised by the STUC and GARA (Glasgow Anti Racist Alliance).
More pics from the demo at the UNISON Scotland Picasa gallery

Friday, November 28, 2008

Water strike across Scotland: a "handy success" on the picket lines

The 24 hour Scottish Water strike which began yesterday at noon moved into Friday morning with pickets out across Scotland.

Edinburgh and East: a "handy success" on the picket lines
Report: 9:15am





















UNISON Scotland Regional Organiser Dougie Black reports "a handy success" from the Fairmilehead site in Edinburgh. There have been pickets on each gate and not much sign of anyone crossing in to work.


"Quite a quite a few turned away when they saw the pickets, and some contractors and the mail did not cross," Dougie told the blog.


Also in the East, the Livingston picket has been well supported this morning and the site was so quiet it appeared to be shut completely.

Aberdeen and Dundee: "very, very successful"
Update: 10:30am

Scottish Water Branch Chair Dave Wilkins was on the picket line at Kingshill House. Dave reports that the only people going in were the occasional consultant and contractor. He counted only 4 direct Scottish Water employees at work and the car park was virtually empty.

Branch Secretary Steve Scott also reports that Bullion House in Dundee have been successsfully picketed.

Picture update 13:00 - pics from Aberdeen this morning:
 Looks like more people were on picket duty...


...than on work duty!


Further picture update - Dumfries and Fort William

There were many places around Scotland where the strike was unfolding and pickets were active...

 
from the Highlands like these stalwarts in Fort William....

 
...to the South of Scotland, and this happy bunch of activists in Dumfries, the message from UNISON and the ther unions was: Cut My Pay - No Way!
   

Thursday, November 27, 2008

STV video: Scottish Water workers in pay row walkout

STV Standard News Player
The organisation says plans are in place to cope with the strike

Several hundred workers with Scottish Water are taking part in a 24-hour walk-out in a dispute over pay.

Union leaders say the industrial action, which started at noon on Thursday, will affect Scottish Water operations across the country.

Employees are protesting a pay increase which they claim is unfair.

Dougie Black, a negotiator with Unison, said: "Clearly it is an issue which our members feel very strongly about.

"I would invite Scottish Water and the Scottish Government, even at this late stage, to come back to the negotiating table.

"We are always ready to talk about a way to settle this dispute."


More at www.stv.tv...

The Herald: Scottish Water workers begin strike

Herald Video: Scottish Water workers begin strike

Hundreds of workers from Scottish Water walked out today in a dispute over pay which could hit services across the country.

Unions leaders expect up to 2,000 staff to take part in the action across Scotland.

Workers started the 24-hour strike at midday in protest at a pay rise they claim is unfair.

But Scottish Water said it was "deeply disappointed" with the decision to strike. The company added contingency plans were in place to ensure normal services were maintained during the strike.

Dougie Black, a negotiator with Unison, said the strike action was going ahead because of the pay award and the manner in which it was imposed.

He said: "The employers imposed a pay award on our members this year and undermined the whole of the industrial relations machinery in Scottish Water.

"I hope the strike sends a really strong message to Scottish Water that our members are serious about winning a fair pay award this year.

"We want the employers to come back to the negotiating table and speak to us about how they can improve upon this offer."

Scottish Water staff from the Unison, Unite and GMB unions are involved in the action. They are angry about a pay rise from Scottish Water of 3% over 15 months.

Mr Black predicted the strike could cause disruption for customers.

"For the 24 hours the strike is taking place, Scottish Water services are going to be affected," he said.

"There won't be responses to individual incidents such as burst pipes."

He added if there was a "significant public health risk", union members would be asked to respond.

He added: "I hope Scottish Water customers understand clearly why we need to take this action."

Peter Farrer, Scottish Water's customer service delivery director, said: "We have a committed team in place, determined to maintain a normal service for our customers.

"I am confident we can continue to deliver this."

Director of communications Chris Wallace added: "We are deeply disappointed; this decision is not the right action for Scottish Water.

"We have been in continuous dialogue with unions for a considerable time regarding this year's pay award.

"We are aware of the demands on everyone's pay in today's tough economic climate, but we believe we have given the best possible deal under the circumstances."

He added it was the only pay deal Scottish Water could give "under public sector guidelines".

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Water workers warn of more action

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Water workers warn of more action:
Page last updated at 14:57 GMT, Thursday, 27 November 2008


A 24-hour walkout by hundreds of Scottish Water employees could be followed up with further action.


A Unite spokesman said unions involved were open to fresh talks on pay, but he said more stoppages were possible.


Scottish Water said the action involved 802 union members and it had contingency plans to maintain services.


The unions involved are Unison - which said more than 1,000 staff were taking action - Unite and the GMB. Thursday's action is to end midday on Friday.


The Unite spokesman said: "If Scottish Water want to talk then we are up for that.


"Union members are really disappointed by the actions of Scottish Water for imposing what is a pay cut whilst still undertaking negotiations."


It is the latest in a series of separate pay disputes affecting thousands of public service workers in Scotland, including local authority employees and coastguards.


Scottish Water said the pay award it had made was within public sector guidelines.


It was paid in the September salaries of the company's 3,685 employees and was backdated to April. The award equates to 3% over 15 months.


'Pay cuts'

But Unison said Scottish Water could afford more.


Dave Watson, the union's Scottish organiser, said: "In recent years our members have helped to save Scottish Water over £1bn through reduced operating costs and improved efficiencies.


"Customers and directors have benefited, while workers have faced real terms pay cuts due to inflation."


Peter Farrer, Scottish Water's customer service delivery director, was confident usual services could be maintained during the action, which will finish at midday on Friday.


He said: "We have a committed team in place, determined to maintain a normal service for our customers."


Director of communications Chris Wallace added: "We are deeply disappointed; this decision is not the right action for Scottish Water."

Dundee: UNISON pickets active at Scottish Water sites

UNISON Scottish Water Branch Secretary Steve Scott reports that pickets were active on both Scottish Waters sites in Dundee - at Riverside Drive (from 12 - 2pm) and Bullion House (12 - 2.30pm).

A flurry of members were leaving work at 12 noon. Lorries delivering chemical supplies for the labs turned away rather than cross the picket line. Good to see solidarity in action.

Steve was interviewed by the Herald and reiterated UNISON's position: Scottish Water and the Scottish Government should come back to the negotiating table and bring forward a fair settlement for Scottish Water workers.

Picket cover at the two sites will be active from 8am tomorrow.

Aberdeen: Scottish Water picketed from noon

UNISON Scotland Local Organiser Jane Fielding reports that the Aberdeen picket line at Kingshill House was on from 12 noon - 2pm. The pickets included Scottish Water Branch Chair Dave Wilkinson and Regional Organiser Sarah Duncan. 

