Friday, January 30, 2009

Public money should not subsidise private education - UNISON

Date: 30 January 2009

Scotland's education union - UNISON - today condemned the right-wing campaign body ReformScotland for proposing more public subsidy for the private sector, and threatening the quality of Scotland's education.

Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish Organiser said "Once again failed Tory candidates and private business people try and convince us that their prejudices are to be taken seriously as they propose yet more public subsidy to set up private schools.

"It defies belief that the private sector - having come crying for public moneys to bail out their chaotic handling of the finance sector, now want more public cash to fund private schools. Private involvement in education has led to events like the emergency intervention of Ofsted in the Richard Rose Academy in Carlisle, and the collapse of Ballast Wilshire in the middle of building East Lothian's PFI schools.

"Proposals, like handing over education to business and to religious fundamentalism indicates the true nature of Reform Scotland, and belies its claim to be taken seriously as an 'independent' think tank."


Note for Editors:
Reform Scotland is run by Geoff Mawdsley, ex-Tory Candidate for Stirling and former senior adviser to the Party in Scotland. Its Chair is Ben Thomson, Chair of investment banking and PFI Group, the Noble group.

For Further Information Please Contact:
Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser - Policy) 07958 122 409(m)
Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Glasgow Community Service staff action to escalate

Date: Wed 28 January 2009

Glasgow Council's 21 Community Service Supervisors, on strike for three weeks over proposals by Glasgow Council to cut their pay, are planning to take their case to the public with demonstrations and to escalate their action. The supervisors remain on indefinite strike action, but the Council remain intransigent and are still refusing to withdraw the pay cuts the strikers face under "service reform" proposals.

The strikers will be staging a demonstration outside the Sheriff Court from 8.00am tomorrow - Thursday 29 January, and a further lobby of Glasgow Council’s Executive Committee meeting on Friday 6 Feb at 12.30pm at in the City Chambers

Brian Smith, Secretary of UNISON’s Social Work Stewards said:

"At a time when the eyes of the public and the Parliament are on improving alternatives to prison, you would think that the largest provider of those services in Scotland would be making serious efforts to resolve an indefinite strike. But no, Glasgow Council is sitting on its hands hoping our members will just go away. UNISON is stepping up its support for these strikers and is now considering how to escalate the action into other areas of Glasgow's criminal justice services."

“Our members are in favour of improving the service and have even suggested ways in which the service could be improved further. However the Council must recognise what the job is worth. Some of the workers face pay cuts of over £2,000 under the management's proposals.”


Note for Editors

Community Service Supervisors supervise serious, violent and repeat offenders who have been given community service as an alternative to prison. They work on their own every day with five offenders undertaking gardening, home decoration, joinery or environmental projects. The Council want to give them additional duties - assessing work requests from the public, developing new placements, training offenders, placing offenders in appropriate squads and assessing offenders “attitude, development and employability” and bring compulsory increase in hours and days worked. The Council want to pay them Grade 4 for this new job. The job should be Grade 5 under the Council's grading system, and workers doing the same job with offenders in individual work placements will be on Grade 5. The new grade also still leaves many of our members facing pay cuts of over £2,000 caused by the Council's 2007 equal pay review.

The cuts in pay affect all those who currently drive (the majority) and weekend working staff. For example a Supervisor who drives and works every Saturday and Sunday currently earns around £21,000 pa. Council pay offered is £18,500. A wage cut of £2,500

The basic core pay proposed is £16,000, (without the driving monies or weekend enhancements). This is too low and does not reflect the value of the new job under the Council's own job evaluation scheme.

For further information please contact:

Brian Smith (Secretary – Glasgow SW Stewards) 07870 914 361 (m)
Mandy McDowall (Regional Officer) 07903 846 427(m)
Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Shocking social work survey shows child protection is 'ticking time bomb"

Date: Mon 26 January 2009

Findings released by UNISON today (26 January), show that without decisive action, it is only a matter of time before there is another Baby P tragedy.

