nurses fight on through the summer
Busloads of nursery nurses
from Edinburgh joined a national demonstration in Glasgow in June, marking the
first phase of action for a pay and grading claim. Now the fight goes on through
Barbara Foubister, Edinburgh UNISON Nursery Nurse
steward said, "CoSLA have said the way forward is the job evaluation process.
But at the same time they have asked unions to put the start date off until 2004.
In Edinburgh it looks like some time never.
"It is just another
attempt to fob off nursery nurses who have been waiting 15 years. We want at least
an interim payment now".
National President Dave Anderson,
in his first official engagement as president, put it simply, "All they want is
a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. That's not too much to ask".
Also there was UNISON Scottish Secretary, Matt Smith, underlining the level of
national support. Matt Smith said: "The first wave of action has demonstrated
that the nursery nurses are dedicated, hardworking and conscientious professionals.
"But they will pursue their re-grading claim until they gain
recognition for their professional status and secure fair pay".
"UNISON has been overwhelmed by the public support for nursery nurses. It's a
shame COSLA is failing to recognise this and moving to end the dispute".
Joe Di Paola, UNISON's Scottish Local Government Organiser, said "We've had six
weeks of very solid action. The nursery nurses are absolutely determined to win
There has been confusion about Edinburgh's Social
Work nursery nurses who are on a separate national agreement. But many came out
to the demonstrations.
Nursery Nurses in ordinary nursery
schools and classes are only on £13,800 at the top of their grade. They have been
taking action since May for a deal to recognise their two-year training and the
host of additional duties they have taken on. Their last review was 15 years ago.
will they wake up to the social work crisis?
is stepping up the fight to get the Council and CoSLA to wake up to the the crisis
in Social Work resources, recruitment and retention.
UNISON working group is already looking at a series of claims after lobbying CoSLA
and the Scottish Parliament, and has published a briefing "The Way Forward for
Scotland's Social Work".
As a result of pressure from our
branch CoSLA set up a working party to bring forward solutions.
were heightened when Edinburgh Councillor Kingsley Thomas was delegated to lead
the working party. We should not have set our expectations too high.
usual a CoSLA Working Group has brought forward a very wordy report highlighting
the problems but, instead of proposing measures to resolve the crisis, they pass
it to the Scottish Executive saying it is their fault for underfunding social
Edinburgh then stands still waiting for something
to happen. Other councils are more proactive.
Glasgow is giving
extra increments to staff, West Lothian has 'golden hellos', Midlothian is giving
more money to attract experienced staff, Clackmannashire is offering higher grades
and South Lanarkshire is offering inducements, to name just a few.
add insult to injury we now find a report was submitted to the Chief Executive's
Management Team on 2 July without prior consultation with the unions.
report drafted by the Director of Social Work appears to have proposed "measures
to address the difficulties in the recruitment and retention of social workers
and the concerns expressed in relation to the proposed amendments to the provisions
relating to car use" (quote from the minutes of the meeting ).
did the members of the Management Team decide? "To note the measures.... and that
the Directors of Corporate Services and Social Work discuss the proposed measures
Meanwhile the rest of the world is taking action
to address the crisis.
Branch Officers have tried to be positive
and have worked with management to bring forward measures. "But despite that work,
we have seen nothing positive coming from councillors or the Chief Executive's
Management Team", said Lyn Williams, Branch service conditions officer.
have now lost patience and there is a range of action we need to consider. We
have called branch officers and stewards together to work out a strategy to get
Meanwhile we have another example of Edinburgh
being "the leading authority in Scotland" (Council Leader Donald Anderson's words,
The Lamming Report makes it clear that the Chief
Executive and councillors cannot duck their responsibilities if something goes
wrong due to lack of staffing and resources.
It is time they
woke up to the issues, especially when the problems are obvious to everybody -
and staff at the sharp end are left wondering if they are living in the real world.
Full details of UNISON's briefing are at www.unison-scotland.org.uk/socialwork.
it quiet, but we won!
Members will have read of the
tribunal judgement that our colleague, Gillian Walker, had been forced out of
her job in Social Work through harassment by a manager.
was awarded a five figure compensation amount and has now found employment elsewhere.
