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Challenging parties to revitalise services

Social Work: Tackling the staffing crisis

Move from weekly to monthly pay rejected

UNISON wins safeguards in move to Contact Centre

Ballot will follow talks on library weekend opening

Unions join to win Child Protection Act improvements

UNISON's Political Funds Review finally published

GATS risk to water everywhere


Nursery nurses take step nearer strike action

Could you be a Lifelong learning Advisor?

Starting Points for Learning

White Finger claims

Joint Future

UNISON and the war in Iraq

RETIRED MEMBERS Looking forward to leisure and pleasure?

Joe retires and Dougie becomes a full-timer!


The views expressed in UNISON News are not necessarily those of UNISON City of Edinburgh Branch or the union.


Challenging parties to revitalise services

By Chris Bartter, Scottish Communications Officer

UNISON is to mount an £80,000 campaign to challenge all the political parties to deliver in the crucial area of Scotland's public services.

In its manifesto entitled Revitalise our public services, it sets out a series of principles that need to be adopted before public services can be delivered successfully.

Matt Smith, UNISON Scottish Secretary said, "The manifesto sets out eight principles that need to be adopted to successfully revitalise our public services. It is the most comprehensive and innovative look at public service renewal Scotland has seen.

"It is based on a public service ethos; on the principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, openness, accountability, competence and equality. It also deals with specific areas of Scotland's public services outlining the issues and the union's solutions."

UNISON rejects the artificial 'producer/consumer' divide, argues for planned development that involves new methods of monitoring and collaboration between services.

It rejects funding public services from the private sector and calls for resources to be made available to attract necessary staff and to allow broader service delivery.

The manifesto is a mixture of credit and criticism in its treatment of the Scottish Government's track record.

The manifesto welcomes the substantial additional resources now going into Scottish public services. It also welcomes the ground-breaking Staffing Protocol, addressing the two-tier workforce created by PPP schemes, while maintaining our opposition to PPP as an expensive, wasteful way of funding public service renewal which fragments the public service team.

The union is clear on what is needed in our public services. That is the issue of resources or capacity. It is an issue that no party is tackling adequately. It is clear that no advance will be made in the maintenance let alone the expansion of public services unless resources are made available to tackle staff shortages, increase training, and address priority areas.

Health & Social Work

For example the current staffing crises in social work and health care are not simply problems of low salaries, although that is important. They are also problems of the level of support and understanding given to people who choose these difficult jobs and need a short/medium and long term strategy.

Expensive 'quick fixes' using private agency staff cannot solve the long-term problem.

Low Pay

Matt was also clear that UNISON will not be resting on any laurels as far as low pay is concerned. "Low pay across the public services cannot continue." He said "UNISON welcomes the recent deals that we have fought for both in local government and health, that bring the lowest paid above the £5 per hour figure for the first time.


"Now we and Scotland's political parties need to broaden this fight to include in particular, higher and further education and our community and voluntary sector, where low pay continues to be prevalent - affecting a disproportionally high number of women.

Nursery Workers

"Nursery workers too are badly paid for the importance of the service they deliver. It is ironic that the people who are in the frontline at the start of the education of our future generation are not recognised for the contribution they make. It must be changed if welcome commitments to nursery education are to be delivered successfully."

Voluntary Sector

The manifesto also welcomes the recognition of the community and voluntary sector as an important deliverer of public services, but failure to properly resource this sector, and indeed many organisations who fund this sector, must be tackled. We cannot successfully deliver joined up services involving different public sectors if some are being under resourced.

Water and Energy

In Water and Energy, we need to step back from the failed ethos of competition and to develop a strategy that builds on our strengths. Co-ordination and retention of skills and expertise are more important than short-term competition and pared safety margins.

Revitalised services

These points and many others will be being made to parties and candidates direct, and publicly through newspaper advertising and by direct mailing of UNISON's large membership. Matt said, "Parties need to be aware that UNISON members have a vote and are likely to use it. They must address the concerns of those who provide and use or public services if they are to deserve those votes and, more importantly, if we are to successfully deliver revitalised public services."

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Social Work: Tackling the staffing crisis

UNISON has made eight radical suggestions to address the staffing crisis in Social Work in Edinburgh.

