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
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.
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 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
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.
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."
Back to Headlines
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
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
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/
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
"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
UNISON wins safeguards in move to Contact
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
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".
Ballot will follow talks on library weekend
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
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.
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
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".
UNISON's Political Funds Review finally
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
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
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
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
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
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
2. A new set of measures should be put in place to encourage
members to make speedy and informed choices on their political
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.
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
- 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
- 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
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 cannot be used for donations to any political
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
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
"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.
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
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.
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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
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
See the full statement at http://www.unison.org.uk/international/iraq.asp
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
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.
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",
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
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
"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."