Since winning Gillian's case we have settled claims against
two other departments with members awarded significant compensation.
we cannot give you details as part of the settlement agreement was a confidentiality
That basically means management accept they got it
wrong but we are not to tell anyone.
Tribunals do not suit
every case but where they do the Branch will not flinch from going down that path.
But in the words of the council - let's keep that confidential!
Status crumbles as council dodges on deal
happened to the deal on job evaluation?
of 1st April 2004 for completion of the Single Status Job Evaluation exercise
will not be met.
Members will remember the original target
date was 1 April 2002 but this was extended at the request of the employers who
had underestimated the scale of the exercise.
calls for more resources to be committed to the exercise which underpins the whole
Single Status Agreement, the authority has failed to make any progress apart from
looking at a sample 41 posts across the authority.
that sample it is estimated the wage-bill will increase by nearly £ 17.5 million.
The officials' reaction is not to accept this is proof they have been underpaying
many jobs. No - the response is we cannot afford to implement the National Job
Evaluation Scheme. Alternatively, implement it and accept 600 - 800 jobs going
down the road.
A carrot has been dangled in the form of a
proposed 35 hour week for all staff - if they accept personal salary protection
will only last three years as opposed to the current provision which remains in
place until such times as a member leaves their job.
all of a micro-second for the Branch Committee to reject that one.
appears Single Status is all about us giving away conditions and the employer
reneging on their side of the bargain", said John Ross, Service Conditions Convenor.
Discussions are ongoing but Branch Officers will be raising
this situation at the September meeting of the Scottish Local Government Sector
domestic violence deal
Equalities Officer, Irene Stout,
has called on the council to open talks on updating the policy on Domestic Violence.
The policy, agreed in the old District Council, was the first
of its kind in Britain when it was introduced in 1994 and provided support mechanisms
for staff who were victims of Domestic Violence.
"After nearly 10 years it is time we updated the agreement to ensure it applies
to all staff. It is ridiculous that it only applies to staff who were previously
employed by the District Council."
Partnership & Single Shared Assessment
and Housing stewards from our branch continue to meet with reps from UNISON health
branches and the RCN, and with the joint management side to progress the Local
Partnership Agreement and Single Shared Assessment.
with concerns should contact Rab Brown in Housing or Kirtsen Hey via the branch
OT steward Kirsten Hey will be attending
meetings with the Mobility Centre at the Astley Ainslie Hospital to discuss the
possibility of Social Work OTs being able to make direct referrals for wheelchair
assessments, rather than all referrals having to go via GPs.
OTs who wish to discuss this with her should phone her before 29 July on 226 6731.
points for learning
Ever felt that training and promotion
are not for you because of the paperwork?
Do you feel that
your reading and writing skills might let you down?
this is for you! The Workers Educational Organisation (WEA) is already working
with a couple of departments in the Council with staff who want to brush up their
everyday reading and writing skills to help them move on in work and their personal
Courses are FREE and in work time and planned around
what YOU want to learn.
If you want to find out more, you
can ring Vickie Hobson at the WEA and arrange to have a confidential chat with
her - 225 7170.
This is a great opportunity - UNISON thinks
Don't just GET BY at work - take this chance and GET
does Conference do?
UNISON's 10th anniversary National
Conference in Brighton this June was dominated by the debate on our political
funds. Edinburgh played a major part in that debate and on Tuition Fees and Child
Our policy set last year brought the
motion on ring fencing of local government funding and the pensions policy we
set last year was built on in the first debate of the week.
Conference is UNISON's supreme policy making body. Meeting once a year, it comprises
around 2,000 delegates from every branch, from regions, service groups and self
There are two days dedicated to Local Government
alone, then four days when the whole union comes together.
With separate Scottish bargaining,
this is becoming less and less relevant to us and we need to address the problem.
Scottish delegates met the Standing Orders Committee to try to resolve this but
were told it would need a rule change.