At the same time as a Scotland-wide call for a review, Edinburgh stewards and officers have responded to a Council paper that significantly acknowledged the negative impact of the change in car allowances.

Lyn Williams, Branch Service Conditions Officer, welcomed a CoSLA report on recruitment and retention and said that members appreciated Cllr Kingsley Thomas's work in "raising the profile of Social Work and the difficulties we currently face". But the Council report gave an opportunity to look at local measures to tackle the crisis now, like...

  • Cheap housing - joint intitiative with Housing Department?
  • Subsidised Council Tax?
  • Car Allowances
  • Mobile Phones
  • Positive publicity
  • More holidays
  • Major increases in pay.
  • Balanced caseloads to include preventative and developmental work

Scottish review call

Meanwhile Social work staff from across Scotland have backed demands designed to address the problems facing the service.

UNISON launched a campaign document identifying the problems and ways to tackle them, at a delegate meeting on 2 April Stephen Smellie, Chair of UNISON's Social Work Issues Group said.

"Staff from qualified Social Workers to Social Work Assistants face problems of large numbers of vacancies, increased stress and reducing support.

"These lead to problems of lack of back-up, increasing risks of violence, no time to train, increased pressure on unqualified staff. Pay is a key issue in addressing such problems, but not the only one.

"We think we need a full-scale review to look at training, the job of social workers and other staff, protection and other support."

UNISON's pamphlet, The Future for Scotland's Social Work, paints a bleak picture of a service trying to cope, but under increasing pressure. It highlights staffing problems that affect residential care and home care as well as the more publicised problems affecting children and family sections. It has been released as part of the union's Revitalise our Public Services Campaign.

Mike Kirby, Scottish Convenor of UNISON said: "Our campaign is designed to highlight the things that are needed to deliver the services Scotland needs. The chronic staffing crisis in social work is a case in point. Politicians need to start giving social work staff the backing they need to carry out this difficult and necessary job."

UNISON has already raised its demands with the new standards body (the SSSC), the local authorities and with government ministers. The union will continue to campaign for a full review to address all the problems that threaten social work services and the staff who provide them.

See the full briefing on the new Social Work pages at at www.unison-scotland.org.uk/localgovt/socialwork/

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Move from weekly to monthly pay rejected

A proposal to have all staff on a monthly pay cycle has been rejected following a consultative ballot of the staff who would have been affected.

John Mulgrew, lead branch negotiator, said: "We balloted staff who are weekly paid, fortnightly paid and paid according to the lunar cycle. All categories of staff overwhelmingly rejected the proposals.

"Even the carrot of having a council-wide pre-retirement scheme failed to win the members over.

"Given the efforts of senior managers to force their proposal through, there is no doubt they will try another angle to achieve their objectives but they should not underestimate the strength of the members' opposition".

The proposal was put forward as a cost-cutting exercise with any savings being redirected to elements of the Single Status Agreement.

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UNISON wins safeguards in move to Contact Centre

The Council is planning to open a Contact Centre in summer 2003 - that's a Call Centre to you and me.

The Contact Centre is part of the Council's overall 'Smart City' vision which seeks to improve its interaction with the public by harnessing new technologies and making it easier for the public to contact it.

"The original business case for its vision, which should be seen as a multitude of tasks coming under one umbrella, did not pass the value for money tests applied to it and the proposal is now to move at a slower more incremental pace - something UNISON had argued for all along", said Kevin Duguid, Branch Service Conditions Officer.

The first phase will see staff from Clarence, Edinburgh Building Services and Environmental and Consumer Services move to a Contact Centre at Chesser House in May or June 2003.

Staff will also transfer from the Housing Department - but agreement has been won that they will keep their existing terms and conditions and will not be forced to take on additional duties or work any extended hours that may be proposed.

"Negotiations will start shortly on job descriptions for staff with plans to allow them to progress financially and developmentally.

"We will ensure that our members are involved as fully as possible in these processes. Any member with concerns or queries should contact their steward or the Branch Office".

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Ballot will follow talks on library weekend opening

UNISON is in talks with Libraries' management team on proposals to open six libraries on Saturday and Sunday afternoons following the success of an initial pilot scheme.