The UK’s largest public service union, which represents 300,000 social care workers including 40,000 social workers, has released a damning report (Still Slipping through the net? - Front-line staff assess children’s safeguarding process) showing that social workers are struggling to cope due to vacant posts, increased caseloads and inexperienced staff thrown in at the deep end.

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said: “Our survey shows that Child Protection Services are a ticking time bomb that could explode at any minute. There are not enough staff, caseloads are too big and social workers are spending 80% of their time on paperwork. That is a lethal combination that will leave children exposed.

“Six years after the Laming enquiry into the tragic death of Victoria Climbie, child protection workers are still struggling to cope with heavy caseloads. Social workers are not being given the time, training or resources to do their jobs effectively.

“Thanks to social workers many thousands of children have been saved from abuse and neglect, but it is a daily battle. They come under constant fire during high profile child abuse cases and many have seen an increase in threats of violence against them since the baby P case. There are already problems recruiting and retaining social workers, we cannot afford to lose any more.

“Without decisive action it is only a matter of time before there is another tragedy. We owe it to baby P and all those other children at risk to re-think the way that child protection is organised. That is why UNISON is calling for our eight-point plan to be put into place in Scotland immediately.”

Report findings include:
  • Six out of ten respondents work in teams where over 20% of posts are vacant. More than a fifth have a vacancy rate of over 30%.
  • Three quarters report that average caseloads for social workers have increased since 2003.
  • Nearly 60% say that staff who do not have a social work qualification, or are newly qualified, are more likely to be doing child protection work for which they are insufficiently trained or experienced than in 2003.
  • Twenty eight% believe that there is less access to adequate supervision; with 52 per cent saying it has simply remained the same.
  • Half of all respondents believe that social work services are now worse resourced than in 2003, with only nine per cent believing it is better.
  • A third believe that the system has not improved over nearly six years.

Issues include remote leadership and inexperienced management, lack of focus on the rights of the child, problems with agencies passing the buck on assessments and a need for more accountability from outside agencies.

A separate survey which looked at violence against social workers in general found that 65% had encountered verbal abuse, 26% physical threat, 9% violence and 31% bullying in the last two years.

A social worker from the North, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “I have worked for six years in two local authorities in child protection/court and children in care.

“I get threatened with violence over the phone by parents and young people at least once a fortnight.

“I have also had threats made about myself and towards my family and children, had my car vandalised on several occasions and have even been locked in a house and threatened with needles.”

She added: “More recently, following the Baby P and all the negative publicity surrounding social workers in the media, parents refer to the case when they are unhappy with social work involvement.”

Another worker from Scotland said: “I have been threatened by a client over the phone who left several messages stating that I should die a horrible death and that they are going to kill me.

“Our professionalism is constantly attacked.”

UNISON’s eight-point plan (this reflects the different position in Scotland)

Co-working on all child protection investigation visits: child protection investigation visits to be done by two practitioners.

More social workers and support staff: an urgent action plan to fill vacancies and to review staffing levels across all social work teams.

National caseload management standards: enforced through the inspection process and regularly audited by the council leadership, with sanctions against employers who breach the Scottish Social Services Council’s Code of Practice for Social Care Employers.

More resources: a planned programme of investment in children and families’ social work.

Cull of bureaucracy: a root and branch zero-based review of all bureaucracy.

To increase the responsiveness of and resources to the widely respected Children’s Panel system: creating a system which ensures that social workers can service it properly and that the resources are in place to allow its decisions to be implemented.

Better support and more reflective practice: Social workers should have at least two years post-qualifying experience before being allocated child protection cases. There should be consistent, high quality supervision that is both supportive and challenging.

Measures to rebuild morale, confidence and status of social workers: redress the devastating impact on morale through re-instigating the campaign run by the previous Scottish Executive to promote positive public awareness about what social work achieves.


For Further Information Please Contact:
Mandy McDowall (Regional Officer) 07903 846 427(m)
Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)

For information on the report and position across the UK contact:
Mary Maguire – Head of Press and Broadcasting -07771 548 957
Anne Mitchell – Press Officer – 07887 945 307

Friday, January 23, 2009

170 jobs to go in Stirling as budget overspend looms

Date: 23 January 2009

UNISON, the union representing Stirling's council workers today condemned Stirling Council for issuing a notice that they intend to make 170 council workers redundant in order to avoid a threatened overspend.