The vast majority of UNISON members in Scottish Water Aberdeen left work at 12 noon to join the strike. STV Aberdeen did an interview with Dave Wilkinson (which will hopefully be shown tonight) and the TV cameras were also going to the Shipping Water Office which is being covered by the GMB.

The Scottish Water unions in the North East are working together in the fight for fair pay.  

The picket line will be back on again tomorrow (Friday 28 November) from 9am.

View from Dumfries: Scottish Water strike action seems to be biting

Scottish Water pickets at Dumfries HQ Marchmount House.

Some pics from the Scottish water dispute as it is happening down in Dumfries.

UNISON Scotland Regional Officer Joe Lynch reports effective action in the South.

"The other depots across the region are being picketed throughout the day and the action seems to be biting. Management have brought in Border Utilities to carry out essential maintenance. Not going down well with
the pickets or members but shows that SW are worried.

"Indications are that there will be an even better turnout tomorrow morning."

The Scottish Water unions are working jointly in the dispute...

Dumfries depot: "The action seems to be biting..."

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Scottish Water staff go on strike

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Scottish Water staff go on strike
Page last updated at 13:09 GMT, Thursday, 27 November 2008
 
Hundreds of employees at Scottish Water have started a 24-hour strike over wages.

The firm said the action involved 802 union members and it had contingency plans in place to maintain services.

The unions involved are Unison - which said more than 1,000 staff were taking action - Unite and the GMB.

It is the latest in a series of separate pay disputes affecting thousands of workers in Scotland, including bus drivers and coastguards.

Scottish Water said the pay award it had made was within public sector guidelines. It was paid in the September salaries of the company's 3,685 employees and was backdated to April. The award equates to 3% over 15 months.

'Pay cuts'

But Unison said Scottish Water could afford more.

Dave Watson, the union's Scottish organiser, said: "In recent years our members have helped to save Scottish Water over £1bn through reduced operating costs and improved efficiencies.

"Customers and directors have benefited, while workers have faced real terms pay cuts due to inflation."

Peter Farrer, Scottish Water's customer service delivery director, was confident usual services could be maintained during the action, which will finish at midday on Friday.

He said: "We have a committed team in place, determined to maintain a normal service for our customers."

Director of communications Chris Wallace added: "We are deeply disappointed; this decision is not the right action for Scottish Water."

Glasgow Evening Times: Pay-row water staff to walk out

Glasgow Evening Times: Pay-row water staff to walk out

By Gordon Thomson

AROUND 2000 Scottish Water staff were expected to walk out on strike today in protest at a below inflation pay rise.

Strikers included engineers who repair water bursts and staff responsible for water quality at a network of 44 treatment plants in and around Glasgow.

More industrial action was expected to be taken by members of Unison, GMB and Unite if the utility giant fails to return to the negotiating table to resolve the dispute.

Scottish Water which employs almost 3700 workers has imposed a wage rise worth 3% over 15 months.

Strike leaders say it's the equivalent of an annual rise of just 2.4%.

They are demanding a bigger increase and point to hefty pay hikes of up to 40% executive board members have awarded themselves in the past two years.

Unison official Dave Watson said: "In recent years our members workers have helped to save Scottish Water over £1billion through reduced operating costs and improved efficiencies.

"Customers and directors have benefited, while workers have faced real terms pay cuts due to inflation.

"Scottish Water has the money to make a reasonable pay deal - the problem is the Scottish Government is blocking them from doing so."

Union negotiator Dougie Black said: "I would invite Scottish Water and the Scottish Government, even at this late stage, to come back to the negotiating table.

"We are always ready to talk about a way to settle this dispute."

Unite has not commented but GMB negotiator Richard Leonard has likened Scottish Water to a "Victorian Mill owner", adding: "We are looking for public support.

"This dispute is about looking after people who look after our environment, our public health and our natural resources."

Scottish Water claims the pay rise meets public sector wage constraints and insisted the 24-hour strike due to begin at noon would have little or no effect.


Edinburgh Evening News: Scottish Water look to calm fears over staff strike

Published Date: 27 November 2008
 
BOSSES at Scottish Water moved today to reassure customers as workers started a 24 hour strike over pay.
 
The stoppage, which started at noon, was expected to affect the company's operations across the whole country.

Three unions Unison, Unite and the GMB, are involved in the dispute, which centres on a three per cent rise over 15 months which the unions say Scottish Water has imposed on employees.

Today Scottish Water said contingency plans had been put in place to ensure that normal service was maintained during the strike.

Peter Farrer, Scottish Water's Customer Service Delivery Director, said: "We have a committed team in place, determined to maintain a normal service for our customers. I am confident we can continue to deliver this."

Unison Scottish organiser Dave Watson said as a highly successful public corporation which answers to the Scottish Government, Scottish Water could afford a better rise for its workers but claimed the Government was preventing a settlement.

He said the deal was effectively worth 2.4 per cent this year while inflation had been running at more than twice that rate.

He added: "Scottish Water has the money to make a reasonable pay deal - the problem is the Scottish Government is blocking them from doing so."


BBC Good Morning Scotland: Dougie Black interviewed by Gary Robertson

BBC Good Morning Scotland
Thursday 27 November 2008

08:40am Dougie Black, UNISON Scotland interviewed by Gary Robertson on the Scottish Water strike.







Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Scottish Water pay strike going ahead

Embargo: For immediate Release

Date: Wed 26 November 2008


More than a thousand members of UNISON Scotland who work for Scottish Water will begin a 24 hour strike tomorrow (Thursday 27 November) in pursuit of their claim for a fair pay increase. The action will be going ahead from 12 noon on Thursday (27 November) through to 12 noon on Friday (28 November). It will affect Scottish Water operations across the whole country.

UNISON Scotland is taking action jointly with Unite and GMB, the other unions represented in Scottish Water.

Dougie Black, UNISON's main negotiator, said:

"It is unfortunate that Scottish Water has not take the chance to reconsider the issue prior to tomorrow's action.

"Clearly it is an issue which our members feel very strongly about.

"I would invite Scottish Water and the Scottish Government, even at this late stage to come back to the negotiating table. We are always ready to talk about a way to settle this dispute."

UNISON Scotland believes that Scottish Water - a highly successful public corporation, which answers to the Scottish Government - can afford to pay more than the rise of 3% over 15 months which it has imposed on staff. The deal is effectively worth 2.4% this year while inflation has been running at more than twice that rate. The union has called on the Scottish Government, which is blocking a fair pay deal, and Scottish Water to recognise the contribution of staff, and reward its members with a fair and proper pay award.

Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser, said:

"In recent years our members workers have helped to save Scottish Water over £1 billion through reduced operating costs and improved efficiencies. Customers and directors have benefited, while workers have faced real terms pay cuts due to inflation.

