New Year message from John Stevenson, Branch President:
See also UNISON Scottish Secretary Mike Kirby's
New Year message at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/news/2012/novdec/3112.htm
Is it too optimistic to say we began to turn the tide in 2012? Well, maybe you have to be an optimist to be a union activist, but there has been much for the Branch to be proud of in 2012.
It was a year that saw the last of the mass privatisations thrown out following a fantastic UNISON and community campaign. The importance of that victory for Edinburgh and the whole of Scotland cannot be overestimated.
After years of hard work and legal action, UNISON achieved equal pay compensation offers for almost 3,000 workers in Edinburgh. These are still being paid out and will continue to be for some time yet.
We won a Living Wage of £7.50 an hour from
1 January 2013. The new Labour/SNP coalition
was as good as its word when it responded to
our campaign and the Living Wage will benefit
many low paid workers. The next step is to campaign
to get the same for contractors' staff and in
the community and voluntary sector. Why stop
We need to take the argument out to encourage
all employers in Edinburgh to come on board.
And let's not forget one-to-one representation.
Hundreds of members have been represented by
stewards and officers over the year, often in
very difficult circumstances and sometimes in
the face of media misrepresentation.
We also looked beyond our local issues. The Branch
has been honoured to work with our colleagues
in the London Borough of Barnet who are facing
almost the whole council being sold off. Our
international links continue and, for example,
Matthew Crighton's work with the Edinburgh World
Justice Festival is highly valued.
With a new outlook from the Council, the branch is re-visiting the partnership policy it set back in 2000 to try to involve workers more, improve services and stave off the worst effects of the cuts facing us.
And at home we need to get involved in Scotland's
constitutional debate. Not on the basis of flags,
borders or lists of powers in Edinburgh and London.
But on the basis of what politicians intend to
do with these powers to protect public services,
improve rights at work, build full employment
and make Scotland a more equal place. If we miss
the opportunity to put those things at the top
of the agenda, whether people vote yes or no
may make very little difference to building a
The progress in 2012 is all the more encouraging
because we have a relatively new officer team
in place. Two seasoned leaders and negotiators
left in 2011/2012. Agnes Petkevicius took well-earned
retirement and Kevin Duguid went on to a well-merited
full time job with the union. Irene Heggie left
the Recruitment Officer post after putting so
much energy and commitment into it.
No branch can lose all that skill and experience
without an effect. But those who have stood up
to the mark have shown a great talent for organising,
for willingness to learn, for bringing skills
and knowledge to the task and for real commitment
to the union and its members - and most of all
for trying to instil a real team culture.
It has been a huge transition for the branch support staff too who, as usual, show year in year out that this is not just a job, it is a cause they are committed to.
Austerity isn't working - spread
Amidst this progress, times are still hard. After three successive cuts of £90 million over three year periods, the Council does not have its troubles to seek. Austerity measures from Westminster and Holyrood are destroying services and livelihoods but they are not making the economy better. They are making it worse.
It is all the more reason we need to urge the Council to stand up for the essential local services we all rely on - and work with us to ensure there is something there to build on when times get better. The alternative would be services lost to a generation or forever.
UNISON warned that cuts would bring a double dip recession. We were right. We warned that job cuts in the public sector would damage local economies and would not create growth. We were right. The fact is that the country is not less wealthy than it was, the money has just polarised with the gap between rich and poor widening.
We all need to take those arguments into our families and communities to put an end to the myth that public services were the cause of the financial crisis. On the contrary, investing in good public services is a major part of the solution.
We face many challenges in 2013. The living wage
is welcome but a 1% offer is not going to make
up for years of pay cuts. It will help, but it
will not solve the problem of the men and women
set to lose out in October when 'Modernising
Pay' protection runs out. Many of those
people are the very ones keeping our services
going over the festive holiday.
Officers and stewards are working hard on a 'Dignity
at Work' initiative among other plans to
improve conditions at work. We are also working
on ways to better represent the voluntary sector
and other bodies.
On the evidence of 2012, Edinburgh UNISON is
well placed to meet those challenges. But that
will depend on members' support and on them
becoming active in their union - and signing
up new members.
A Happy and Peaceful New Year to you
all - and why not make this year the one when
you decide to become a UNISON steward!