James Douglas, UNISON Stirling Branch Secretary said: "Without any consultation and without any attempt to discuss alternative methods of saving money, the council has sent us notification that up to 170 jobs are to be made redundant. This is the first real information that we have had and has come as a huge shock.

"This will spark anger amongst the workforce, particularly as the SNP administration previously said that they wanted to work with the Unions to make efficiency savings. Obviously this promise has been torn up very quickly.

"These redundancies will impact on a wide range of staff including low paid clerical staff. While we only have the basic figures, and have no idea yet where these jobs are to be cut, it is clear that this number of jobs will not be lost without the loss of services."

UNISON are also angry that the council has been using a firm of consultants - KPMG - to come up with these redundancies at a cost of up to £1m.

Mr Douglas said "The contract that KPMG are working under, means that the more savings they make the more money they make. It is also interesting that - though their own company is in trouble - they aren't making their own staff redundant , recognising that redundancy can be seen as a quick fix, but can lead to problems in the long term."

UNISON will be seeking an early meeting with the Council to put its view on the proposed job losses. Once they have more detailed information on the redundancies they will be consulting with the workforce.
"Industrial action cannot be ruled out." Said Mr Douglas.


For Further Information Please Contact: James Douglas - Stirling Branch Secretary - 01786 44 3440(t) 07826903559(m) John Fair - Regional Organiser - 07958 122 409 (m)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hospital parking fines put patients lives at risk - UNISON

Thursday 22 Jan 2009
For release 00.01am

Scottish healthcare union, UNISON, today wrote to NHS GG&C Chief Executive, Tom Divers, pointing out that the 4 hour maximum parking period imposed upon staff on hospital sites across NHS Glasgow and Clyde is putting vulnerable patients at risk.

It has come to light that the crash teams – the staff whose job it is to respond to emergency cardiac problems anywhere on the hospital site - at the Southern General Hospital and Stobhill Hospital use their own cars as the fastest way to dash across their respective sites to attend patients suffering a heart attack or other similar cardiac problems. Since the introduction of the unpopular 4 hour maximum for parking, these life-saving staff now run the risk of a £40 fine for parking outside their work place for more than 4 hours.

In the letter, UNISON Regional Organiser Matt McLaughlin says,

“I would question the safety of staff using a private car to travel across the site to attend a medical emergency in any case. But I do have to question the reasonableness of parking restrictions which, if followed by emergency staff, would mean that they do not park their cars on site and would then presumably need to run from one end of the Southern General (or indeed Stobhill – which is uphill) to the other.

“This example provides clear evidence that NHS GG&C’s Parking Scheme puts staff and patients at risk.”

Monday, January 19, 2009

UNISON comment on CBI 's 'double whammy' for the Scottish taxpayer

For immediate release Date: 19 January 2009

UNISON, the largest union representing Scotland’s water and sewage workers, today accused the CBI Scotland of wanting to hit Scots with a ‘double whammy’, by advocating a PFI solution for the new Forth Bridge, and/or selling off Scottish Water to pay for it. These are both ‘solutions’ advocated by Iain McMillan of CBI Scotland at a conference this morning.

UNISON’s Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said:

“Not content with championing PFI to build the new Forth Road bridge, which will effectively cost the price of two bridges to fund one, so that their members can make a nice profit, Mr McMillan wants to cost Scotland’s taxpayers the extra water charges that will be needed to fund the fat cats to take over Scottish Water – a real double whammy for the Scottish Taxpayer.

“What is disappointing in this, is not that the spokesperson for the private sector wants more profits for his members, but that there are two political parties in Holyrood who seem to want to go along with this. Both the Tories and the Liberals seem to have swallowed the myths about private sector efficiencies. You would think that recent experiences would have changed that view.