"Scottish Water has the money to make a reasonable pay deal - the problem is the Scottish Government is blocking them from doing so."


ENDS

For Further Information Please Contact:

Dougie Black (Regional Organiser) - 07958 121 851 (m)
Malcolm Burns (Information Development Officer) - 0141 342 2811
Dave Wilkinson (UNISON Scottish Water Branch Chair) - 07875 872 819 (m)
Steve Scott (UNISON Scottish Water Branch Secretary) - 07875 879 388 (m)

http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/water/waterpay.html


Notes for Editors

UNISON is one of Scotland’s largest trade unions representing over 160,000 members, and is the biggest union in the Scottish Water industry. Our 1,100 members in Scottish Water work in offices and depots throughout Scotland. They are represented in all the functions of the authority, including water and sewage treatment, water and sewer networks, laboratories, call centres and the design and construction of capital works.

In September 2008 Scottish Water breached six years of partnership working with its staff in order to impose a 15 month pay rise of 3% (which equates to an annual offer of 2.4%). In November 2008 UNISON’s Scottish Water Branch members voted by 2-1 in a ballot to take strike action for fair pay.

Further information on the Scottish Water strike is available on our website at:
http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/water/waterpay.html

This includes the UNISON Scotland briefing to MSPs:
http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/MSPBriefingScottishWaterPayStrikeNov08.pdf
in support of the motion S3M-02939 Scottish Water Dispute lodged by Bill Butler MSP in the Scottish Parliament:
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/Apps2/business/motions/Default.aspx?motionid=15195




UNISON Scotland news releases:

Stay in touch with UNISON Scotland's latest news releases on our website http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/news/index.html and frequent updates on our blog http://unison-scotland.blogspot.com/

Friday, November 21, 2008

Meat inspectors vote 2-1 for strike action in run-up to Christmas

Embargo: For immediate Release
Date: Fri 21 November 2008


Britain’s meat hygiene inspectors have voted two to one in favour of strike action in a dispute over cuts to overtime payments and the introduction of a "work anytime" system.

The inspectors, members of UNISON, who make sure that the meat on our plates is safe to eat, voted in favour of strike action by 65.7% to 34.3%. They also voted by 79.5% to 20.5% for action short of a strike.

A strike in the meat hygiene service would seriously disrupt supplies of meat to supermarkets in the crucial pre-Christmas period.

Simon Watson, UNISON National Officer for Meat Inspectors, said:
"This is a decisive vote for strike action and shows the strength of feeling of meat inspectors. Unless the employers abandon their plans and get back around the table to negotiate a settlement, the industry could lose millions of pounds in lost meat production in the run up to Christmas."

UNISON Scotland Regional Officer Joe Lynch said:
"In Scotland we have demonstrated a high quality of meat inspection. This is another attack on that. Our members feel demoralised about how they been treated, given their commitment to this vital public service over the years.

"UNISON meat inspectors were originally part of local authority environmental health departments, so they have seen plenty of change and are not scared of it. However the changes proposed - which involve taking away their terms and conditions - is a step too far."

The union meets on Monday (24 November) to discuss the next steps.

ends


Notes for editors:
UNISON represents 1000 members of the Meat Hygiene Service, who inspect red meat, white meat, and poultry plants across the UK.

The MHS is a UK agency, and around 160 UNISON members are meat inspectors working for the MHS in Scotland. They are based across the country in 26 major abbatoirs from Carlisle to Orkney. They inspect and certify meat as fit for human consumption after it has been slaughtered.

Please also see previous news release:
Strike threat to meat inspections warns UNISON, 3 Nov 2008
http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/news/2008/novdec/0311.htm


For further information please contact:
Sophie Madden – UNISON Press Office – 07957 505 675
Joe Lynch (Regional Organiser - Scottish Meat Inspectors) 07958 121 063(m)

UNISON Scotland uncovers problems in management of workplace stress

Embargo: For immediate Release
Date: Fri 21 November 2008

Scotland’s largest public sector union UNISON, has published a report showing that the problem of workplace stress is not being tackled effectively in many workplaces. UNISON Scotland is calling for improved monitoring of stress at work, so that better anti-stress policies can be implemented and the HSE’s Stress Management Standards can be properly applied across the public sector.

The UNISON study revealed that, while most employers have good knowledge of the Health and Safety Executive’s Stress Management Standards and most organisations had policies to manage stress, many do not differentiate between stress caused by or at work and other forms of stress. Some do not even keep proper records of stress amongst their workers at all.

Most organisations had policies to manage stress, although a few were quite old and had clearly been drafted prior to the inception of the Stress Management Standards.

UNISON Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said:
“Whilst there is evidence of action in response to the new HSE standards, many employers have outdated policies and poor monitoring. If you don’t know the extent of the problem you cannot take effective action”.

Meanwhile, UNISON members in a separate stress survey revealed some of the real problems they face at work.

44% of those asked said that they were never or seldom consulted on proposed changes at work” and nearly a third, 31%, said they never or seldom got support or encouragement from their line manager. Nearly quarter of those surveyed, 23%, say they seldom or never receive adequate training or development.

The survey also highlighted some very disturbing instances of workplace bullying and racist harassment of migrant workers, particularly in the care sector.

Dave Watson said:
“Stress at work can clearly be damaging to the health of the worker, and that is our immediate concern. But the problem of stress at work is also harmful to delivery of important public services.”

UNISON Scotland will be briefing their branches on the issues that need to be raised with employers to more effectively tackle stress at work.


ENDS

Note to Editors:
The full report Management of Workplace Stress – A Survey is available at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/safety/index.html

The two-part study used Freedom of Information requests to discover how local authorities, health boards, universities and colleges, police forces, Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) and other public bodies were recording and dealing with stress; and surveyed UNISON members to find out how individuals felt about their own workplaces, and whether they appeared to be suffering from workplace stress.

For further information please contact:
Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser 07958 122 409 (m)
Diane Anderson, Information Development Officer 0141 342 2842

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Health Boards Bill will Promote Openness and Transparency in NHS

Embargo: Not for release until 00.01 Wed 19 Nov Date: Tues 18 Nov 2008

UNISON Scotland will today (Wed) urge the Scottish Parliament Health Committee to back direct elections to health boards.

Scottish Organiser Dave Watson is giving evidence to MSPs and will explain why electing health board members will help the public have greater confidence in how the NHS delivers for ordinary people.

Dave said: "The Health Boards (Membership and Elections) (Scotland) Bill should contribute to an overdue change of culture in health boards, from an attitude of ‘we know best’ to one of openness and consultation.

"The proposed mix of elections and appointment of members will provide greater democratic accountability, while retaining staff and specialist expertise."

UNISON rejects criticisms of the cost of direct elections, pointing out that ‘democracy costs’ and it is small in comparison with health board expenditure of nearly £8 billion.

