UNISON City of Edinburgh Branch





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Arbitration win for jannies - at long last

Hundreds of staff face upheaval as architectural services demolished

Car allowances explained

Evening News gets it wrong again!

Barbara takes the hot seat but most officer posts unchanged

Round the departments

Save Bakkari Adoui from deportation

Like it or not, we can't afford to ignore politics: The Political Funds debate


Social Work grievance brings action on crisis in childrens services

'Family Friendly' Edinburgh closes workplace nursery

You can do lots more on our new look website

Privatisation is the wrecker, not us!

In Brief
- Edinburgh Leisure staff reject pay offer
- NOP survey of UNISON members
- Silly draft....

What would get you to come to branch meetings? Online Survey

UNISON News Headlines  


Arbitration win for jannies - at long last

After a two year fight and six days of strike, Edinburgh janitors are at last celebrating an arbitration finding that they should have been paid irregular hours payments.

The finding came weeks ago after the strikes brought a referral to ACAS (the Arbitration and Conciliation Service) last Christmas, but looked under threat when Council officials astonishingly questionned the ACAS judgement, then signalled they might not pay.

ACAS pointed out that both sides had agreed the terms of reference and that any finding would be binding. UNISON immediately contacted Councillor Frank Russell (Executive Member for Personnel) who agreed the Council's reputation was at stake if it did not honour its side.

Danger for future disputes

"Failure to abide by the arbitration would have been an act of bad faith and would lead our members to question Council officials' motives in going to arbitration", said UNISON in a statement released by Branch Secretary John Stevenson

"More seriously it would undermine it as a way of ever avoiding or settling disputes in the future."

The dispute arose after the Council claimed a local deal over-rode the nationally agreed payments. UNISON and the T&G were clear it did not and had been calling for independent scrutiny since January 2000.

"It is a disgrace that a strike - and all the disruption that brought to schools - was needed before the council agreed to arbitration", said George Lee UNISON City of Edinburgh Branch Manual Convenor.

"Our members are furious they had to strike, suffer attacks from the council and from some of the press.

"They were especially angry at false reports that UNISON was refusing arbitration when in fact it was the Council" (See page 3).

And referring to Evening News headlines last Christmas, he said "Perhaps now the public will see who the real Scrooges were".

The unions and the Council agreed arbitration would be binding. This means the Council will now have to find around £300,000 in back pay and talks are under way on how to apply the deal in the future.

Back pay

The Council has agreed to the back money and members should see it after the end of May. However the Council is still sticking on payments from then and is looking for cuts elsewhere to fund them. UNISON has made it clear it will strongly resist any attempts to reduce other conditions.

NOTE: Janitors are now technically called Service Support Officers, but as UNISON steward Alan Brown told the BBC Lesley Riddoch show, "We're still the same jannies".

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UNISON News Headlines  

    Hundreds of staff face upheaval as architectural services demolished

UNISON is challenging matching procedures which could risk redundancies as the council embarks on a further rationalisation of services. Architectural Services Division is being dismantled and the services transferred to other departments.

Hundreds of staff have faced upheaval as the technical workload has been passed to Housing with the majority of staff going to Edinburgh Building Services.

Facilities Management and other functions such as the switchboard have gone to City Development. Some of the support staff have been kept in other parts of Corporate Services such as the expanded Civic Services Group.

The disaggregation of staff has been controversial with the complaints about the recruitment methods used by Edinburgh Building Services.

Instead of matching people in on the information provided by Personal Profile Forms (which is the procedure agreed between the unions and the council) staff were forced to complete a full application form and to attend an interview.

Given there were fewer posts than staff this was clearly an attempt to cherrypick and would inevitably have disadvantaged those who have no recent interview experience and those who would have difficulty in assimilating new processes.

John Ross, Service Conditions Convener, said "The reduction in posts should not have been a problem as we had more than enough members seeking early retirement packages.

"What EBS have created is a scenario where staff who fail the interview may not be those who want to get out. This has the potential for compulsory redundancies which we were assured would not be an issue within this review."

"We are pushing this issue vigorously with senior Council officials", added John.

Other staff have been transferred on existing Job Descriptions and conditions but it is anticipated their new departments will refine structures and remits in the coming months.