“UNISON, along with the STUC and the other unions involved in the water industry have been engaged in the debate about the future of Scottish Water, and we all believe that there should be greater democratisation of the service, but it must remain in public hands.”


Note for Editors: The unions have produced a discussion paper It’s Scotland’s Water that outlines some ways to allow greater accountability for Scottish Water, and how important the service is for public health and socio-economic development. It is available on the UNISON website at's_water.pdf

For Further Information Please Contact:
Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser) 07958 122 409 (m)
Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

UNISON urges backing for Health Board bill

For Immediate Release Date: 14 January 2009

UNISON, Scotland’s largest health care trade union representing over 50,000 members working in health related services, is urging the Scottish Parliament to back direct elections to health boards, when they consider the Health Boards (Membership and Elections) (Scotland) Bill at Stage one on Thursday 15 January 2009.

UNISON Scotland fully supports the principles of this Bill, which was a commitment in both the Scottish Labour and SNP manifestos for the 2007 election.

Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish Organiser said:

"We call on MSPs to support this Bill in principle – so we can move to a long 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.

“Members of the public have consistently indicated, via public campaigns and by voting for health campaigners in local and Scottish elections, that they want to be part of the process of planning local health care. It is time that real democratic engagement allowed that to happen."

UNISON believes that there are some failings in the current Bill, but that it should be supported in principle so that issues can be addressed in further discussion.

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.

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


For Further Information Please Contact:
Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser) 07958 122 409(m)
Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 07715 583 729 (m)

Lobby MSPs on Climate Change and See a Film to Change the World!

Trailer for The Age of Stupid (see below)

Lobby MSPs on Climate Change

Scotland’s Climate Change Bill was published in December and was welcomed by green activists as a good start for world-leading legislation. However, it is vital that UNISON branches and members take action urgently to lobby MSPs to strengthen the Bill in key ways. The better we can make the Bill, the greater influence it might have on other countries in a crucial year for action on global warming.

United Nations talks take place in December 2009 in Copenhagen to determine the successor to the Kyoto Treaty. Scottish Organiser Dave Watson urged UNISON members to email and visit their MSPs. He said: “Climate change already affects the lives of millions of people and if the world doesn’t act this year on strong, international legally binding emissions cuts, we risk dangerous runaway climate change.
“Please take the time to contact your MSPs.”

Full details and an easy ‘click to email your MSPs’ link is at

The information there includes four ways to push for the UNISON four main ‘asks’. The Bill is being scrutinised by the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, so we are especially keen for members whose MSPs are on that Committee to take part in lobbying. Contact details for the eight Committee members are on that page.

The Stop Climate Chaos Scotland coalition, of which UNISON is a member, is organising a Climate Change Rally and lobby of MSPs. Meet outside the Scottish Parliament, 11am to 2pm Wed, 22 April. Watch SCCS and UNISON websites for updates and full details once available.

UNISON’s four main ‘asks’ are that the Bill:
• reduces greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050.
• sets statutory targets of at least 3% year on year emission reductions.
• includes emissions from international aviation and shipping in the reduction targets.
• sets strong targets for the public sector to lead by example, with negotiated green workplace agreements.

Our Briefing on the Bill is on the UNISON-Scotland website at:

Going to the cinema in March can help save the planet - how you and your branch can campaign about The Age of Stupid. Join Not Stupid!

Influencing Copenhagen is also the aim of The Age of Stupid – a ‘documentary-drama-animation’ starring Pete Postlethwaite and directed by Franny Armstrong, who made McLibel. Franny said that Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth "did a fantastic job at bringing the public up-to-speed on the science of climate. The Age of Stupid takes the baton from Gore and examines the moral, psychological and human consequences of our current way of life." A parallel campaign called Not Stupid aims to inspire 250 million viewers to become virtual or physical climate activists, focused on the UN talks in Copenhagen in December.

The film has six interwoven human stories filmed in America, the UK, India, Nigeria, Iraq, Jordan and the Alps. Pete said: “The opening sequence is phenomenal. It’s Spielberg, eat your heart out.” He plays an old man in a devastated 2055 world, asking, “Why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?” The stories highlight oil, war, exploitation, inequalities, and ‘human stupidity’ in ignoring facts.