Dave added: "Direct elections won’t on their own improve public confidence in the NHS, but along with health board moves to properly engage with the public at all levels, they should produce a step change in culture.

"Through high profile campaigns in recent years about hospital closures and the availability of treatments on the NHS, members of the public have demonstrated they want to be part of the process of planning local health care.

"We hope MSPs will give the Bill their full support."

ENDS

Note to Editors:
UNISON’s response to the Health Committee about the Bill is at:
http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/healthboards.html

For further information please contact:
Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser 07958 122 409 (m)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Freedom of Information legislation should cover companies delivering PPP/PFI contracts

For immediate Release
Date: Mon 17 November 2008

UNISON Scotland today criticised proposals to extend Freedom of Information legislation for not promising to include companies delivering PPP/PFI contracts.

Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said it was extremely disappointing that today’s Scottish Government discussion paper is not proposing to make all companies with PPP/PFI contracts and all leisure trusts accountable under FOI laws.

The discussion paper states: "Our preliminary view is that where contracts are for the provision of construction, maintenance or cleaning etc, the contractor may not be performing functions of a public nature or providing under a contract made with a Scottish public authority a service whose provision is a function of that authority."

Dave said: "To say that hospital cleaning services may not be a public function seems utterly inconsistent with recent action on hospital acquired infections announced by the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

"I think the general public would be very strongly of the view that hospital cleaning is a major health issue.

"UNISON wants to see the Scottish Government live up to pledges of open government by actually making firms that sign up to PPP/PFI contracts accountable to the public."

The discussion paper says that important considerations for extending the Act include whether the organisation carries out significant work of a public nature, receives significant public funding and whether coverage would enhance transparency and accountability.

UNISON believes all these things apply strongly to PPP/PFI contracts, many of which have been criticised by Ministers for ripping off the public purse with credit card levels of repayment.

Ends

Note to Editors:
The Scottish Government seems to regularly be failing to live up to pledges on open government, including refusing to provide information this summer to UNISON on PPP/PFI contracts by using the ‘figleaf’ of saying it would cost more than £600.
‘Open’ Scottish Government Hides PFI Information from the Public
http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/news/2008/julyaug/2807.htm

For further information please contact:
Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser 07958 122 409 (m)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Scottish local government members accept a two year pay deal

Date: Wed 12 Nov 2008 3pm


UNISON members in Scotland’s councils have voted to accept a two year pay deal. Ballot papers were issued to nearly 100,000 UNISON members seeking their view of the latest local government pay offer by CoSLA of 3% for 2008 and 2.5% for 2009. The ballot covered members working for Scotland’s 32 local councils, local joint valuation boards and fire and rescue staff. In a very close result, UNISON members have voted by a narrow majority to accept the offer.

It is UNISON’s view that this is a poor offer, significantly below the present rate of inflation, despite the improvements to the previous offer which we were able to secure following two successful one day strikes. The strike action was successful thanks to the strong support of our members and tremendous work done locally by branches. The ballot result from the major union in local government indicates that the majority of members wish to resolve this dispute. UNISON is a democratic organisation; we have consulted all our members and respect their decision. The closeness of the result is a clear message to local authorities that staff are unhappy with the present pay offer.

Dougie Black, UNISON Regional Organiser and lead negotiator said:
“This offer is not good but circumstances have led to our members drawing this dispute to a close. They have made a pragmatic decision based on the perilous state of Local Government finance, the unsettled wider economy and the fact that Christmas is almost upon us.”

Stephanie Herd, Chair of UNISON’s Local Government Committee added:
“It was clear from employers’ statements that they had become entrenched. In accepting this offer and improving our members’ basic pay until 2010, UNISON and the employers have the opportunity to look at ways of tackling low pay in local government without the backdrop of a dispute. This should be the start of constructive and meaningful discussions on pay for the future not simply the end of a hard fought bitter dispute.”

ENDS


For further information please contact:

Dougie Black, Regional Officer – Secretary, TU negotiators 07958 121 851(m)
Stephanie Herd, Chair – TU negotiators 07989 544 162(m)
Glyn Hawker, Scottish Organiser - Bargaining & Equal Pay 07876 441 237(m)
Tracey Dalling, Regional Officer 07904 341 989(m)



NOTES TO EDITORS

UNISON is the largest trade union in Scottish local authorities, representing over 100,000 council workers. UNISON Scotland organises local government staff in Scotland including social workers, housing staff, library & museum workers, cleansing and environmental protection staff, technicians and trading standards workers, early years workers, cooks, cleaners and classroom assistants.

The earlier pay offer made by the local government employers’ body CoSLA of 2.5% each year over three years was rejected in a ballot of members in July 2008. There were two days of strike action on 20 August and 24 September, following which the employers came back with the current improved offer which has now been accepted.


UNISON Scotland news releases:
Stay in touch with UNISON Scotland's latest news releases on our website http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/news/index.html and frequent updates on our blog http://unison-scotland.blogspot.com/

Scottish Water workers vote to strike for fair pay

Date: Wed 12 November 2008


A ballot of 1100 Scottish water workers has delivered a 65% majority for strike action, the main union UNISON announced today. A meeting of the UNISON Scottish Water Branch Committee being held today (Wednesday) will decide the union's next steps in the dispute over pay.

The ballot was called after Scottish Water imposed a pay award worth 2.4% over 12 months on their employees. UNISON members were infuriated at this action from the employers but also rejected the level of the award. Now UNISON members will pursue their fight for an improved offer with strike action. The form of the action will be decided later and in conjunction with the other trade unions, but is likely to consist of action involving all members.

Dave Wilkinson, Chair of UNISON's Scottish Water Branch said:
"This result clearly shows the level of anger at Scottish Water's imposition of a pay award and is also a clear rejection of an inadequate award. Not only have the employers acted irresponsibly in this matter but their award falls far short of inflation which currently is running at 5%. We have a window of opportunity to see if we can avoid disruptive strikes, I hope the employers take it and come back to the bargaining table to negotiate an improved offer."

Steve Scott, Branch Secretary of UNISON's Scottish Water Branch said:
"Our members are not the cause of inflation, they are the victims of it. Scottish Water is a highly successful public corporation and can afford to pay more. In recent years our members have saved the organisation well over £1 billion through reduced operating costs and improved efficiencies. It is now time for Scottish Water to recognise the contribution of the workers and reward our members with a fair and proper pay award."


ENDS

For Further Information Please Contact:
Dougie Black (Regional Organiser) - 07958 121 851 (m)
Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser) - 07958 122 409 (m)
Dave Wilkinson (Branch Chair) - 07875 872 819 (m)
Steve Scott (Branch Secretary) - 07875 879 388 (m)

http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/water/waterpay.html

Notes to Editors:

UNISON is one of Scotland's largest trade unions representing over 160,000 members, and is the biggest union in the Scottish Water industry. Our 1,100 members in Scottish Water work in offices and depots throughout Scotland. They are represented in all the functions of the authority, including water and sewage treatment, water and sewer networks, laboratories, call centres and the design and construction of capital works.