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UNISON News Headlines  

    Car allowances explained

Members voted in a ballot to accept the new car allowance scheme with a buy-out but concerns remain about the effect on income and services.

The changes came from the Single Status agreement and the pressure to change the existing national scheme. The details of the scheme follow, along with an analysis of the problems raised by an emergency motion to the AGM last month.

The new single scheme replaces casual and essential user status with 'authorised user'

Casual Users

The previous rate was 53p for the first 1,000 miles then 43p a mile taxable. The new rate from 1 April is 40p non-taxable and index-linked since it is the Inland Revenue rate.

There was no prospect of negotiating an index-linking of the old rate. There was no compensation on offer to casual users until UNISON negotiated this. UNISON finally achieved 15p compensation per mile claimed over the last full year.

Casual users allowance is not contractual, so could have been removed without negotiation.

Essential users

Essential users have a two year buy out (about £1600 taxable) and will lose the monthly lump sum. Their mileage rate increases from 35p to 40p per mile. T

his, plus the lump sum payment makes them better off for the next two years. However, thereafter to make up for the loss of the lump sum, essential users would have to claim 833 miles a month. That is why so many have been disappointed in the offer.

What has been achieved locally is likely to be far better that what will be achieved nationally. Nevertheless, there is a clause that would apply a national deal if it turned out to be better.

Why any deal at all?

The status quo on car allowances was not an option. Their value was dropping, there was huge resistance at Scottish employer level to any national scheme and The City of Edinburgh Council had a fixed political policy for change on this issue despite strong arguments put by the unions and some chief officials.

The current allowances were going to go. The Branch could have walked away and handed it over to national talks. Our negotiators took the responsible position to try to salvage the best local package it could and weigh that against the likelihood of the level of industrial action that might have effected change.

We had to address the previous ballot when the essential users allowance was cut and members voted against action.

The final deal was without doubt the best that could be achieved through negotiation and the best so far in Scotland as far as we are aware.

Taxation issue

The unions were originally advised that the essential buy-out would not be taxable (as shown on payslips as non taxable payments). We then received a letter on 7 February 2002, as follows.

"Whilst the payment is not currently taxed at source the Inland Revenue has determined that the value of the lump sum payment is a "taxable benefit" for income tax liability and is not paid to employees on a tax free basis".

The council operates a "Fixed Profit Car Scheme". This means that the detail of mileage and lump sum payments made to employees in any tax year are notified to employees (via form "Taxable Benefit Form" FCPS) in order that they may submit this information with their self-assessment tax return form to the Inland Revenue.

Thereafter, if appropriate, an adjustment is made to the employee's tax code to reflect the value of the taxable benefit received in mileage and lump sum payments."

This basically means that your current lump sum would normally have affected your tax code the following year. It should not now since it has already been taxed.


The result was:

Essential Users

Papers issued 832 Returned 52% Accept 246 = 57% Reject 185 = 43%

Casual Users:

Papers issued 255 Returned 34% Accept 66 = 76% Reject 21 = 24%

There were problems in trying to ballot all casual users. The Service Conditions Team did all they could to try to identify all of the casual users via the Council and Shop Stewards Committees. Unfortunately there was a poor response from shop stewards.

The letter accompanying the ballot is a contentious issue. The intention of the wording was to set out the factual position. The employer was making a link between acceptance of this offer and avoiding redundancies.

However the Branch Committee had made a clear decision that we would not play off one group of workers' conditions against another's. The letter could have explained the issue better and should have made a clearer distinction between the employer's position and the Branch's position.

Branch Committee

Over the three month period December, January, February, the Branch Committee made three policy decisions:

December: Proposal on single status "package" which had; leave/public holidays, car allowances, monthly pay Decision : to discuss/negotiate separately on these matters

January: Proposal from Council on Car Allowances including threat of redundancies. Full debate on issue and agreed , without dissent, to ballot with a recommendation to accept.

February: Ballot result announced and agreed.

Staff Side/UNISON reaction to position: Letter from Branch Secretary to Staff Side Secretary raising points covered by motion to AGM (albeit letter sent prior to motion being accepted). Staff Side Secretary wrote, raising the issues in the motion, to all Elected Members, all Heads of Department and the Chief Executive


1. The employer has created unnecessary strife with this issue and ignored early proposals made about possible savings (to interact with the tax situation) which could have been made but which would have left members no worse off.

