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July and 16 August 2000 No 30/31 Pay Specials

 Ballot votes YES for action - First strike day 29 August
Call a workplace meeting now! Branch Officers will attend to answer questions. Call 0131 220 5655
 * Strike: Your questions answered  

  * Talks were not on offer

* Ballot problems?  * Press coverage
 * Take a stand against 2.5% insult  * Pay facts
 * Modest and fair pay claim  * Why we must make the action work
 * Exemptions and life and limb cover  * Hardship Fund
  * Voluntary Sector Pay Crisis  * Is the person next to you a member?
* Free Internet with UNISON  * About UNISONNews
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Ballot votes YES for action
First strike day 29 August

For the first time in eleven years, council staff have voted for strike action to win a decent pay offer.

As we went to press, national leaders were planning the first strike day for 29 August, although this had yet to be fully confirmed.

"Our members have been left with no choice. They do not want to strike but what can they do when they are offered 2.5%, half the average settlement this year in the public and private sectors?", said Dougie Black, branch secretary and national negotiator.

"For five out of the last six years we have had pay cuts with settlements falling below inflation. This year the offer is over 2% lower than the top independent projected inflation figure.

"Scottish council staff are being paid on average £17.50 a week less than their English counterpart. This offer was never a serious attempt to address pay, it was an attempt to rub council staff's noses in the dirt", said John Stevenson, branch vice chair.

The one day stoppage by all staff on 29 August will be followed by all staff striking for a further two days and three days (dates to follow - it is hoped to link them with a meeting of the employers to exert maximum pressure) It will also be backed up by indefinite strike of selected groups of staff.

Stewards Meeting

An Edinburgh stewards meeting on 16 August heard reports from around departments.

Social Work's Steve Coulson called on stewards to ensure they get out and explain the issues to members, stressing the need for workplace meetings.

Matthew Crighton (City Development) called for an up-beat response. "We have a positive result and we need to build on that to win a fair deal".

Voicing the concern of many members, Mark Kinghorn (Social Work) looked for assurances that the campaign would be for the full 5%.

"We are fighting for the full 5% or £500 and a £5 minimum wage and the employers are well aware of that", said Dougie Black.

"But if a substantial improvement that falls short of that is offered, we have a duty to put that to members to let them decide".

"But let us be absolutely clear. If we do not deliver wholeheartedly on this action, if we do not show the employers we are not prepared to settle for 2.5%, we will face enormous problems not just on pay, but on a whole range of conditions in the months and years to come."

UNISON will continue to push the employers to negotiate and come up with a decent offer to avoid the need for action. But so far the employers will not talk.

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 Talks were not on offer

As in any dispute there will be bulletins from management and press stories that serve to undermine our case for fair pay.

Everybody has a right to their view, but make sure you check the facts with your steward or the branch office.

A recent example was a letter to all staff from the Chief Executive that wrongly said the council was ready to talk to avoid a strike.

This has already been acknowledged by the council as an 'error'.

There was NO offer of talks. There could be no talks at local level because it is a Scottish dispute and the council is part of the Scottish employers.

There is NO offer of talks at Scottish level which is precisely the reason why the ballot went ahead.

If we can get the employers to talk, rest assured we will!

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Strike: Your questions answered

What is the strike plan?
As we went to press the plan was for a one day strike on 29 August followed by two days and then three days, backed up by all-out action by selected groups.

The timing of the next two days has not yet been decided but it is hoped to have it in a different pay cycle and probably around 13/14 September to coincide with a meeting of the employers.

Who will be on strike?
Every UNISON member in the council except craft workers and chief officers who have separate pay bargaining.

What if I voted No?
Members were balloted on whether they were prepared to be instructed to strike. The majority voted for strike so veryone is bound by that decision. Obviously if the vote had gone the other way, everyone would have been expected not to strike.

Is anyone exempt?
Members in their last year before retirement and pregnant members are exempt because of the effects on pensions and maternity conditions. They are exempt on the understanding that they get a form from the branch office and donate to the hardship fund for other members losing pay.

All other members will be on strike unless there are 'life and limb' exemptions

Life & Limb exemptions
Management will request life and limb cover and the union will respond by exempting some members.