Scottish Water is a publicly owned corporation established in 2002 and accountable to the Scottish Government. It provides water services to 2.4 million households and thousands of business and public sector customers in Scotland and employs around 3,700. Scottish Water has an annual turnover of over £1 billion. In 2007/8 Scottish Water delivered £625 million of Quality and Standards (Q&S) investment to improve treatment works, water mains, sewers and networks, and made a surplus of £195 million. Cost efficiencies totalling £1 billion in the corporation's first four years were passed on to customers.

The latest figure for the Retail Price Index inflation measure is 5.0% for the 12 month period to September 2008. The Government's preferred CPI figure was 5.2% for the same period. Source: Office for National Statistics, 14 October 2008. http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?ID=19

In September 2008 Scottish Water breached six years of partnership working with its staff in order to impose a 15 month pay rise of 3% (which equates to an annual offer of 2.4%). The UNISON Scotland strike ballot began on Tuesday 21 October and closed on Monday 10 November.



UNISON Scotland news releases:
Stay in touch with UNISON Scotland's latest news releases on our website http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/news/index.html and frequent updates on our blog http://unison-scotland.blogspot.com/

Action needed on rising violence against public service staff

Date: Wed 12 November 2008



Violent incidents against Scottish public service staff have risen again, underlining the need for further action. UNISON Scotland today released new figures showing a total of 32,263 violent incidents against public service workers, more than half of which were NHS employees. And these are only the formally recorded incidents.

UNISON’s extended annual Freedom of Information questionnaire is the most comprehensive survey of violence against public service workers in Scotland. Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said that this year’s results highlight the need for a renewed effort including awareness campaigns, action by employers and stronger legislation.

Dave said: “It is completely unacceptable that thousands of dedicated staff providing services on behalf of the community are being assaulted at work. All those affected deserve stronger legal protection and better protective measures."

Assaults against people working in local government have risen by nearly 3,000 in the last year, up to a total of 9,121. The health service has the largest number of assaults, although there was a fall from 18,860 in the previous year to 17,693.

Most assaults were on nurses and nursing assistants, particularly in primary care. For the first time, this year’s survey includes, as well as health boards and local authorities, public sector employers in police, universities, Non Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs), public utilities etc. Last year’s survey showed 25,517 violent incidents against health and local government staff. This went up to 26,814 this year, with the overall total being 32,263.

As in previous years, UNISON is concerned that too many employers are not properly recording violent incidents and therefore are not taking appropriate action. Health boards have improved reporting but local government is generally poor. A number of local authorities have now recognised this and work is underway to develop best practice guidelines.

Dave Watson said: "We also need stronger legislation including an extension of the Emergency Workers Act to cover all those at risk. Discussions are underway on this point with the Scottish Government and we are looking for legislative action next year."
Recorded incidents in the new sectors surveyed include a horrific attack on two Scottish Water workers attending an emergency call-out.

See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/7350226.stm
* They were attacked with bricks by two youths, one carrying a machete. Several assaults were recorded on special constables, policy custody support officers, community wardens and traffic wardens. The survey was released at a UNISON conference on Health & Safety, with delegates urged to put pressure on employers to introduce preventive measures to reduce violence at work, with risk assessments routine and all assaults reported.


ENDS

Note to Editors:
The full report Violent Assaults on Public Service Staff in Scotland – Follow Up Survey 2008 is available at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/safety/index.html (as are the 2007 and 2006 reports).

For further information please contact:
Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser 07958 122 409 (m)
Diane Anderson, Information Development Officer 0141 342 2842

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Home help takes equal pay lawyer to court

Embargo: For immediate Release
Date: Tues 11 November 2008


Home Help Jacqueline Quinn is taking equal pay lawyer Stefan Cross to court after he charged her £500 for taking her case to another lawyer.

And last night Jacqueline, who works for Edinburgh City Council: “I think his bill is out of order and I am determined not to pay.

“But goodness knows how many other Scots workers are in the same position."

Newcastle based Cross shot to prominence by persuading thousands of local authority workers up and down the country to let him pursue their equal pay claims, rather than rely on their trade unions.

Jacqueline, 51, of Hutchison Avenue, Edinburgh, said: “I thought Mr Cross would get me a quick settlement of my equal pay claim, but I didn’t realise there was a horrific penalty clause in the contract.

“The clause says that if I end the agreement or change lawyers before the case is settled I have to pay him £500 for every six months I was on his books…and if I go on to win the case I still have to pay him 100% of his costs on top of the £500.

“But that’s not all. If I accept an offer to settle the case, he still gets 10% of my compensation.”

Jacqueline who has worked for the council for 22 years added: “It’s absolutely outrageous and my new lawyers think it’s illegal.

“I went back to UNISON, my trade union, when I hadn’t heard a word from Mr Cross for three months.

“But then I started getting letters threatening to take me to an English County Court if I did not pay him. to recover his so-called debt, and I was terrified I would end up with a huge legal bill.

“Now UNISON has gone to court to stop him hassling me.”

UNISON’s Scottish Organiser Glyn Hawker said: “Stefan Cross portrays himself as the people’s champion but we’ve been warning our members for years that it will cost them if they instruct him.

“If he persuades a couple of thousand council workers to sign up with him, he only has to win one case, and the local authority will end up paying all the outstanding claims and he gets 10% of all their compensation.

“That’s a huge return.

“And it does not stop there, he can still charge our members £1,000 a year for the privilege of having signed up with him should they decide to take their case elsewhere.”

Syd Smith, Senior Partner with Thompsons Solicitors in Scotland who represent UNISON said:

“This case has huge implications for thousands of workers who may have signed up with Mr Cross and believe that they cannot go to another solicitor, no matter how dissatisfied they may be, for fear of crippling penalty charges.

“We believe Mr Cross is wrong on three points of law. Solicitors in Scotland cannot charge flat rate contingency fees. In other words, they cannot take a percentage cut from a persons money no matter what work was done. If we wanted to make a charge in these circumstances we would have to submit a detailed bill for all the work we had done.

“He cannot put penalties into these contracts.

“Mr Cross must also know perfectly well that he cannot go to an English County Court to try and enforce a contract he signed with a Scottish client in Scotland.

“That’s why we are seeking an interdict to stop his threats of action against Mrs Quinn."

