UNISON City of Edinburgh Branch





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Policy Finder


Jobs and Conditions threat from Single Status - notice from Branch Secretary

Janitors about to strike

Branch sets key policies at Womens Conference


Compulsory redundancies avoided at Valuation Board

On the negotiating line

  • New family Care Leave Deal
  • More agreements in pipeline


Single Status jobs and conditions threat

UNISON rejects 'package'

To all UNISON members City of Edinburgh Council

You will have seen communications from the Chief Executive and stories in the press about possible redundancies if the trade unions do not agree to changes in conditions. The council had insisted that UNISON balloted on a package that would disadvantage some staff. UNISON rejected this because we could not ask one group of members to vote on another group of members' conditions.

The package, as we understand it has now been withdrawn and the threat of redundancies or other cuts remains to finance the nationally agreed reduction in working week from 37 hours to 38 hours for residential and manual staff.

The package the council wanted included:

Car Allowances

Inland Revenue rates of 40p a mile for the first 4,000 miles, 22.5p a mile thereafter(the notional mileage rate that is set by the inland revenue as being the 'true cost' of running a car, albeit somewhat less than the reality) and therefore does not attract tax. There would be no differential between casual and essential users and therefore no lump sum will be paid to essential users. They would get a £1,644 two year buy-out.

Public Holidays

Apart from 4 days at Christmas and New Year, all other public holidays would become part of the normal working week, adding them to annual leave. This will affect the pay of those who have to work current public holidays and UNISON believes it may affect those with child care responsibilities. School holidays will remain the same and so staff will have to compete for those days off.

All staff on to monthly pay

The proposal is that all staff will be paid monthly (third last working day). This will be achieved by offering staff who are currently paid weekly and fortnightly an advance on salary which will be repaid over a year.

In exchange the Council would offer:

All Residential and Manual staff will have their working week reduced from 38 to 37 hours. This is required anyway by April 2002 under the Single Status agreement.

An Employment Break scheme to allow staff extended career breaks under ceratin circumstances. A current deal applies to ex District Council staff but the new scheme would not be the same and so far the Council has given no details.

A Retirement Scheme: Staff in their final year of work to have a phased reduction in their working week (with no loss of pay) in order to prepare them for retirement.

UNISON felt that it would be inappropriate to ballot those who did not have car allowances on whether other staff keep the current scheme. We also felt it would be inappropriate to ask people who would lose no money due to public holiday changes to vote on whether other staff should lose money.

UNISON is preparing a full bulletin for all members.

John Stevenson
Branch Secretary


Janitors about to strike

Janitors in 100 primary schools and community education centres were about to go on strike for six days as we went to press.

"We regret this action but we want the public to understand we have been trying to resolve this with the Council since May 1999", said George Lee (Manual Convenor).

"All janitors want is the same as their colleagues in secondary schools. Currently they are up to £20 a week worse off because the Council will not pay a nationally agreed irregular hours payment to recognise the long 6am to 6pm day.

"This is cheaper than the overtime they would have to pay for janitors coming in at 6am, but they are not even paying that. They can't have it both ways", added George.

Because janitors jobs are so crucial to the school team, the public is bound to be affected. Janitors are responsible for fire alarms, heating, fire escapes, oversee cleaning and ensure safe playgrounds etc.

"We expect schools will close on safety grounds. But we have taken other measures to try to stave off the worst effects", said John Stevenson Branch Secretary. These measures include:

  • giving as early notice as possible of the action
  • exempting all of the special schools from the action (where UNISON janitors work)
  • taking no action in the last week of term to avoid disrupting most pantomimes and other events children will have been planning for.

The initial six day strikes involving 103 staff will affect 67 primary schools, 18 Community Education Centres, Dr Bells and one secondary school. 37 mmembers from the T&G union were also involved. The strikes were due to take place on 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13 December.


Branch sets key policies at Womens Conference

This year's Scottish Women's Conference surpassed all others both in the uplifting contributions of guest speakers and in this Branch setting union policy in several areas.

The morning session was a panel debate focussing on "Women's Voices - Influencing the Policy Agenda" and the conference organisers had certainly ensured all the panel were more than qualified to speak on the subject. Margaret Curran MSP - spoke of the Committees she was involved in (eg the Petitions Committee) and of her concerns that some committees were underused (eg Legislation ).