Hopefully talks will
get closer to solving the problem without the need for that.
days is a long time away, especially for people with child care responsibilities
- even though there is an excellent creche. (The highlight of the week is the
final day performance by the children).
We voted this year
to bring forward plans to separate Local Government from the main Conference,
partly because of the time commitment, but also to fit in better with Government
There were also early signs of a debate
on holding Conference every two years. Edinburgh opposes this but would back a
more streamlined conference.
delegation is bound by the policies members set at our AGM and the Branch Committee
which has reps from all stewards committees.
goes over the agenda and makes recommendations to the Branch Committee.
year we had motions on Pensions, Conference Locations and Burma with amendments
on the Political Fund, Tuition Fees and Fair Trade.
nine delegates elected on the basis of fair representation and proportionality.
This means we must have more women than men, a balance of white-collar and manual
and a low paid woman on the delegation. We also give priority to a first-time
This year, the National Executive also insisted
on a young member rep. We had opposed this because we did not believe there were
obstacles to young members getting involved - especially since the young members
officer post is vacant.
The delegation is elected by the Branch
Committee. This year the team was John Stevenson, Irene Stout, Alison Gowrie,
Amanda Kerr, Kevin Duguid, Wattie Weir, Dot Paterson and Rose Jackson. The young
member place was vacant.
Through the week, the delegation
played key roles in debates (see reports in this issue) and just as important,
made links with other activists and branches around the country, listening, learning
and promoting our policies.
was there a political fund review?
The review came
from a Conference decision in 2001 to look at the workings and the effectiveness
of the political fund.
The Branch consulted stewards and members
via special bulletins and a series of articles in the branch magazine.
AGM referred motions on the fund to the Branch Committee and, after a wide debate,
we backed the unique choice UNISON members have in their political funds but also
put forward an amendment to increase delegate structures in the affiliated fund
and make it more 'member-led'.
Political funds explained
UNISON has a two-part political fund and members can choose
to join one, both or none. Only members of the affiliated fund can make decisions
about the fund.
Both funds were set up by ballot of the membership
when UNISON was formed and need to be confirmed by ballot again in 2005.
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 is the money paid by Affiliated Fund
General Political Fund
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 we would not be able to campaign on 'political' issues without this
fund. This fund cannot be used for donations to political parties but is often
used to sponsor research for MPs on issues of interest to UNISON.
keeps Labour Link and vows to reclaim party
overwhelmingly backed a report on the review of UNISON's Labour Link, amended
by Edinburgh Branch to create more accountability and democracy in the fund.
means members will retain their unique choice to pay into the Labour affiliated
fund, a non-affiliated political fund or no fund at all.
John Stevenson urged Conference to back the report but also to support our plans
for a more 'member-led' political fund in an amendment put together by Matthew
Crichton, Branch APF Officer.
"We've had the review - we've
got the result - now it's time to progress it forward to the next step", said
John looked back to UNISON's first Conference 10 years
ago. "Trust seemed to be lost for a while - trust lost because sadly of some self
interest, but also lost because of fear that long held political links were at
risk of hijack.
"Then we came of age. We came of age in my
view, when we united around that key phrase - a membership led union", said John.
"This amendment asks that this UNISON ethos is taken fully
on board in such a crucial part of UNISON, its affiliated political fund. It is
no more than the APF itself is demanding in the Labour Party", he added.
General Secretary Dave Prentis gave a clear
pledge that it was time to reclaim our Labour Party. Referring to the 2001 debate
on the future of the political funds, Dave said, "Your anger struck a chord with
me. Two years on and it's no longer about a protest vote. Like it or not, those
consulted supported the original structure.
"Today you have
the power, the means to make a difference. If we weaken our debate in the Labour
Party, we weaken our voice. Weaken the link and you weaken our union!"
not remove the most effective means we have to translate those policies, your
vision, into tangible improvements for those we represent."
had already pledged to work closely with the new union leaders to build a common
agenda and to see "how we can reclaim our party".
Mo Baines , welcoming our 'helpful' amendment, slammed the others as 'weapons
of mass distraction". Conference agreed and threw out an amendment calling for
the review to go on even longer and one from Glasgow calling for a ballot and
a third fund to back other candidates.