At UNISON's suggestion a working group has been set up to consider how these locations will be staffed and how the major issue of maintaining a work / life balance can be achieved.

John Ross, Branch Service Conditions Convenor said, "Our participation in talks should not be viewed as acceptance of the proposal.

"That decision will be made by the affected members who will be balloted at such times as we are in full possession of the contractual implications."

UNISON has already said it will not accept any proposal which involves staff adopting a four days on - four days off model. Other departments are eagerly waiting in the wings with ideas of longer opening hours for Housing and City Development already being talked about.

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Unions join to win Child Protection Act improvements

UNISON and the EIS working through the STUC have secured important safeguards in the new Child Protection Act.

Inspired by Lord Cullen's report into Dunblane and the Roger Kent Childrens Safeguards Review, the Act sets up a list of people banned from working with children.

They can be referred if they have been dismissed, transferred or would have been dismissed from positions with access to children (if they had not left) because they have harmed a child or put a child at risk of harm.

In a meeting with Cathy Jamieson MSP, and in evidence to the Parliament's Culture and Sport Committee, Edinburgh's John Stevenson and UNISON Scotland's Mary Senior called for clear definitions of 'harm' and challenged the plan for Ministers to decide who would go on the list.

They raised concerns that the Bill relied too much on the integrity of employers' systems and appeared to offer inadequate opportunity for appeal at an early stage.

Support from Karen Gillon MSP brought changes to ensure a separate panel would make the decisions and a meeting with Cathy Jamieson resulted in agreement that someone experienced in employment matters would be on that panel to ensure that disciplinary action had been fair.

They also won agreement that the STUC would be fully consulted in preparing guidance to ensure fairness for staff, to minimise loopholes and maximise protection for children.

Giving evidence to the Committee, John Stevenson said, "Our members readily accept that there is a need to dilute some of their civil rights to protect children properly… but they must be satisfied that there is fairness and accountability on the other side".

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UNISON's Political Funds Review finally published

Branch Position

The review of UNISON's political funds has at last been published and has gone out to all stewards.

The Branch welcomed the review but regretted that the final report had not come out in time for our AGM in February. The Branch Committee therefore laid out a set of principles to mandate our delegates to National Conference in June.

As we went to press the Branch would also be looking at possible amendments.

The law requires affiliation to a political party to be organised through a specific fund which members can choose to pay into if they so wish and that only those payments can be used in participating in the affairs of a political party. The Branch believes we must retain that element of choice.

Whilst supporting affiliation to the Labour Party as a means of influencing party policy, we recognise there will always be elements of conflict between the aspirations of the union and those of the party.

Any review outcome must ensure the Affiliated Political Fund (APF) pursues UNISON's policies through Labour Party structures and not the reverse. The Branch believes the APF must:-

1. be more systematic about the alliances and actions necessary to influence Labour Party policy;

2. become more open about how it works;

3. become more accountable to its members through adopting delegate-based structures like the rest of the union;

4. have a degree of accountability to the bodies of the union which make the policies which the APF pursues, while protecting the principle that only APF levy-payers can determine the actions of the APF;

5. fight to change undemocratic policy-making structures in the Labour Party which have hindered the promoting of our policies.

The Branch believes the current structures of the General Political Fund meet the requirements of the membership in relation to broader campaigning and see no reason for radical change.


The report's recommendations

1. The current political fund arrangements offering choice between the GPF and the APF should be retained. Alternatives, which remove this choice or introduce a third fund, should be rejected.

2. A new set of measures should be put in place to encourage members to make speedy and informed choices on their political fund options.

3. The changes made by the APF and the GPF to improve the operation of the funds should be endorsed and in particular the APF is urged to develop a programme of action in conjunction with the rest of the union to extend UNISON's influence at all levels of the Labour Party.


Review Conclusions

The report rejects the arguments of those who wish to break the link with Labour and see, for example, the creation of a new workers' party.

The option of disaffiliating from the Labour Party was not supported by the consultation exercise.

The report also rejects proposals to establish a third section of the political fund or to move to a single fund.

Both options received only limited support during the consultation and such steps would clearly not promote the interests of UNISON or our members as detailed earlier in the report.

It has also been argued that backing should be given to non-Labour Party candidates who support UNISON policies by means of either of these two options, but the case for this falls apart upon closer examination.

