UNISONNews December 1999 No.27
Leisure Trust reneges on national pay deal
UNISON is balloting Edinburgh Leisure members and planning legal action after the Trust reneged on the national pay deal.
Staff should have been paid the 3.3% 'no strings' Scottish Local Government settlement but, in the midst of negotiations, bosses imposed a 3% rise.
The Council Trust which runs Edinburgh's sports centres and swimming pools, had offered 3.3% with cuts in public holiday pay or 3% with no strings.
Now the union is set to challenge the decision on two fronts. It is consulting members on taking the case to Employment Tribunals because Transfer Regulations should have maintained the national pay deals when the Council set up the Trust. It is also seeking views on an industrial action ballot.
"The council assured staff that the creation of a Trust would not disadvantage them, but again we find cuts in agreed conditions", said George Lee UNISON Manual Convenor.
"Politicians claim that the Trust is still a council public service and is not privatised, but when it comes to the conditions of their staff, they say they can do nothing about it", he added.
Profit Share News
Branch wins best deal on Millennium pay
The branch has won major improvements over the national deal on Millennium pay for council staff, making Edinburgh's the best in Scotland.
APT&C Convenor John Ross details the payments.
- 31 December 8am - 8pm: £40 on standby, £75 on top of wages if you work or are called out. The national deal has no payments for this period.
- 31 Dec 8pm - midnight on 1 January: The payment will increase to £75 on standby (compared to £50 national deal) and £150 if working or called out (compared to £100 national deal).
Please note that only one payment for the period will be paid per person.
These agreements apply only to City of Edinburgh staff. Members in the voluntary and related sector should check with their stewards as to what is being negotiated.
Voluntary sector pay
John also reminds members in the 200 voluntary and related sector employers the branch covers, to check how the 3.3% pay deal is being implemented.
Stewards should also check any contractual links to City of Edinburgh conditions which would automatically apply the Millennium payments.
Start the new millennium by making sure you have your say in how the branch is run in 2000. The UNISON Annual General Meeting is on:-
Monday 14 February at 6pm
Assembly Rooms, George Street, Edinburgh. It finishes at 8pm giving you plenty time for a Valentine's night out afterwards.
The AGM decides
- your branch officers for 2000
- your policies on pay, conditions and much more
Click here for calling notice and deadlines
Creche, carers allowance signer other facilities on request.
Workers could wait four weeks for Millennium pay
UNISON is trying to change Council plans that could mean weekly and fortnightly paid staff waiting up to four weeks to get Christmas and New Year overtime and Millennium payments.
Pay dates are usually earlier at the festive season but the Council blames Millennium Bug precautions for the later dates in January 2000.
Weekly paid staff will get four weeks on 23 December, with their next pay on 20 January.
Fortnightly will get six weeks on 16 December with the next pay on 27 January.
"This means many workers will get no overtime or Millennium payments for up to four weeks. They won't get the money just at the very time they need it", said John Mulgrew, branch Service Conditions Co-ordinator.
John has written to the Council calling for weekly staff to get three weeks on 23 December with the next pay on 13 January, and fortnightly staff to get two fortnights on 16 December, with the next pay on 13 January.
"This would make it much easier for staff to manage finances", said John.
Alternatively, he is calling for allowances to be made for overtime that will be worked.
"Failing this the union is insisting that the status quo apply", added John.
Proposed Christmas and New Year pay dates
23 December and 27 January (normal date)
23 December and normal thereafter
Three fortnights on 16 December and next pay (wk 44) 27 January.
4 weeks on 23 December next pay 20 January.
Consultation on pay 2000 under way
UNISONScotland has started consulting on next year's pay claim.
A special meeting of UNISON's local government leaders (Service Group Executive) will meet this month to look at branch views and determine the claim.
There is a need for stewards to consult members now so we can mandate our delegates.
Social Work members were due to consider a call for a £1000 flat rate claim as we went to press.
Whatever claim is set, a low paid weighting is likely to be on the agenda again.
"Most importantly, people need to believe in the claim, feel it is achievable and be prepared to fight for it", said Morag Stevenson, branch secretary.
UNISON is campaigning for a return to a free and accessible counselling service for staff.
Before 1996 the previous councils had access to counselling services for drug, alcohol and work related stress and depression, which ensured confidentiality.
The 1996 budget cut withdrew the service but guarantees were given that the Council's occupational health deal with Fife Healthcare would provide similar services.
We now have a case in Social Work where a member sought counselling for an alcohol problem. The Department said yes but dropped the bombshell that the employee would need to pay for it.
"At a time when staffing reductions and budget cuts are bringing on unprecedented levels of problems requiring counselling, we cannot accept staff having to pay for what we view as an obligation for the council", said John Ross UNISON APT&C Convenor.
Look out for more details next month.