Her input was certainly interesting and informative. Cathy McCormack - a community activist - outlined the campaign she led which led to her community becoming the first to get European Funding for health and fuel problems in Scotland. A fascinating contribution which certainly demonstrated women can set agendas and achieve results.

Annie Thorne - Chair of the STUC Women's Committee - advised delegates of her committee's work in 3 areas, those being Free School Meals, Seeking proportionality in Public Life (the 50 - 50 Campaign ) and, Equal Pay (Closing the Gap Campaign) which included poverty issues and pensions.

She closed her contribution with the thought-provoking statement - "Women working together can and do change things. Women are able to share and learn together. We have to keep doing it for ourselves !"

Sue Robertson is Convener for Engender. This organisation strives to increase women's participation through the provision of targetted training (eg Political Skills Training). They work closely with the 50 - 50 Campaign and provide a network for women in organisations such as Trade unions. Sue closed her input by pointing out a very cogent and important point - Engender is also about educating men .(Think about it!)

World Trade

The branch delegation spent the lunch-break at a fringe meeting with Anne McKenzie, MP for Maryhill, being the speaker. Her subject was the World Trade Organisation which was a failure in her eyes. One identified failure was that no multi-national company had its H.Q. in the southern hemisphere. The WTO required to be repaired, renewed and reformed if it was to achieve the key aims of Equality and Freedom.

The morning had been an invigorating experience and was a credit to the conference organisers. Of six motions on the afternoon agenda four were from this branch.

Breast Cancer - calling for the collation of support mechanisms put in place by different employers - "We know there are employers out there who care for their employees and who address problems such as Breast Cancer in a manner which is supportive and sensitive to the needs of the individual."

Women in Afghanistan - calling for a campaign to highlight the tragic treatment of women under the Taliban regime - "We demand equality in this country. It would be hypocritical not to make the same demands for our sisters- no matter what country they live in -no matter what religion they follow - no matter the colour of their skin. We must support these women and we must ensure their plight is broadcast far and wide".

Anti-depressants - calling for more control of their use and for more information on side effects to be made available - "We should have an awareness that there are other ways to alleviate stress and depression. Natural medicines, counselling, cognitive therapy, homotherapy - all are viable alternatives to popping pills. "As a union we have a responsibility to our many women members. We should be taking action to highlight these issues and we should be putting pressure on whoever we need to if we are to ensure women can have a choice and that they can make that choice in an informed way - sure of the facts and the possible dangers."

Violence against Women - calling for changes in the legal system and more secure funding for support agencies - " The world is changing. Let's make sure it changes in a way which ensures women are treated with respect and dignity and are truly seen as equals rather than some form of subordinate species. "

All our motions were agreed as Scottish Policy with our motions on Breast Cancer and Antidepressants going to the National Womens Conference as Scottish motions. A very successful afternoon's work.

The conference concluded with a contribution from Nancy Kelly, UNISON Regional Officer, on the need to improve organisation in the workplace if we are to meet head-on future challenges and threats.

A thoroughly exhausted delegation returned to Edinburgh flushed with success and full of ambitions for women in the Branch.

The Branch Delegation was led by Irene Stout, Branch Equalities Officer, ably supported by Agnes Petkevicius, Barbara Foubister (both Education), Dot Paterson, Rose Jackson (both Social Work) and Cath Kane (Voluntary Sector ).


Compulsory redundancies avoided at Valuation Board

Calls from Edinburgh Council officials to immediately cut staffing in the Lothian Valuation Joint Board (LVJB) were defeated at a recent meeting of the board. A simplistic benchmarking exercise produced questionable figures suggesting LVJB was overstaffed compared to other boards in Scotland.

Following detailed discussion with UNISON, the board management accepted that any reduction should be on the basis of in depth research into systems and working practices. A working group has been set up involving staff and the union to carry this investigation forward.

Despite this reprieve, branch officials believe there are likely to be job losses in the longer term.


On the negotiating line

New Family Care Leave Deal

A final draft of the improved Family Care agreement has gone out to stewards for comment. This agreement covers issues like maternity leave, parental and adoption leave, dependant leave etc.

Negotiations are also under way on:

  • Flexitime for part time and job share staff (and changes to the full scheme)
  • Harmonised job sharing scheme
  • Public Interest Disclosures Policy.