There are however critics of the present arrangements whose objectives are less extreme. Some argue that UNISON should only back those Labour candidates who support UNISON policies.

It is also argued that the political funds should be "democratised" and decentralised. The report has addressed these concerns.

It has been agreed that:

- the political funds and their representatives at all levels must support and argue for UNISON policies.

- UNISON Labour Link will not give finance to individual Labour candidates or representatives. Any Labour Link finance which goes to the national party has the approval of the Labour Link National Committee, while finance to the regional and constituency parties goes with the approval of the regional Labour Link.

- effective mechanisms will be put in place to ensure the policies and campaigns of service groups, SOGS, regions and branches are taken forward by the GPF and UNISON Labour Link.

- through the UNISON Labour Link review a greater degree of transparency, integration and accountability of all levels of its structure is being introduced.

- the Labour Link review involves measures to devolve finance and wider authority to its regions.

- the GPF has agreed to decentralise decisions over branch applications for funds to regions. In addition it is to earmark funds for election campaigning in the nations and regions of the UK.

See the full report at www.unison.org.uk/labourlink


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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 organisations 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.

GATS risk to water everywhere

by John Watson, WDM Scotland

Robert Giuseppi, the leader of the Trinidad and Tobago labour movement, visited Scotland at the end of February to highlight their successful campaign against water privatisation.

For three years his union worked to overturn the control of Trinidad and Tobago's water by UK company Severn Trent International, finally forcing a return to public provision. However, their achievement could now be undermined by a little known trade agreement being negotiated in Geneva.

The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) exists to promote liberalisation of service sectors to the global economy. UNISON and the World Development Movement (WDM) are leading the UK campaign to oppose GATS.

Coinciding with Robert's visit a leak revealed European nations presenting other countries with extensive demands for liberalisation of services, including essential sectors such as water, energy and telecommunications.

Trinidad and Tobago is one of the 72 states, many of them developing countries, which have been requested to open their water sector to the activities of foreign companies.

Few people in Scotland yet realise that a reciprocal request has been made of the UK. In addition to locking in water privatisation in England and Wales, this threatens the public nature of water supply in Scotland, as Scottish Water is protected from GATS only if it is a monopoly provider.

Given the presence of PFI projects and the commitment to allow private suppliers access to the network, this protection seems very shaky indeed.

Robert Giuseppi closed his tour with a meeting in Glasgow, saying, "We have always supported the view that water must remain in public hands….

"We talk about the phenomenon of globalisation, but here we can see a clear example of the international resistance that is developing against the key promoters of selling our public assets such as the WTO, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the FTAA."

Further information on GATS can be found at:- www.wdm.org.uk.

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Nursery nurses take step nearer strike action

Scotland's 5,000 Nursery nurses took a step nearer strike action as a delegate meeting voted overwhelmingly for a ballot on industrial action.

The Nursery Nurses have been campaigning for a review of their jobs for two years and say that the low pay and status of nursery nurses is jeopardising the Government's nursery education plans.

Scottish Local Authorities first claimed that grading of nursery nurses was at individual council's discretion, then agreed a Scottish-wide working party when UNISON put claims in to every Scottish council.

But the report of the working party sidesteps the crucial issue of nursery nurses pay and grading.

UNISON is looking for a review of the status, career structure and pay of nursery nurses across Scotland.

Agnes Petkevicius, Branch Service Conditions Officer said: "Nursery nurses are a key component in the Government's plans to increase the range and importance of pre-school education.

"Without recognition of that fact by the government and the employers, the future of the strategy is jeopardised."

Agnes outlines the main issues for UNISONNews:-

  • The claim covers all nursery nurses in local authorities
  • the claim has been rejected by CoSLA, of which the City of Edinburgh Council is a member.
  • along with rejecting the claim, the employers want to introduce a new job title and ne job description - and if that is not enough, they have recommended making some nursery nurses part time sessional employees.

"The initial response from many members was anger and recognition that we cannot accept the employers' plans. Nursery nurses are rapidly coming to the end of their tether", said Agnes.

"There will be more meetings with nursery nurses in Edinburgh and at Scottish level so that members can be updated.