2. The employer has ignored the service implications if people decide not to use their cars and has displayed a lack of knowledge of the front line duties of many staff.

3. There are other lessons to be learned. We need to address why the regular reports from the Service Conditions Team on the progress of the talks were not permeating throughout the branch and why we did not have a wider debate before the ballot.

But the fact still remains that the status quo was not an option and what was on offer was the best that could be achieved through negotiation.

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UNISON News Headlines  

    Evening News gets it wrong again!

In contrast to the generally accurate (if not friendly) coverage of the janitors' dispute in news stories, the Evening News leader writer twice wrongly claimed that UNISON had refused arbitration during the strikes.

On the first occasion we complained and our letter putting the matter straight was published. However, it was inexcusable when the paper made the same claim again in a subsequent editorial. The Branch then called for an apology.

The News refused, saying that the Education Department was insisting UNISON had refused arbitration. They did offer to print another letter but by that time the issue was well past.

For the record, the the only offer of arbitration came after the sixth strike day.

You have to ask why the leader writer was prepared to believe the wrong information from the Council and ignore the correct information from the union?

And why the News couldn't have done that old fashioned journalistic thing and phoned up ACAS to check? So the lesson is - if its in the News, check with us!

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UNISON News Headlines  

    Barbara takes the hot seat but most officer posts unchanged!

Barbara Foubister, long standing nursery nurse steward, has at last been persuaded to take on a key branch officer role as she takes over as vice-chair from Maureen Christie.

Matthew Crighton won the International Officer ballot at the AGM, Tom McLeod took over at Health & Safety and Craig McLeod stepped in as Recruitment Officer.

Other than that all the other posts remained the same, no doubt reflecting the confidence members have in their branch officer team (well they like to think that).

Click here for a full list.

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UNISON News Headlines  

    Rounf the Departments

As well as over 300 individual cases, the Branch is currently involved in negotiations on a range of issues, including:

City Development: New computer system for applications and warrants

Corporate Services: Job evaluation, new HQ, Smart City and Single Status

Housing: Sectional reviews, excessive use of acting-ups.

Finance: Best Value reviews

Culture & Leisure: Structural review including Bibliographical service review.

Education: Nursery nurse grading claim.

Voluntary Sector: Many Employment Tribunals, recognition agreements, single status.

Social Work: Main Grade job description and host of other issues.

Environment & Consumer: Profit share negotiations.

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UNISON News Headlines  

    Social Work grievance brings action on crisis in childrens services

If the grievance we lodged about the crisis in childrens services achieved only one thing, it ensured that no councillor could ever say they were not aware of the problem, was the view from Lyn Williams, Social Work Stewards Convenor.

But the grievance achieved much more. It exposed the dire crisis in Social Work childrens services. It got the Department and the Council to explicitly state there was a crisis and it can take much of the credit for over £2 million more being ploughed into the service.

It also achieved many of its key points:

  • a joint call for a Scotland-wide review to look at salaries, conditions and structures
  • a clear statement that staff need to be supported in working with risk
  • further updates and reports on the situation
  • new measures to try to attract newly qualified workers into the job.

What it didn't and couldn't achieve was the massive investment needed to lift the crisis. However, just as UNISON found huge support from other branches around the country, the Council got the same message from other Councils who have agreed Edinburgh should take the lead in pushing for more resources from the Scottish Executive.

Led by Lyn Williams, John Stevenson and Branch Chair Dougie Black, the grievance appeal was heard in December last year.

"Councillors were clearly moved by the first hand accounts of social workers called as witnesses. They told it as it was and gave a real life insight into the daily dilemmas and frustrations we have all faced in the last few years", said John Stevenson.

The grievance focussed on the failure of the Department and the Council to allocate the resources necessary to ensure the first four recommendations of the Edinburgh Inquiry were fully met.

The Council "has not provided enough residential resources to avoid 'inappropriate use', to fulfil the aim of 'positive choice' or to allow 'a genuine choice' for most children.

"Large numbers of children are assessed as needing residential provision and it cannot be provided. Edinburgh was once proud of its record on ensuring under 12's were not placed, except in exceptional circumstances, in residential care. However, currently children under 12 are placed in units which were not designed for this purpose.", said UNISON's submission.

