31 December 2014
New Year message. You are the people who stand
up for Edinburgh's services
This year was dominated by the independence referendum,
pay, and the continuing savage cuts to local government.
UNISON City of Edinburgh Branch played a major campaigning
role in all three.
We ran a hustings early in the referendum campaign
and activists on both sides campaigned to ensure
that public services and social justice were at
the forefront of the debate. Independence, or even
the new powers under devolution, are worthless unless
politicians are prepared to use the powers to tackle
poverty and inequality.
Nowhere does that stand out more than in local
government. 40,000 jobs have been lost across Scotland
with services cut to the bone. People outsourced
by local councils to care for the most vulnerable
are paid poverty wages. Even more cuts are to come
with more jobs lost and those left behind facing
intolerable stresses to keep services going.
It is a disgrace that, amidst all that, politicians
line up to criticise local councils while at the
same time starving them of the funds they need.
The fact is that, independence or enhanced devolution
aside, the powers are there to do something about
these cuts now. All it takes is politicians with
the will to use them.
But there have been successes. We have won the
living wage for council staff and the campaign goes
on to win the living wage for workers in procured
In her first year as branch secretary Amanda Kerr
has shown great leadership and built a new outlook
on organisation in the branch with members’
surgeries and a ‘member benefits day’
that saw a surge in recruitment.
Lead officers Tam McKirdy, Tom Connolly, David
Harrold and the others in the team held dozens of
workplace meetings to campaign around the pay claim.
Members voted to accept new proposals arising out
of the action threat. The importance of winning
a return to proper collective bargaining cannot
In May we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the
hugely significant and successful nursery nurses
strikes in 2003/2004, with leaders Agnes Petkevicius
and Barbara Foubister returning for the event. At
the same time we marked 30 years since the miners’
strike along with activists like Rab Amos who had
been part of that historic year-long action.
Led by Health and Safety Officer Dave McConnell,
we also took part in events marking the 30th anniversary
of the Bhopal industrial disaster that killed 25,000
and continues to damage generations.
The branch has had a host of issues to deal with.
Examples include holiday pay cases, job evaluation
at Edinburgh College, roadworkers’ dispute,
lobbies against cuts, a victory on electronic monitoring,
home care rotas, pre-retirement issues, overtime
and equality, reviews and reorganisations, health
and social care integration and hundreds of individual
cases for members in their time of need. My thanks
go to the whole service conditions team for the
unsung work that they do.
UNISON needs to be a campaigning union, not just
one that represents individuals, but one that speaks
up for public services and the people who deliver
them. A key to enabling us to do that is UNISON’s
unique political fund and members realised that
by voting by a huge majority in 2014 to keep the
As UNISON members, you are the people who stand
up for public services and you know how important
they are to the people of Edinburgh. At a time when
so many just selfishly look out for themselves –
then moan when the services they and their families
need are not there – you are the people who
hold the high moral ground and work for and defend
the services that hold a decent society together.
On behalf of UNISON City of Edinburgh Branch I
thank you all in the council, associated bodies
and voluntary and community sector for all that
you do for the people of Edinburgh. Please have
a happy and peaceful New Year.