The Glasgow City plan
could have left UNISON backing candidates against each other and Bill King of
Cymru/Wales brought laughter with his description of it being a case of "the affiliated
fund, the general fund and the lost deposit fund".
Health's Karie Murphy rounded on the amendment as dishonest and "fundamentally
wrong". There would be a ballot of members in any case in 2005, and it was simplistic
to talk about giving money to other parties.
policy to reject the separatist agenda. So we would not be able to support the
SNP or the Greens, but we could support the Conservative & Unionist Party. Our
members would freak!"
Echoing John's call to 'separate party
and government', Karie said, "The Government does deserve a doing, the fight is
with the Government not with the Labour Party."
John Rogers added a light touch to the debate. "Like the NEC, we are supporting
Edinburgh's amendment with qualifications. Except our qualifications are that
we're not supporting the motion!"
John Stevenson summed up
the purpose of the Edinburgh amendment, "This will address some of the suspicion,
whether that is justified or not, some of the mistrust, whether that is justified
or not - but mainly to build confidence in our APF, to give it the impetus to
be inclusive and to allow it to show that it and its membership are an inextricable
part of UNISON, sharing, promoting and most of all, celebrating UNISON's values.
"That way we will have the strongest, the most authoritative
and - most of all - the most representative voice to progress our policies in
the political arena".
a right, not a privilege
backed opposition to government proposals for top-up fees for higher education
Edinburgh's amendment on the Scottish situation
was part of the composite and the branch's Kevin Duguid told Conference,
government's battle cry used to be "Education, Education, Education - it is now
"Reform, Reform, Reform".
"Let's reclaim that original battle
cry and let's educate this government that reform doesn't mean cuts in terms and
conditions", said Kevin.
"Educate them that reform doesn't
mean PFI, PPP and privatisation.
"Educate them that reform
doesn't mean education becomes a privilege rather than a right".
had warmed up Conference and won a laugh with a confession, "It seems like only
yesterday I was a student... Well, Conference, as you can see that was not only
Scotland's Graham Carswell from the national young
members' forum said a two-tier higher education system would be created, saddling
students with "astronomical" levels of debt. He added that education was "a right,
not a privilege".
Link to earnings must be reinstated
In the past five
years three quarters of final salary pension schemes had been closed.
Graham Carswell (Young Members and Scottish Electricity) called for the restoration
of the link between earnings and the state pension, Vice President Pauline Thorne
warned that public sector schemes were also under review.
But while resolving to campaign vigorously against any changes, Conference did
not prioritise an Edinburgh motion calling for industrial action if necessary.
The Pickering report, which the government intends to implement
in a modified form, says that the age at which a non-reduced pension is available
should go up from 60 to 65 years.
Veteran Scottish delegate
Jim McDougal of Doncaster Health also reminded us that the proposals include raising
the pension unit from 1/80 to 1/100.
What this means, said
Jim, is that 50 years of work is required for a full pension and not the present
In the next motion on pensions, Julia McIlhatton Lanarkshire
Primary Care demanded full compensation for part time workers who had been denied
the right to pension schemes and conference backed her overwhelmingly.
Government Conference demanded that all workers providing local government
services should have a decent pension through the local government pension scheme.
It condemned plans to 'simplify' the scheme as an attempt to reduce costs for
the employers at the expense of the employees.
pay needed to tackle Social Work crisis
and retention in Social Work can only be tackled through better pay and efforts
to combat the negative public perception, Conference was told.
"We need to involve branches in the campaign to improve the pay and status of
all social work staff", said Stephanie Herd, Scottish Local Government Chair.
Scottish Region and Glasgow City Branch amendments to the
main motion served to strengthen and extend the content.
. extra money to be made available for employers
to increase wage levels, employ more staff and provide training opportunities
for all grades of staff
. funding at levels which ensure that
external providers offer pay and conditions which are no worse than those used
by local authorities.
Scotland already has a major campaign
on these issues with a series of local claims in the absence of any move from
CoSLA for a national deal.