Ends


For further information please contact:

Glyn Hawker, Scottish Organiser, UNISON 07876 441 237(m)
Syd Smith, Senior Partner, Thompsons 0131 225 4297
John Scott, John Scott Communications, for Thompsons 07917 729 201(m)
Fiona Montgomery, Information Development Officer, 0141 342 2852

Thursday, November 6, 2008

UNISON Scotland response to John Swinney's statement on improving scrutiny of public services

Embargo: For immediate release
Date: 6 November 2008

Improving Scrutiny

UNISON Scotland today responded to the statement by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney on improving scrutiny of Scotland’s public services.

Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said:

“UNISON Scotland supports the Scottish Government’s aim of improving scrutiny by reducing duplication and unnecessary burdens on front line services. However, merging bodies to meet government targets is on its own largely cosmetic and could simply lead to slower decision making in larger multi disciplinary organisations. Scrutiny improvement requires new ways of working and this statement is short on detail.”

UNISON supports the government in
  • streamlining decision making and increasing transparency;
  • stopping activity that no longer contributes to the public purpose; and
  • applying much tougher tests to the creation of new bodies
Dave said:

“UNISON in particular welcomes moves towards scrutiny bodies working more closely together with local government. Focusing on robust self-assessment in conjunction with proportionate and intelligence led approach to inspections based of risk assessment will be key to making improvements. However, more detail is needed on where responsibilities lie. In particular over early year’s provision. We should also be wary in the commercial environment of drifting into light touch regulation. Recent experiences in the banking sector has brought this message home to us all."

ends


For further information contact:
Dave Watson, Regional Manager
Mob 07958 122409

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

New UNISON Scotland equal pay contact point

UNISON Scotland equal pay contact point – equalpayscotland@unison.co.uk

Use this email address if:
  • you think you may have an equal pay claim
  • you would like more information on equal pay
  • UNISON has lodged an equal pay claim on your behalf and you would like an update on your claim
  • UNISON has lodged an equal pay claim on your behalf and you want to let us know you have changed your name/address/employment
  • you would like to become more involved in the UNISON campaign for fair and equal pay

Monday, November 3, 2008

Vote Now! Local Government Pay Campaign 2008

HAVE YOUR SAY ON THE NEW PAY OFFER

After two days of successful action (in August and September) the employers have NOW offered 3% across the board this year (backdated to April) and 2.5% next year. They say it is their final offer.

It's not a good offer - UNISON wants you to reject it.

But we know that to get more will need much more strike action.

It’s YOUR decision - so make sure YOU vote.

The ballot opens on 22 October and closes 12 November

YOU took the action that delivered this offer - VOTE on future action

If you have not received your ballot paper by 29 October, please call 0845 355 0845.
Please note requests for ballot papers must be received by noon on 7 November.
Lines open from 6am to midnight, Monday – Friday and 9am to 4pm Saturday.
Duplicate ballot papers can also be requested online at
www.unison.org.uk/scotland/preballot2008.asp

VOTE NOW - LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK

For more information on the pay claim and a downloadable PDF of this poster, go to http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/localgovt/pay2008/index.html

To join UNISON call 0845 355 0845 (voice) 0800 0 967 968 9 (textphone) or visit http://www.unison.org.uk/

Strike threat to meat inspections warns UNISON

Date: 03 November 2008
Meat inspections across Scotland, England, and Wales could be hit by a 72 hour strike in the run up to Christmas, UNISON, the UK's largest public service union, warned today (3 Nov).

1,000 meat inspectors (160 in Scotland) will ballot for strike action after their employers - the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) - refused to pay an agreed rise unless they accepted sweeping cuts to overtime payments and changed to a "work anytime" system. Strike action would severely disrupt meat production, including deliveries of meat to supermarkets.

The union is also urging the MHS to tackle the culture of bullying and harassment in abattoirs. A UNISON survey revealed 77% of staff had witnessed bullying or harassment, with 59% personally experiencing it whilst at work.

Simon Watson, UNISON National Officer for Meat Inspectors, said: "Meat inspectors work hard to make sure the meat on our plates is safe to eat, but they are being pushed to the limit by excessive workloads, staff shortages and totally unacceptable levels of bullying and harassment. On top of all this, staff are now being denied an agreed pay rise unless they accept sweeping cuts to overtime payments and change to a work anytime system.

"The changes will have a devastating effect on meat inspectors and their families. Some of our members tell us they will be £100 a week worse off. Others say they will find family life next to impossible. This is a disgusting way to treat staff who have not had a pay rise since August 2006.

"The employers must give staff the agreed pay rise with no strings attached. If strike action goes ahead, the major meat companies and supermarkets face the loss of millions of pounds in meat production, and a shortage of the traditional Sunday roast."

Joe Lynch, the lead officer for Meat Inspection in Scotland said "Not only will the changes increase pressure, stress and cut staff take home pay, they threaten the health and safety of us all. Public hygiene and food safety are a crucial protective service, to disrupt inspectors lives by last minute shift change, and tie them to their phones 24/7 - especially in an atmosphere of bullying and humiliation - means and increased risk of worse food safety."

A meat inspector from the North of England (who wishes to remain anonymous)* said: "My home life will be shattered if I have to work any time between midnight on Monday to midnight on Friday, often at short notice. I have a young family, and my wife and I need a routine to keep the house running. The cost of everything is going up, but my wages are set to take a massive cut. I stand to lose £100 a week if the meat hygiene service get these changes through, but will be working far more unsocial hours."

A consultative ballot of UNISON Meat Hygiene Inspectors last month showed that 83% were in favour of strike action.

END



Note to Editors:
*Meat Inspectors work in a highly pressurised environment where they are easily identifiable. They will not be able to give attributable public statements. Contact Chris Bartter or Joe Lynch if you wish to get anonymised comments from Meat Inspectors.

The UNISON bullying survey results also include: 18% of staff reported that bullying happened daily, and a further 23% said that bullying took place weekly. 39% of meat hygiene inspectors said that bullying took the form of shouting, 35% said bullying included humiliation and a further 28% said it happened through victimisation.

The main causes of bullying were stressed managers (27%), stressed colleagues (30%), staff shortages (33%) and excessive workloads (22%). 56% of staff said they put bullying down to poor management, and 40% of workers said they were too scared to report bullying when it did happen.

Two of the main changes to terms and condition proposed are: Meat Inspectors will have to work a 37 hour week at any time between 0:01hrs Monday to 24:00hrs Friday, with shifts or place of work subject to change at short notice. Contractual overtime will be abolished, unsocial hours payments and mileage allowances will be cut.

The MHS is a UK agency, and around 160 UNISON members are meat inspectors working for the MHS in Scotland. They are based across the country in 26 major abbatoirs from Carlisle to Orkney. They inspect and certify meat as fit for human consumption after it has been slaughtered.