The submission pointed out that "The number of residential resources since the Edinburgh Inquiry have reduced while demand has been maintained or increased .. This sometimes leads to children assessed as needing a placement having no placement at all".

UNISON outlined graphically the effects on staff: "These issues lead to staff facing intolerable pressures and experiencing the stress of trying to manage avoidable risk in the absence of an appropriate resource. "They lead to very low morale in the service and a crisis in recruitment and retention of staff.

"Staff feel that the circumstances they find themselves in can lead to a compromising of professional standards and acceptable child care policy.

"Especially in light of the future registration of Social Work professionals, staff are concerned about the effects on their professional practice and ultimately their employment".

While the grievance has already achieved much, it has not achieved the solution and that must come from the Scottish Executive. In the meantime Lyn Williams is clear about the need to keep up the pressure. "We have achieved a joint understanding that there is a crisis and something must be done. But there are still under 12's in units, there are still children waiting for places and there are still staff working under intolerable pressures. We will continue to expose that and continue to keep up the pressure".

NOTE: The Branch has also submitted detailed papers on A Scrutiny Panel report on Vulnerable Girls and Young Women and on A Working Together Changing Childrens Services report.

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UNISON News Headlines  

    'Family Friendly' Edinburgh closes workplace nursery

At a time when the government is encouraging employers to look at ways to get mothers of young children back to work, Edinburgh has taken the innovative step of shutting its Workplace Nursery.

Introduced by the old District Council in 1989, the Nursery was the first of its kind in local government and was able to take children from birth to primary age.

In the beginning places were subsidised but since reorganisation in 1996 the subsidies have been chipped away. Over the years many a parent has been able to speedily return to their career knowing their child was being well cared for in a pleasant environment and by well qualified staff.

The council say the premises would not meet new registration standards and that alternatives had to be looked at. The chosen alternative is to offer parents places in a revamped Cowgate Nursery which is a mainstream facility near to the City Chambers.

The Cowgate Nursery is to be demolished and will be relocating to a new building as part of a private sector development scheme. The new facility will have fewer places than the total currently available in the two nurseries and employees of the council will not be given preference.

There will be no subsidies and current individual provision arrangements will only be maintained until the summer of 2003. The current flexibility of provision will be lost.

Staff moving Staff have been told they will have jobs in the new Cowgate nursery (which will be given the radical title of an Under 5s Centre) but their Job Descriptions will change and it is unclear what impact this will have on their conditions.

Agnes Petkevicuis, Service Conditions Officer, said "Members are raging that this has been done with little or no consultation with parents and staff alike. We are still discussing the full implications for those employed in the workplace nursery and that has to be our main focus."

Irene Stout, Equalities Officer, said "This decision flies in the face of good employment practice. Other companies are investing in childcare to get women back to work. This council is only interested in cutting out the fringe benefits of being a council worker.

"They closed the Well Women Centre, removed an in-house counselling service and now this. What will be next?"

Incidentally, the council expects to sell the two nurseries for a not inconsequential sum of money.

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UNISON News Headlines  

    You can do lots more on our new look website

Edinburgh Branch's website - the first in Scotland in 1998 - has been overhauled and updated.

It's more interactive too. You can ask questions, take part in surveys and amend and update your membership details. A new 'Help' page can put you in touch with branch officers and stewards convenors and a Members benefits section has all you need to know about the special offers available to you as a member.

A direct link to the Thomsons/ UNISONScotland legal directory puts you directly in touch with all the additional legal services now on offer.

A Policy Finder will help you check what the branch position is on a host of issues and a conditions guide is being developed. You can also see the online version of this magazine.

A point and shoot diagram of how the branch works and details about how to create UNISON policy are all on the site along with links to the UNISON Scotland and UK sites.

Come and visit us at www.unison-edinburgh.org.uk (Of course if you are reading this, you are already here).

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UNISON News Headlines  

    Privatisation is the wrecker, not us!

Equalities Officer IRENE STOUT reports from this year's UNISON Womens Conference

Privatisation and Womens Health were two of the issues dominating this years National Womens Conference in Cardiff in February.

Attended by 330 delegates and 130 visitors from all over Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Conference threw its weight behind two Edinburgh motions on Breast Cancer and Anti-Depressants.