Government in brief
Lessons from the 2002/03 Pay
Scottish delegates reminded Conference that in fact
the first national dispute took place three years ago in Scotland and that similar
lessons had been learned - perhaps our counterparts should have read our report.
However, the report may be useful as Scotland starts its consultation on the Scottish
Pay Claim for 2004 and beyond!
End Ring Fencing of Local
This motion, started off by Edinburgh
last year, was carried.
Race integral to bargaining
called for race issues as an integral part of the bargaining agenda in the sector.
Modernising Public Services
a call for - increases in funding for local services - massive investment in workforce
training - an end to the low pay culture in public services
award for branch magazine
City of Edinburgh Branch
has again won a prize for our branch magazine, though only a merit award this
year. Still, that makes an award almost every year since UNISON's inception, with
the branch winning best website and best magazine in the past.
other prizes went to Scotland with Jane Aitchison (South Lanarkshire) winning
a highly commended (ie second) in the magazine section.
Kate Ramsden (an ex Edinburgh member) won runner-up for the best campaign in the
These important awards (and the cash prizes
that come to the branches) were presented in front of the full National Conference
for the first time this year.
call to fight AIDS crisis
From report on UNISON
Conference was brought to a hush hearing a vivid
description of "the ferocious and unrelenting attack" which the HIV/AIDS pandemic
is waging on the poorest in Africa.
United Nations special
envoy on HIV/AIDS Stephen Lewis told delegates: "I feel an absolute ideological
similarity with the trade union movement. You are people who care passionately
about the world beyond your workplaces. How can I tell you what is happening?"
He began with a story of visiting a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working
with people with AIDS in Namibia.
"At the back were men making
tiny papier mache coffins for infants. And their faces held a terrible mixture
of pride in their work and confusion at what they were doing. 'We just can't keep
up,' they told me."
Some 100 million are expected to die before
the pandemic runs its course. "This represents a human toll that it is beyond
the capacity of the human mind to imagine."
It means millions
of orphans throughout Africa. It means families headed by children because they
are all that is left. It means children go untaught in Zambia because teachers
are dying of AIDS faster than their replacements can be trained. It also means
crops unplanted or unharvested because the women who do the agricultural work
"I admit to bewilderment and to rage," he said.
"I don't understand why the world is letting this happen. There is no reason for
it. We know how to run prevention campaigns. We know how to provide care and we
have the medication to treat those who are infected for as little as $300 a year.
What we simply don't have is the resources."
He accused the
governments of the western world of "a protracted period of criminal negligence"
in allowing the pandemic to rage unchecked.
"I simply don't
know what in God's name explains the behaviour of the world leaders who refuse
to respond," he said.
He gave UNISON delegates six ways to
help: by pressing the case through our political contacts; in supporting fraternal
unions' work in Africa; helping fraternal unions negotiate healthcare packages
with employers; providing advice on infrastructure; working directly with a couple
of particular countries and supporting the NGOs in their work.
many delegates close to tears, he ended with a simple call. "Involve yourselves."
An Edinburgh amendment means that the National
Executive Council will have to oblige caterers at UNISON events to provide at
least one fair-traded tea or coffee. All tea and coffee used in union headquarters/the
national office is to be fairly traded and branches and regions are also to use
fairly traded tea and coffee wherever feasible.
for Self organised groups
UNISON is to campaign with employers
and ACAS for time-off for self organised group activities.
members on NEC
Conference asked for a rule change to be brought
forward for a Young Members NEC seat.
guidance on child protection laws
Conference demanded guidance
for branches dealing with a host of legislation covering the protection of children.
John Stevenson spoke in the debate to ensure the Scottish dimension was recognised.
"UNISON, through the STUC, has had a major part to play in achieving significant
changes in the Scottish Child Protection Act ", said John.
laughter, he noted, "When we gave evidence to the Parliament Committee, every
MSP except two had to declare an interest that they were a UNISON member. The
two exceptions were one who was a in a teaching union and the other who felt the
need to be included by declaring his wife was a UNISON member!"
recall saying to the Parliamentary Committee - and I believe this is true - that
our members are willing to give up some of their civil rights to protect children
- but only if the protective measures are seen to be fair and transparent."
the biggest bit of that transparency is employers taking their responsibility.