For Further Information Please Contact: Joe Lynch (Regional Organiser - Scottish Meat Inspectors) 07958 121 063(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Concern over loss of maintenance contract

Date: 31 Oct 2008


UNISON, Scotland's largest public service union, expressed concern over the impact of the loss of one of the three Glasgow Housing Association maintenance contracts to the private sector.

Mike Kirby, Convenor of UNISON's Glasgow City Branch said "We're disappointed that City Building has not secured the repair and maintenance contracts for all of Glasgow. Their commitment to a broad range of apprenticeships is well-known, and we hope that the loss of this contract does not threaten the overall number of schemes provided.

"UNISON will be working with City Building and our colleagues in the other trade unions, to secure the best opportunities for the future of building services in the city, and to deal with any implications for jobs caused by this news.

"We will also be looking for productive discussions with Connaught Partnerships to ensure continuity of service to the tenants and to protect employment opportunities."


END

For Further Information Please Contact: Mike Kirby (Convenor - Glasgow City Council Branch) 07803 952 261(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Extend in-house pledges to community health centres - UNISON comments on private GP surgery ban

Press release: Weds 22 October 2008



UNISON, Scotland's healthcare union today welcomed the Scottish Government's announcement that commercial firms are to be banned from running GP surgeries, but called for this to be extended to other community health facilities like health centres.

The union also condemned the criticisms of the CBI and Tories, as trying to return to the privatising agenda of the Thatcher government.

John Gallacher, Secretary of UNISON's Scottish Health Group, said "We entirely agree with the plans to ban commercial companies from seeking a profit from our healthcare, and the announcement stopping outsourcing of cleaning and catering in the NHS. We call on the government to take the logical next step, and withdraw the Scottish Futures Trust proposals, which not only seeks to extend PFI and PPP, but also introduces a model (called a 'Hub') that allows private firms to run health centres and similar community-based health facilities."

Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish Organiser said "Whilst this may mean a traditional practice might operate within a privatised hub, we would ask the Government how the running of a privatised health centre would be by anyone other than private employees?"

The union strongly attacked the statements from the CBI and the Tories. Dave Watson said "At a time when the flaws of the world's private businesses are being laid out for all to see, it is deeply worrying that the Tories and the CBI want to expose our public services to these same risks. The glorification of the market economy so loved by Mrs Thatcher, led to the current economic crisis - the last thing we need is to hand over our public services to the same failed system."
ENDS

Notice for editors:
The Strategic Business case published for the Scottish Futures Trust proposes that it should promote full blown PPP in a number of ways, including the hub initiative, based on English Local Improvement Finance Trust (LIFT) PPPs to build new local health centre premises and other community facilities.

Ballot on new offer starts for 100,000 Scottish Council staff

Press Release: Weds 22 October 2008



Ballot papers asking over 100,000 UNISON members working for Scotland’s local councils their view of the latest local government pay offer, will start to land on people’s desks tomorrow (Thursday). The ballot covers members working for Scotland’s 32 local councils, local joint valuation boards and fire and rescue staff.

The union is recommending that members reject CoSLA’s offer of 3% for 2008 and 2.5% for 2009. Members of the other two unions representing local council staff (GMB and Unite(T&G))are also being balloted with a recommendation to reject the offer. They are due to declare at the same time as UNISON.

The new offer comes following two successful one day strikes by the unions. Selective action planned by UNISON members was suspended to allow consultation to take place.

Dougie Black, UNISON Regional Organiser and lead negotiator said “This offer is not a good offer – especially when inflation is riding around 5%, but our negotiators felt that we should put it before our members in a full postal ballot.

“It is clear from employers’ statements that they are digging in for a major dispute, and we will be telling our members that increased and longer strike action will be needed to deliver an offer that protects them from the major rises that they have experienced in food, heating and fuel.”
ENDS


Notice for editors:
Ballot papers started being issued today (22 October) and the ballot closes on the 12 November. UNISONScotland organises local government staff in Scotland including social workers, housing staff, library & museum workers, cleansing and environmental protection staff, technicians and trading standards workers, early years workers, cooks, cleaners and classroom assistants. They have already taken two days of strike action on 20 August and 24 September.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bring back in-house hospital services across UK, says UNISON

Press Release: Tuesday 21 October 2008



UNISON, the UK's largest health union, is today calling on the Government to follow the example set by Scotland and bring hospital soft services back in house. The Scottish Government has announced that all cleaning, catering and clinically related soft facilities management services in the country's clinical premises are to be exempt from contracting out in future schemes, whether funded through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) or not.

A letter from the Scottish Government to Hospital Chief Executives across Scotland says: "The provision of soft facilities management services such as cleaning and catering play a key role in the delivery of clinical services in NHS Scotland. The Scottish Government believes that NHS Scotland should therefore be responsible for the direct delivery of these services wherever possible".

Wales has recently announced something similar and in NI the majority, if not all services, have been retained in-house.

Karen Jennings, UNISON Head of Health said: "The rest of the UK is pointing the way towards providing quality in-house services such as cleaning, catering and portering. It's time that the government realized that these staff need to feel part of the NHS team.

"UNISON has consistently called for hospital cleaners to be under the direct control of ward staff, to fight infections such as MRSA and C difficile and boost patient and staff confidence.

"Only last week the Healthcare Commission released performance figures which criticised hospital cleaning standards across England. We owe it to patients and staff to raise standards across the country. The answer is a sharper focus on cleaning services that are a fully funded part of the NHS - not contracted out to private firms. An increase in the number of cleaners would help to speed up the rate of improvement."

In Scotland, UNISON welcomed the announcement, but said its campaign to bring back in-house existing PFI contractors would continue.

John Gallacher, UNISONScotland's Health Group Secretary said "UNISON welcomes this announcement by the Cabinet Secretary. The different approach to in-house provision in Scotland has meant staff work more as a team. This announcement means that future developments should continue that team approach.

"However we will be continuing our campaign to bring the remaining outsourced services in our large PFI hospitals back in-house as soon as they can be. Of course we would prefer if future developments were fully publicly funded and serviced rather than via PFI, PPP or the Scottish Futures Trust."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Industrial action ballot starts in Scottish Water

Press Release: Mon 20 October 2008



Over 1,000 Scottish Water employees will start to receive ballot papers tomorrow (Tuesday) asking them if they are prepared to take action to overturn Scottish Water's decision to unilaterally impose a pay award on their staff.

The ballot which will ask members to vote for both strike action, and action short of a strike, starts with papers being issued today (Tuesday 21 October) and closes on the 10 November.

Scottish Water breached 6 years of partnership working with its staff in order to impose a 15 month pay rise of 3% (which equates to an annual offer of 2.4%).

Branch Secretary, Steve Scott said, "This pay cut is simply not acceptable when inflation is rising - recently reaching 5.2% - energy prices are rising by anything up to 30% and food by 11%."