The Branch was represented by Irene Stout (Culture & Leisure Department), Dot Paterson (Social Work) and Rose Jackson (Social Work). The Conference kicked off with a range of seminars on Equal Pay, Women Into Public Life, WOW - Winning the Organised Workplace and the one which I attended, Womens Health & Safety at Work, which I found very informative.

Many women made welcome contributions which certainly demonstrated women can set agendas and achieve results! Privatisation UNISON's President, Veronica Dunn, opened the Conference by pointing out she "honestly believes that women are making a difference in UNISON and are sharing the union's agenda".

No more apparent was this than in the Privatisation debates. One of the delegates from the PMT Transport Branch summed up the general feeling at the end of the "Positively Public" debate, "We want to keep public services public because, believe me, Tony Blair, its privatisation that's the wreckers, not us!". Well put colleague. A very spirited response.

Pay and conditions of women workers were also high on the agenda with motions unanimously carried on equal pay, term time working, part-time and job share working, low pay and young women, childcare, early retirement and flexible hours working.

Ministers questions

There was a question and answer session with Ministers and keynote speeches from the Government's new Ministers for Women - Patricia Hewitt MP and Barbara Roche MP.

Ministers assured us they would take action to close the pay gap between men and women and review effectiveness of the part-time workers regulations.

Violence against women

Violence against women was also raised in several contexts. Delegates heard of the rising levels of violence, with one in five women now threatened with physical violence at work, particularly lone carers visiting patients in their homes.

The focus then turned to women's health motions on Endometriosis, alcohol, HRT and Breast Cancer and Anti-Depressants. The last two motions originated from our Branch, but unfortunately I couldn't move them as motions at National Womens Conference are submitted through Regions and therefore have to be moved by a Scottish Region delegate! One day maybe? Incidentally they were all carried overwhelmingly.

As the Conference drew to a close we had further guest speakers. Zimbabwe Marybe Mushibwe, a union activist from Zimbabwe, told delegates of some of the major issues and concerns over there. HIV and child labour being the biggest problems.

Women are very much held back by low participation due to tradition and limited access to education. A woman's place being in the home and as the tiller of the land!! Zimbabwe remains a country where trade union matters are still considered to be a male domain.

Women at forefront

I can't finish without mention of UNISON's General Secretary who told delegates "nine years into our union I think we can all be proud of the way that women members have shaped our union. "Women in UNISON have been at the forefront of campaigning for better public services".

This contribution was much appreciated as you can imagine! Finally, Conference came to a close.

A vote of thanks was given to the Chair and Assistant Chair (who incidentally was Jennie Biggs from the Scottish Region who did an excellent job).

And then my train journey from Cardiff to Edinburgh on a Sunday began and went on and on and on.........it definitely was the journey from hell!

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UNISON News Headlines  

    In brief

Edinburgh Leisure staff reject pay offer

As we went to press, Edinburgh Leisure members had rejected a three year pay and Single Status deal in a ballot. Look out for more news.

NOP survey of UNISON members

City of Edinburgh is one of the branch's selected for this year's survey of over 10,000 members. Organised by UNISON using NOP, this survey is crucial to future policy and planning. If you receive one of the forms, please take the time to complete it and help your union do its best for you.

Silly draft....

A draft proposal from management arrived in the UNISON Office the other day with a covering letter saying, "Please find the enclosed daft proposal".

What have we been saying all all along?

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UNISON News Headlines  

    Save Bakkari Adoui from deportation

Bakkari Adoui has lived in Edinburgh for 3 years. He is an asylum seeker from Tanzania who fears for his life if he is forcibly returned.

On 9 March, Bakkari was detained without notice while routinely reporting to Wester Hailes police station. From there he was taken to a detention centre near London.

Following an emergency motion at the AGM, UNISON Edinburgh has written to the Home Secretary and all Edinburgh MPs urging them to intervene to protect Bakkari.

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UNISON News Headlines  

    Like it or not, we can't afford to ignore politics

When every decision from our basic pay to the funding of the services we provide is decided by politicians, UNISON members can't afford to ignore politics.

The very principle of public service is a political issue. Rights and equality in the workplace is a political issue. Health & Safety is a political issue. That's why early trade unionists set up the Labour Party to get involved in those political decisions in the first place.

And that's why UNISON from its inception has had two political funds - one for general campaigning and one affiliated to the Labour Party.