John brought applause from delegates when he said "if an unqualified
young person is left with sole responsibility for six older teenagers and one
of them comes to harm, where is the real responsibility for that? - not with the
staff member, but with the employers who allowed that unacceptable position to
Agencies need to be brought to account as well as
individuals in this legislation that can debar people from jobs if they have 'harmed'
UNISON has convinced the Scottish Parliament of that
problem and there will be an employment law specialist overseeing the measures
and employers' actions and procedures will be under scrutiny too when someone
for freedom and justice in Burma
President Nancy Coull made
a special statement to Conference on 19 June about the crisis in Burma, pledging
UNISON's support to the sanctions campaign.
an Emergency motion from Edinburgh and a call for Aung San Suu Kyi - democratically
elected president kept out of office by the junta - to be given honorary UNISON
Conference heard Aung San Suu Kyi, had been arrested
again by the junta, heralding a sinister new crisis in the country.
Suu Kyi's arrest, National League for Democracy (NLD) offices had been closed
and at least four died in clashes with pro-junta crowds.
Kyi was arrested despite local abbots flanking her in support and protection.
This is the third time the Nobel Peace Laureate has been detained.
are hoping her detention is temporary, unlike her last period of house arrest
which lasted 19 months.
In late May, the NLD marked the 13th
anniversary of its landslide 1990 election victory, which was never recognised
by the military government.
"The NLD must stand up firmly
to achieve the result of the elections of 1990. To ignore the result of the 1990
elections is to have total disrespect for the people and is also an insult to
the people," said Suu Kyi in the strongest statement she had made since her release
from house arrest.
Burma is notorious for forced labour, child
labour, trafficking in prostitution and as the world's largest producer of illegal
opium. According to UN estimates there are 50,000 child soldiers in Burma, more
than any other country.
An Amnesty International report on
Burma's 2002 human rights record said, "Extra-judicial executions continued to
be reported in most of the seven ethnic minority states."
About 1,300 political prisoners remain in jail.
let's set the political agenda
Wednesday saw the best of Conference
with a real debate on the political funds. But after that, it did get a wee bit
However, the passion of Stephen Lewis' contribution
as UN special envoy on HIV/AIDS will live with many of us for a long time. Edinburgh
had key roles in the political fund debate and Tuition Fees debates.
importantly, policies we had set before on Pensions and Ring Fencing of local
government funding were also taken a step forward.
a branch our size, we should be setting even more policies and we need to think
about that throughout the year.
As usual Scotland played a
major part in all the big debates. Glasgow and NEC member Jane Carolan, Scottish
Convenor Mike Kirby and Treasurer Pat Rowland to name just a few.
political fund debate was on object lesson on how important organisation is. When
Conference takes control itself things go much better.
Prentis has fair risen to the general secretary role as he laid down important
pointers for our future and most important of all, laid down our uncompromising
fight against racism.
As the country's biggest union, we have
taken the lead in setting the public service agenda. We have lots to be proud
of over the last 10 years. Not least should be the pride in merging three cultures
into a new progressive union.
That took perseverance, patience,
organisation and trust - but it could not have been achieved without the goodwill
and commitment of activists.
Now we've set the public services
agenda, we need to set the political agenda. There was a clear signal from the
leadership that this is exactly what we are going to do.
have so much untapped influence in the Labour Party. Hopefully the call for us
to get involved locally and push for UNISON's policies in the party will see that
influence bring results.
This is my 20th conference. They
always infuriate me, they always surprise me, they always bore me, they always
But they also offer the opportunity to meet fellow
activists from around the country - and around the world - to listen, to learn,
to debate, and most of all to organise.
Conference is not
a spectator sport. It needs us to organise and take responsibility for it - that's
when it works best.
This conference, despite the light agenda,
despite the usual political posturing and despite the occasional rogue decision,
does seem to have reflected a union with a new confidence, a new self-assurance
that will make the year ahead fascinating - or am I just an old romantic?