Dougie Black, Regional Organiser said, "Scottish Water know that they have the money to pay a reasonable increase. They claim to be acting at the behest of the Scottish Government who want to restrict public sector increases to 2% in line with Westminster. They have an opportunity while the ballot takes place to convince the government to untie their hands."

The other trade unions are also balloting their members in Scottish Water over a similar timescale to co-ordinate the industrial action campaign.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Voluntary Sector unites to demand Fair Funding

Press Release: Mon 13 Oct 2008


Early this week (W/b Monday 13 Oct) a broad coalition of voluntary organisations and unions will launch a petition calling for fair funding where Scottish public service contracts are undertaken by the voluntary sector.


The petition - jointly submitted by the STUC, SCVO, Unite, UNISON and Community Care Providers Scotland urges the Scottish Government to demonstrate commitment to the third sector by agreeing a National Framework for Public Service Contracts between the Scottish Government, purchasers and providers.

This is the first time voluntary sector employers and trade unions have joined together to campaign, demonstrating the danger posed to the contribution of the increasingly professional voluntary sector to high quality public services by current funding challenges.


Simon Macfarlane, UNISON's Lead Officer for the Community & Voluntary Sector said; "We hope there will be a massive response to this petition as our members in the sector are really suffering as a consequence of skewed tendering processes and real term funding cuts. Pay and conditions in the voluntary sector were already well below the public sector, but the latest funding crisis means there is increased downward pressure on pay. Our members look after the most vulnerable with compassion, dignity and respect. They deserve to be valued not caught up in a spiral to the bottom with the services they provide being shunted from one provider to the next based on who can provide the service cheapest."

Some voluntary organisations are being contracted to perform public services for less than those services cost to deliver - putting at risk the quality of services for the most vulnerable in society.

Stephen Maxwell, Associate Director of SCVO said: "The voluntary sector's front line workers are crucial to the sector's capacity to provide high quality personalised services to Scotland's 'at risk' citizens. Their contribution to essential public services deserves to be rewarded at the same level as their front-line colleagues in the public sector. Voluntary organisations need to be funded fairly to cover the full costs of employing front-line staff at this level, particularly when their alternative funding sources will be under added pressure as a result of the financial crisis".

Jackson Cullinane Deputy Scottish Secretary for UNITE said "UNITE fully supports this joint petition to highlight the grave issues affecting workers across the not for profit sector. We are committed to exposing the shameful funding cuts being carried out by local authorities where low paid workers, who are contracted to deliver key public services, are being expected to literally subsidise the state by sustaining cuts to their pay and conditions. These workers deserve pay equality with their colleagues in the Public Sector and we will be bringing a range of evidence to the Parliament to demonstrate the need for it to act urgently on this issue."

The petition urges the Scottish Government to agree a National Framework for Public Service Contracts between the Scottish Government, purchasers and providers, based on the principles in a 2007 pact agreed between the submitting organisations. It covers the key areas of concern: 
  • A commitment by public sector purchasers to fund wages and conditions of employment for front line workers in third sector providers at the same level as front line workers in the public sector
  • Five year contracts for third sector service providers to replace current short term funding arrangements
  • Agreement on the appropriate use of competitive tendering to minimise disruption to the users of services, reduce transaction costs and increase the stability of jobs and services
  • A government initiative to improve the standard of public sector commissioning to achieve the government's aim of high quality personalised services
  • Fresh Best Value Guidance to strengthen the importance of quality and effectiveness proportionate to cost; defining quality, how to measure it, and the role of service users, families, trade unions and the wider community in monitoring and assessment.

It is important to note that the voluntary sector in Scotland is worth just under £3.9bn and research by SCVO has found that the sector employs an estimated 129,000 professional paid staff, more than employment in Financial Services, and the Electricity, Gas & Water Supply industries. ENDS


Note to Editors:
The full text of the pact is available at http://www.scvo.org.uk/scvo/PolicyAndParliament/ViewPolicyInformation.aspx


Friday, October 10, 2008

UNISON to recommend rejection of new pay offer

Press Release: Fri 10 October 2008


Scotland's largest council union, UNISON, agreed to recommend that their members reject the latest below-inflation pay offer made by Scotland's councils at a meeting of the union's local government branches in Glasgow today (Friday).
UNISON will now institute a full ballot of their 100,000 members in Scottish Local Government - which will be declared in early November.

Following two highly successful one-day strikes by around 150,000 UNISON, GMB and Unite members in the last two months, local government employers increased their 2.5% offer to 3% for this year (April 08-April 09) - still less than the current rate of inflation. In addition they demanded that the unions commit to a fixed pay rise of 2.5% for 2009-10 - whatever the inflation rate.

UNISON Regional Officer and lead negotiator, Dougie Black , said "It is clear our activists do not accept that this offer is good enough. Our members, like others are suffering from the effects of the economic downturn. The recent increases in inflation - especially in basic necessities like food and fuel - impact particularly hard on low-paid members, and a 3% increase does not deliver the kind of help they need. Bankers and fat cats in the city get help - it is time for hard-pressed public service workers to get that help. Council staff in Scotland have delivered around £200 m worth of efficiency savings that councils should share with staff as well as with council tax payers."

UNISON will also be making it clear to members that it will take a lot of pressure to get the employers to improve their offer. Stephanie Herd - Chair of UNISON's Local Government Group said "UNISON will be making it clear to our members that it will take a lot of pressure to get the employers to improve their offer. The employers are determined to keep the pay rise at the level of the current offer - if members hope to shift them we need to strengthen our industrial action strategy and members will need to be prepared to increase the level of their activity. There is no point simply voting to reject the offer - we have to intensify our industrial and political campaigning."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Comment from UNISON on today's announcement in the Scottish Parliament of a review into Scotland's secure accommodation

Press Release: Thurs 9 October 2008


UNISON - the union that represents staff working in child protection - said it was concerned that there was a danger that a simplistic look at numbers of vacancies could be used merely to cut provision and save money.

John Stevenson, a spokesperson for the union's Social Work Issues Group said "While it is true that secure accommodation is not full at the moment it is also the case that there are children waiting for appropriate places.

"What we need is to deliver on the recommendations of the Edinburgh Inquiry* so there is sufficient capacity across Scotland to allow a choice of placements to meet the needs of young people. It is not just an issue of providing any place for any child, there needs to be slack in the system to choose the best matched place for that child.

"UNISON will want to make that view heard strongly during this review"
ENDS

NOTE for Editors *(Edinburgh's Children - The Edinburgh Inquiry into Abuse and Protection of Children in Care; Kathleen Marshall, Cathy Jamieson and Alan Finlayson January 1999) said:- "Recommendation 4: Provision of residential units must be at such a level as to allow a genuine choice of placements to best meet the needs of young people. In implementing this recommendation, the Council must accept that this will require units to operate at times at less than maximum capacity."