Housing staff face piercing comments
Members will be delighted with the prompt action of a "middle-aged housing manager" who has protected tenants from the threatening image of decorative studs displayed on staff eyebrows.
In an unprecedented use of initiative, management has decided the fashions of the 90's will no longer be acceptable in a modern housing environment preparing itself for the new Millennium.
One happy tenant said "I want to thank the Housing Department for creating a safe environment for me to come and pay my rent. I have never actually seen anyone attacked by a pierced eyebrow, but it was sharp of the department to spot the danger".
And one grumpy branch officer quipped,
"There are are far more holes in management's thinking than in the counter staff".
"In its next drive for a corporate image, I understand the Housing Department is to put a tender out for hairdressing services. Staff will be circulated with barber shop pictures to choose from one of four approved styles from the Colinton Crew Cut to the Pilton Pageboy".
Seriously though, the branch is trying to get management to see common sense and has already won concessions for staff wearing studs on religious grounds.
Cautious welcome for nursery report
UNISON has cautiously welcomed a report which gives a commitment to the Workplace Nursery.
The report states, "The Council remains committed to the continuation of this service for the benefit of employees and Council and any change to the way the service is provided in the future will be seamless and continuous from the point of view of the parents, staff and children."
UNISON argued when the budget was set that withdrawing the nursery's subsidy was just a quick fix for the Council's other budgetary difficulties.
It resulted in an immediate increase in fees hitting staff with children at the nursery. Together with parents, UNISON entered crisis talks with management and politicians. We argued that the future of the nursery had to be looked at in much more detail, with issues such as under-occupation and fee structure being properly thought out.
Morag Stevenson, Branch Secretary, said, "It was clear when we started the talks they were prepared to take our concerns and ideas seriously, but there are some areas we should be wary of, such as the proposal to "explore the use of external providers to work in partnership with the Council" but that will be the subject of a further report."
Some plus points are:
- a recognition that the decline in occupancy was a direct result of the 20% April hike in fees
- proposals for a flat rate charge (welcomed by users, depending on what level it is set)
- the possibility of user depts being recharged - Corporate Services currently bears the full burden of the Nursery costs
- possibility of utilising Social Work and Education facilities.
Morag added, "UNISON's aim was to secure the future of the Nursery and that has been accomplished for now but clearly this is something we will need to monitor."
UNISON backs election staff
UNISON called on Edinburgh councillors to back staff and management as the October full council considered a report on problems with the Scottish Parliament and Local Government elections in May 1999.
In a submission to the council, the union says it is "time to learn constructive lessons (a process demonstrated successfully in the European elections) and to avoid the temptation to divert from the real problems by scapegoating management or staff."
UNISON quotes the Association of Electoral Adminstrators' report to the Secretary of State which said "Survival (at the election) was only achieved by considerable, if not unreasonable, personal effort by large numbers of election staff..."
"This sums up the work put in by our members. They feel that their efforts have been ignored by politicians. Worse still, they have been made to feel vulnerable by comments in the press.
"Throughout this they have appreciated the position taken by senior council management in trying to explain the difficulties staff faced", said John Stevenson, branch vice-chair.
The branch draws on three more points made by the Association of Electoral Administrators. The urgent need for a review of election funding; a well funded training programme; and the problems of long overnight counts due to proportional representation, which puts pressure on staff who have to work as normal the following day.
Election report: UNISON's submission to the Council
UNISON represents most of the staff involved in the organisation of elections.
They faced an unprecedented task on 6/7 May 1999 due to a number of factors, some specific to Edinburgh, which are outlined in the Chief Executive's report.
Despite their efforts, staff have been made to feel extremely vulnerable due to nature of recent press comments and speculation, and the absence of public recognition by politicians of the task they had to undertake in particularly difficult circumstances.
We would draw your attention to some of the factors identified by the Association of Electoral Administrators which include:-
"Survival was only achieved by considerable, if not unreasonable, personal effort by large numbers of election staff and by some degree of luck"
There is an urgent need for a review of election funding.
There is a need for a well funded training programme.
The problems associated with long counts due to PR when many casual and part-time staff have to work as normal the following day.
The Council is already aware of the large absentee rate and as part of its investigation it may be well advised to look at the pressures that then fall on to Council staff at all levels.
UNISON appreciates the position of Senior Council Management in seeking to explain the difficulties staff faced amidst ever more hysterical press coverage and political comment. It is fair to say that the staff have perceived some politicians as distancing themselves from the problem, concentrating more on blame than support.
Our members would fully support a reasoned national inquiry into the elections.
Our members strongly feel that this is a time to learn constructive lessons (a process demonstrated successfully in the European elections) and to avoid the temptation to divert from the real problems by scapegoating management or staff.
One person's savings, another's pay rise?
Members will have seen press reports that the Director of Housing has seen his salary increase from £70,000 to £76,000.
This at a time when housing stock is decreasing and the Council is considering transfers to housing associations.