"Procedures have been put in place to ballot all members on industrial action up to and including strike", added Agnes.

"Do you feel undervalued and underpaid?

"Do you feel greater recognition needs to be given to the very professional job we do?

"Do you feel you need to do something about it now?

"If the answer is yes, then vote yes", urged Agnes.

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Could you be a Lifelong learning Advisor?

The Branch is in discussions with management on a possible partnership on Lifelong Learning.

If agreement can be reached a new role of UNISON Lifelong Learning Advisors will be created in all departments. The function of this new union post will primarily be identifying training opportunities and assisting members in accessing them.

Amanda Kerr, Branch Education Officer, said, "Many of our members would have difficulties in returning to formal education.

"There is also a key issue of helping others who may have literacy or numeracy problems and if we can address those then members will be more confident in taking up other training opportunities."

The Branch are hoping members who do not have a union role already will be prepared to assist in this new initiative.

A training programme is being developed in conjunction with UNISON Scotland and the Workers Educational Association (WEA) and management have agreed in principle to paid time off and other forms of support.

Once the discussions are concluded the branch will be seeking volunteers for these important posts.

Details will be issued in the near future.

* Courses are already up and running in the City of Edinburgh Council with staff from Home Care, Clerical and other jobs completing a recent programme and looking at what their next training options are.

The Scottish Executive has invested £400,000 in the programme to make it easier for social care staff to access education. Developed by UNISON and the WEA, the project will benefit 1,200 staff over the next two years and has already run successfully in NHS Scotland.

UNISON's Barbara Diamond has been linking with branches and employers to promote the initiative and organised a launch last year which brought together UNISON activists, managers and politicians.

Cathy Jamieson, Minister for Education and Young People, told the launch that the needs of unqualified staff had not always got the attention they deserved and that was why her Social Services Action Plan called for Return to Learn initiatives in the care sector within nine months.

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Starting Points for Learning

Ever felt that training and promotion are not for you because of the paperwork?

That you can't do what you really, really want because your reading and writing skills might let you down?

The Workers' Educational Association, working together with UNISON offers you the chance to brush up on your workplace literacy and numeracy with the new course "Starting Points".

You can get an SQA qualification and start on your way to all the training and promotion you can handle. Or if you prefer, the WEA can arrange a shorter course tailored to your particular needs or put you in contact with literacy learning in the community.

In Edinburgh, West and Midlothian you can contact the WEA on the phone number below to talk about the free tuition that's on offer and have a confidential chat about your learning.

Get your Lifelong Learning Adviser or Union rep to help you negotiate worktime and/ or workplace tuition. Better still get a group of you and your workmates together and find out how learning in a group can boost your success.

The Scottish Executive are investing money over the next four years to help people sharpen their literacy and numeracy so that they can "be all they want to be" both at work and in the community.

That might mean preparing for SVQs or even a Return to Learn course. Whatever you choose you will find welcoming, trained tutors and learning geared to your needs.

The WEA has a hundred years experience of providing adults with a way to return to learning! Contact Vickie Hobson , Workers' Educational Association 0131 225 7170 v.hobson@weascotland.org.uk

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White Finger claims

The Branch is pursuing a number of compensation claims from members suffering from "white finger".

This is a problem caused through constant use of vibrating equipment such as that used by road workers and slabbers.

Wattie Weir, Service Conditions Convenor, said: "The claims have now been lodged with the assistance of our legal advisors. Discussions with local management proved fruitless and they even tried to argue we were time barred.

"Clearly the thought of paying out on the claims was more important than the serious health problems suffered by their employees.

"We are confident of winning a fair result for our members."

"White finger" was initially viewed as an industrial injury which affected miners but more and more categories of manual workers are falling foul of the problem.

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Joint Future

The staff-side and management of Health, Local Government, Housing and the voluntary sector have begun consulting on a draft Local Partnership Agreement for Joint Future.

The unions are also involved in consultation on the implementation of single shared assessment and SSA training.

Look out for more updates in the next issue.

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UNISON and the war in Iraq

UNISON issued a statement on 3 April standing by its position that any military action without the explicit authority of the United Nations Security Council would be unjustifiable and against international law and the requirements of the UN Charter.