Franny wants the film to “be part of the sea change in awareness which leads to the greatest ever public uprising which in turn forces the world's Governments to make a binding international agreement to cut global emissions so as to stabilise global temperatures below two degrees and keep the planet habitable for humans and other species.”

She says we can all play our part, starting with going to see the film in its first week from 20 March, following a ‘People’s Premiere’ advance one night only screening around the UK, including Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness on March 15. First week figures determine how widely and for how long the film is shown and if it does well here, that will help it snowball to success and influence internationally. ‘Indie’ screenings can be organised from May 1st and a DVD will be on sale in June/July.

Information taken from UNISON Scotland's Green Network News - Environment Issue 2 Jan 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

UNISON pledges support for Paul Martin's bill to abolish hospital parking charges

Monday 12 January 2009
For immediate release

Labour MSP Paul Martin has launched a members' bill to scrap all charges in NHS car parks. His bill would apply across the Scottish NHS estate, including hospitals such as Ninewells and Glasgow & Edinburgh Royal Infirmaries, which continue to levy charges.

Paul Martin's bill was officially launched at a photocall with NHS staff unions at Glasgow Royal Infirmary this morning (Monday 12 January). See video of the event on our YouTube channel at or pictures at the UNISON Scotland Picasa gallery

Paul Martin said:

"My bill will make it illegal for a health board to levy parking charges on patients, visitors or staff – or anyone who has to visit a site for whatever reason.

"If commercial sites like Braehead and the Fort can provide free parking, it is a sad reflection that people who are being cared for in hospital and their families have to pay to park.

"It is an extra hassle that patients and their families do not need at what is already a stressful enough time."

UNISON Regional Organiser Matt McLaughlin said:

"We need a comprehensive solution to car parking across the NHS in Scotland. UNISON is backing this bill to ensure that the needs of patients, visitors and staff are met, in Glasgow and across Scotland."


For further information please contact:
Andrew McFadyen on 07824 694 677 (for Paul Martin MSP)
Matt McLaughlin on 0790 434 1979 (for UNISON Scotland)

UNISON Scotland news releases:
Stay in touch with UNISON Scotland's latest news releases on our website

Get frequent updates on this blog and our UNISON Scotland YouTube channel at

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Glasgow Community Service Workers Strike

Date: Saturday 10 January 2009

Glasgow Council’s 21 Community Service Supervisors have been on indefinite strike action since 6 January. The workers supervise offenders who have been given community service as an alternative to prison.
They work on their own every day with five offenders undertaking gardening, home decoration, joinery or environmental projects.

The Council want to give them additional duties including assessing work requests from the public (often from those who cannot afford to pay for gardening or decoration services), developing new placements, training offenders, driving council vehicles, placing offenders in appropriate squads, assessing offenders “attitude, development and employability” and a compulsory increase in hours and days worked.

The Council want to pay them Grade 4 for this new job. The job should be Grade 5 under the Council’s grading system. Those workers who will do the same job with offenders who are in individual work placements will be on Grade 5.

The new grade also still leaves many of the 21 workers facing pay cuts of over £1,000 caused by the Council’s 2007 Single Status equal pay review. The workers are being asked to do a more responsible job for less money!

Please highlight this dispute in your workplace and trade union. If you live in Glasgow then please contact your local councillor and ask them to settle this dispute by offering the correct pay grade.

Messages of support and donations to
Glasgow City UNISON,
4 Floor, 18 Albion Street,
Glasgow, G1 1LH


Monday, January 5, 2009

Scotland's public sector key to reversing economic downturn - UNISON

Date: Monday 5 January 2009

Scotland's largest public service union, UNISON, today issued a challenge to private sector critics of the public sector, accusing them of trying to blame the public sector for their own failings and highlighting the key role the public sector plays in boosting the economy.

In his New Year message to UNISONScotland Activists and staff, Scottish Secretary Matt Smith says, “Some people, who have demanded that the public sector bail them out, have now been queuing up to try and ensure that Scotland's public services are penalised for the failures of the private sector. Their attack on the minimum wage, and the constant demand to privatise our public water supply are particularly despicable."