Members can choose to join one, both or neither fund. Only the money from these levy payers are used for the funds (See political funds explained).

As UNISON reviews its political funds, two activists outline their views on the growing debate.

For UNISON's policies inside and outside the Labour Party

by Matthew Crighton Branch Vice Chair and APF Officer

A political strategy is not an option for UNISON - it is a necessity.

We cannot win better pay or defend conditions for our members without winning the arguments in favour of public services and against privatisation.

We need the public's hearts and minds and we need politicians who are prepared to speak out. The unions helped create the Labour Party to get governments and administrations favourable to working people - not business.

New Labour is a disappointment - or worse. But remember, it was union votes at Labour conference which supported its birth. Where does this leave the APF - the political fund through which UNISON affiliates to the Labour Party?

It has stimulated two parallel debates in the union. The first is within the APF about structures and improving how it works. The second is about both the APF and the General Political Fund. Papers on both are available from the branch office.

We need to use all tools available to fight PFI and PPP. This means applying pressure both inside the Labour Party and outside it. The APF therefore should be integrated into the mainstream of the union. The APF is part of the union and needs to be as accountable as any other part. That is how we work in this branch and we have to make sure it happens at all levels.

If trade unions had some part in the creation of New Labour they also have a responsibility to get it to halt the privatisation under PPP. I don't think we've tried hard enough. There's a lot more we can do in the Labour Party.

Lets start talking intensely to Labour MP's and MSP's and let's tell them we will go for re-selection if they don't support public services.

We're paying Labour to cut our services!

by Ian Hood Social Work Department Steward

Last year UNISON's Affiliated Political Fund gave £2 million to the Labour Party. In exchange we have been given the Private Finance Initiative for every council department, attacks on our jobs such as cuts in car allowances and holidays, waiting lists for waiting lists in the NHS and so on.

They have shifted so far to the right that even that bunch of scoundrels, the Tories, can try and defend the NHS from Tony Blair. It makes you wonder why we keep on paying and what we are getting for our money.

If you had got such rotten service in any Princes Street shop, you would have been asking for your money back! That's why many of us want to bring in some democracy into our political funds. Currently anyone can pay into the Affiliated Political Fund (APF), the only body in our union that can give money to political parties at election time but only Labour Party members get to vote on where the money goes. And, of course the money goes straight into Millbank otherwise known as "old crony land".

Its hardly a surprise that they don't want anyone else to have a say. Its our money and its time for some democracy. Already unions like the Communication Workers Union and the Fire Brigades Union are looking at funding alternative candidates in elections.

They are considering whether to fund Socialist Alliance, Scottish Socialist Party, Greens or even independents where their policies fit the union's aims more than New Labour's do. Many people aren't ready to go as far as that yet but don't think Blair and Millburn should take the unions for granted.

John Edmonds, leader of the GMB, said 'My union has supported Labour candidates in every election since it was founded more than 100 years ago. But no longer can the party take the support of our members for granted.'

By threatening to take away the money, Edmonds hopes to force a rethink on Labour. But whatever you think about that, you must agree it should be up to the members to decide how to spend their money, not a group of self elected officials.

Our conference last year called for a debate on opening up the political funds. Its high time it started. Or we will all be left waiting for that non-existent hospital bed.

UNISON's political funds explained

UNISON has two political funds and members can choose to join one, both or none. Only members of the fund can make decisions about the fund. Both funds were set up by ballot of the membership when UNISON was formed.

The Affiliated Political Fund

This is by constitution affiliated to the Labour Party. General union funds do not go to the Labour Party - the only money used for campaigning in the Labour Party or other organisation related to the Labour Party, is the money paid by Affiliated Fund members.

The General Political Fund

This is used for general political campaigning on issues like the campaign for the Scottish Parliament, UNISON Scotland's Manifesto for Public Services, against PFI and for a range of advertising initiatives. A court ruled (under the old NALGO union) that the union would not be able to campaign on 'political' issues without this fund. This fund cannot be used for donations to any political party.

More information

This Website www.unison-edinburgh.org.uk/ political.html

Affiliated Political Fund www.unison.org.uk/labourlin/labourlink.asp

General Political Fund www.unison.org.uk/about/gpf.asp

Progress report on review of the funds www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/12308.pdf

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