However, we recognise that once war began, many UNISON members are directly involved in the military action and others have family amongst the British armed forces.

Many others are directly involved in supporting the war effort including treating the injured. All effort should now be concentrated on maintaining the safety of the British troops and avoiding further casualties.

UNISON is also calling for a major humanitarian aid programme. It should also be recognised that the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is a separate serious crisis which requires urgent intervention from the British Government now and should not be tied up with the war

See the full statement at http://www.unison.org.uk/international/iraq.asp

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Looking forward to leisure and pleasure?

Our family of retired members of UNISON will ensure that you never stand alone, writes George Murdoch, Retired Members Secretary.

We aim to look after your welfare and should you attend our meetings you will have joined a band of friends. We will make you very welcome.

We have a programme of outings and social events as well as a programme of entertainers. We look forward to seeing you at 10.15am in St Annes Community Centre in the Cowgate (or visa South Grays Close next to the Museum of Childhood in the High Street) on the second Tuesday of every month.

Come along and see if you would like to join us.

It is easy to join the Retired members and you qualify if you live in the area and have been in any UNISON branch.

It is £15 for Life Membership and the Section now offers Associate Membership to relatives of retired UNISON Members at £5.00.

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Joe retires and Dougie becomes a full-timer!

Branch President Joe Galletta has taken early retirement after 27 years as a union activist, while ex Branch Chair Dougie Black has moved on to a UNISON full time officer post.

Presenting Joe with a parting gift and only the second ever Branch life membership, Branch Secretary John Stevenson quipped, "A lot has happened in those 27 years. Computers have been invented, mobile phones, two Council reorganisations, the Berlin Wall has come down, Margaret Thatcher came and went, we saw a year long miners strike and two national strikes by local government workers. Yet in all that time Joe's Hibs never won the Scottish Cup."

On a more serious note John said "It was the merger of the four branches in 1996 that saw Joe come into his own. Joe's sheer trade union commitment, his ability to get alongside people, to respect everyone he meets and give them the benefit of the doubt went a long way to breaking down the barriers that had to go to allow us to move forward.

"There are a million examples of why we will miss Joe's contribution. I'm certainly not able to go into them all here but maybe one sets the tone.

"A childrens unit was facing a major crisis. At a few hours notice we needed someone to go in and represent a large number of staff individually through an investigation. A phone call to Joe saw him drop everything, get a very rapid briefing and then be whisked up to the unit. He managed something that is rare in our business. He won respect from workers and management alike.

"When you are as active in the union over such a long time, people sometimes think that is all you do. Well, it's not and never has been for Joe. OK Hibs is a passion - but so is his family and so is his charitable work.

"I guarantee that Joe gets just as angry, just as passionate about injustice now as he did on his first day as an activist", said John.

Dougie goes full time

In making Dougie Black's presentation, John recalled Dougie had become active in the union after being bored with a quiet life as Chair of the Downes Syndrome Association, playing football and coaching kids' football teams.

"He was looking for new challenges. Like Joe, Easter Road wasn't bringing these," said John.

So Dougie became branch secretary in the Edinburgh NALGO Branch, then chair of the Scottish Local Government Service Group, a key player on the UK Local Government Service Group and a leading negotiator during one of the hardest periods our union had to face.

Dougie took the four branches into merger as interim Branch Secretary. It was an active choice because he was one of the few people that had some level of trust from the four organisations.

"That came from a straightforwardness and always quiet, considered and above all sensible and honest advice", said John.

"Those skills saw him hold together the Scottish Local Government Service Group at a time of infighting, the loss of key activists and when, in my view, people were putting personal agendas before the broad political and trade union agendas we needed to fight cuts in conditions."

John then turned to Dougie's negotiating skills with an unexpected example... "On the national committee you are up and down to London like a yo-yo. There are few opportunities for creature comforts - unless of course you have a bit of imagination.

"This is certainly true of Dougie. He did a deal with an Indian restaurant so that on his way up on the train, he would phone ahead and when the train arrived at Newcastle, there was his curry ready to be handed in the window", said John with not a little awe.

"Our branch could not lose activists of this standing without leaving a huge hole in the branch. But I also know that the skills we have lost will be a huge gain to the branches Dougie works with as full time officer."

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