Contrary to the attacks of business critics who accuse the public sector of being a drain on the private sector, Mr Smith points to the key role of the public sector in providing the infrastructure that the private sector uses to produce and deliver goods.

He also points out: "Public services are very often crucial in ordering goods and services to stimulate demand- especially in parts of the country that have been forsaken by the private sector. Indeed when private financiers refuse to invest it is the public sector that provides that essential capital."

Public services also provide essential public services - emergency cover over public holidays and care for those who cannot care for themselves. And Mr Smith goes on to announce a commitment for UNISON to provide the leadership in defending and advancing the case for public services in the coming year.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A warning from Jane Carolan as politicians and press attack our pensions

Press release: 4 January 2009

As the politicians and the press gang up on the attack, who will defend our public service pensions? We will! says UNISON Scotland NEC member JANE CAROLAN.

Jane Carolan
Jane Carolan is one of Scotland's members on the union's National Executive and has the key role of chairing the UNISON's UK Policy Committee

Over the past few years, there has been nothing that has agitated UNISON members more that the fight to protect their pensions, a fight that has seen members prepared to take to the streets in strike action.

Just as negotiations on the Scottish Local Government pensions draw to a close, and after NHS colleagues have settled on their scheme, the threat to a decent standard of living in old age is again under threat.

It started when “the pensions crisis” in the public sector was at it’s height in 2006 and it has never let up since then, but since the start of the current financial crisis in September of this year, the media critics of public sector pensions have been having a field day, demanding that “the pensions apartheid “ is ended.

Headlines on a daily basis refer to “Pensions Haves and Have-Nots” or are issuing “Warnings over Public Sector Pensions”. We in the trade union movement have never known the Daily Express or Daily Mail to be our friends but the vitriol heaped on on public sector workers has rarely reached such heights and is repeated on a regular daily basis.

Millions of readers are drip fed continually that our pensions are “cushy” , “gold plated” and “A luxury that the country can’t afford”.

Have they ever quoted the figure that the average local government pensioner receives? Just for the record, that’s £3800 per year or £74 per week. What is usually quoted is the figure for a high flying, highly paid civil servant, and while we would all like that level of pension, for our members such a pension is a dream.

Unfortunately, the media loves a stereotype and the gold plated pensioner is now accepted. This isn’t restricted to the tabloid press. Recently the Independent has railed about the fact that there is “no class divide any more, just the difference between the fat cat, featherbedded public sector pensioners and the rest”.

Politicians take up cause

Where the media in this country lead, there are always politicians willing to follow. First out of the stalls was Eric Pickles, the current Tory Shadow Secretary of State for communities and Local Government. Eric has fallen for the hype and believes the myths and is quite clear that the time has come for “reform” in his words, destruction of public sector pensions to the rest of us.

Tory intentions were made clear by the intervention of their leader, David Cameron. Cameron has been very, very clear about his plans for the future. Cameron wants an end to pensions “apartheid”.

Even his choice of language here is offensive. But his intentions could not be clearer. Cameron goes for the jugular vowing to end the final salary schemes that we currently have, replacing them with stock market linked plans. The results of the plan will be simple - pension poverty for millions of public sector workers.

He’s been backed by the Liberal Democrats, who also see our pensions as “unsustainable and unaffordable”

Who will defend us?

As UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis has pointed out, if any political party wants to improve pensions they should start by urging the private sector in this country to face up to their responsibilities by setting up decent pensions schemes.

Any solution should be based on levelling up, not by cutting the public sector pensions that we are all going to rely on. Highly profitable private sector companies are pulling out of the provision of pension schemes but their actions don’t make the headlines in the same way.

We have been prepared to take strike action on our pensions in the past. We need to scrutinise the plans of those who would seek to govern us, and be aware of they in which their programmes are likely to affect us.
At the end of the day, defending our pensions will come down to us.

Article first published in Scotland in UNISON Magazine December 2008
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