It is not for the union to say whether or not this is justified, but it is strange this pay award goes through at the same time as low paid workers in mail rooms and security are seeing their paltry earnings further reduced with contractual overtime being withdrawn.
This action is justified by the council as giving best value at a price which achieves savings.
Is it a case of one person's savings is another person's pay increase?
When can you say what you want then?
The Council does not just own your labour while at work, it has a say in your mind when you are away from work according to a chief executive memo, following the disciplining of a member of staff who spoke to the media during a visit by Education Secretary David Blunket.
Even if you are not paid over lunchtime (ie your own time) you are apparently still under council control in what you say or do.
You apparently do not switch between being an employee and not being an employee because you are not getting paid, so careful what you say or do after work!
Obviously UNISON accepts that some issues outside work will have a bearing on employment, but blanket statements like this are unacceptable and officers are taking the matter up with the council.
The question that must be asked of course, is if the staff member had praised the government rather that criticising it on PFI (UNISON policy by the way), would all this stramash have come about?
Branch extends sign language interpretation service
Equalities Officer IRENE STOUT
outlines the signing services available in the branch - and the wide range of services provided by the Edinburgh & East of Scotland Deaf Society Communication Support Unit.
Members with hearing difficulties should be aware that a signing service is available over all of the branch's activities, not just at meetings.
Members will recognise the excellent service provided by sign language interpreters at branch meetings.
Their presence is vital if the branch is to ensure the active participation of members with hearing difficulties.
And this year we have extended the availability of signers to committee meetings.
The offer has already been taken up by the Equalities Committee and the Disabled Members self organised group.
Our signers are employees of Edinburgh and East of Scotland Deaf Society and are based in the Communication Support Unit.
They provide assistance in many ways.
Their services can be used at interviews, medical appointments, training courses - even social events. In fact they can assist you anywhere, anytime.
As well as signing they can provide for lipspeaking, deaf-blind interpreting, note-taking and speech to text transcription.
Based at 49 Albany Street (Tel 0131 556 3128) the Communication Support Unit can be contacted during working hours.
Training equality for manual workers
Question: When is an equal opportunities employer not equal?
Answer: When it comes to training opportunities for manual workers in the City of Edinburgh Council.
Facts: A manual worker wished to develop his career with the council and successfully passed an entry course to move on to an HNC. Member requests council support in paying course fees and granting day release.
First response from management: Manual workers don't get day release.
Second response: Ok we will pay half the fees and give you unpaid day release. Cost to worker, £2,250, cost to council £150.
UNISON is not accepting this and will be pursuing a grievance. Branch Officer John Ross is also demanding a radical rethink of access to training.
"We have to ensure the Single Status deal on conditions really means single status and all workers are treated equally", said John.
Branch acts on violence to staff
A Council report has confirmed what UNISON had been saying, violence to Social Work staff, especially in residential units, is on the increase.
Officers and stewards had already been planning strategies to deal with this as well as tackling the 'cinderella service' image of residential work.
Better conditions and status, more training and pressure to make sure residential workers are not forgotten in the Edinburgh Inquiry implementation are all part of the UNISON agenda.
UNISON is also pushing for more support from management when uncorroborated allegations are made against staff.
Edinburgh Leisure Profit Share
UNISON pressure means Edinburgh Leisure employees should soon get a profit share payment.
The old Sport & Leisure DSO used to have a profit share scheme. When the 1997/98 audit is completed, Edinburgh Leisure employees should now get their part of the profit share.
Is the person next to you a member?
The successes on this page are just some of reasons why everyone at your workplace should be in UNISON.
The union is only as strong as its members - our ability to protect you depends on how many members we have.
Give this to a colleague who isn't in the union. And remind them about who negotiated the procedures that protect them in the workplace.
Ask them whether they would have got any pay rises without the union?
Remind them about...
- representation in grievances, gradings, disciplinaries, health & safety
- free legal help on work issues and free or cheaper advice on many others
- mortgage discounts
- 20% off car breakdown cover
- holiday and insurance deals and much more
Phone 0131 220 5655 to join. You can also join by clicking here.
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UNISON is the first union to give free internet access to its members through unisonfree.net.
Free access, free email address, free web space to start your own site. It is for members only and you will need your membership number (contact 220 5655 if you've lost yours),
Sorry, sessional staff
The last issue reported that the new Working Time Directive had brought an unexpected leave boost for sessional staff in Education.
The story should have referred only to supply sessional staff. Most sessional staff already have paid leave and that is reflected in the number of weeks they are paid for.
Sorry for any confusion.
The views expressed in UNISON News are not necessarily those of UNISON City of Edinburgh Branch or the union.
All articles/comments to John Stevenson, Communications Officer at 0131 220 5655
P&P by UNISON City of Edinburgh Local Government & Related Sectors Branch, 23 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EN
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