However, this will only be for real life and limb issues, not just to avoid inconvenience. The same rules about donating pay stand.

What is the effect on superannuation?
Very little unless you are in your last year of service. Details will follow.

Do I get strike pay?
After 3 days on strike you qualify for strike pay for the whole strike at £12.50 per day. Extra top ups for people with particular difficulties will come from the hardship fund.

How do I apply to the hardship fund?
Phone the branch office for a form or ask your steward.

What if I'm a voluntary sector or craft worker?
You will not be on strike and you will not be picketed. It would be good however if you could make a donation to the hardship fund.

Am I expected to picket?
It would be good if you could. Pickets are there to:

  • peacefully persuade others to honour the strike vote
  • gather information to feed into the branch so we know what's happening
  • show the public what is happening
  • we will provide leaflets for pickets to hand out to workers and the public.

Is the ballot result enough to call a strike?
Yes. Obviously we would have preferred a bigger return but you cannot count people who did not vote.

Most Council elections attract a much lower turnout than this ballot but you don't hear councillors saying there shouldn't be a council!

Will we win?
If we act together, of course we will!

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Press coverage

The press likes conflict and we do not always get the best deal from them. But we will be working to make sure we get as wide a coverage as possible, and we need your help.

Please let us know of human interest stories from your workplace.

Would service users be prepared to back us?

Are there effects the public should know about?

Are there members who will be prepared to give their view to the press?

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 Ballot problems?

Everything possible was done to ensure all members got a ballot paper.

A paper was sent out for every single member but we know there were some problems because people had changed address.

But we are now also hearing that some members had a problem with the helpline.

If you did, or if you had another problem, please let us know so we can investigate and put it right.

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 Pay facts

The Claim
Our claim is for 5% or £500 (whichever is the greater) and a £5 per hour minimum rate.

Pay Cut
Independent forecasts for inflation in 2000 range from 3% to 4.6%, almost double the offer - that makes it a pay cut!

Average rises 5.1%
Average earnings are growing at 5.1% overall, almost double what we are being offered

Private and Public get more
In May, other public sector earnings were rising at 3.8% and Private sector at 4.8%. The offer doesn't even keep pace, never mind catch up!.

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 Take a stand against 2.5% insult

New pay figures from May 2000 (see right) show just how much of an insult a 2.5% offer is.

If any more proof was needed, these - on top of the comparisons in the last UNISONNews - show just how essential a YES vote is in the ballot.

This bulletin answers some of the questions members have been asking at meetings.

Who was balloted?
Everyone employed by the 32 councils in Scotland except: chief officers; craft workers; voluntary sector members. The reason for this is if a lead employer is being balloted on an industrial dispute only members employed by that employer who are party to the dispute can be balloted.

What form of action is proposed?
UNISON is recommending strike action. This would involve all out strike action on 1, 2 and 3 days followed by selective action.

Why does it need to be strike?
Because it is the only way to shift the employers and protect members.

If we started with selective action, work to rule or boycotting certain tasks, the members concerned could be at risk of being 'picked off'. We would then have to come out on strike to protect them.

The problem with that is:-

  • the employer sets the agenda for when we strike, not us.
  • the members at risk have to wait for a ballot and by that time it could be too late.

The employers and members need to know from the beginning that everyone is prepared to take action.

Won't striking just save them money?
Nobody can afford to strike - the question is can we afford not to?

Yes, the employers will save. But they will save even more if they get away with the 2.5% insult. What will it be next year? We will fall even further behind.

And remember, whatever the rise next year, it will bring a lot more money if it is based on a better deal being won this year.

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Why we must make the action work

The 2.5% offer is

  • below inflation,
  • below the increase in average earnings,
  • below other public sector increases.

They can afford a decent rise - councils got a 3.6% rise in Government Supported Expenditure.

The offer does nothing to deal with low pay.

Negotiations are exhausted. Industrial Action is the ONLY way to change the employers offer.

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 Hardship Fund

The branch will set up a Hardship Fund for members facing particular difficulty.

Forms will be available from the announcement of the result. In the past the branch has been able to help most members who have applied but we rely on money coming in from:
- branch funds
- donations by exempt members
- other donations from members.

If you wish to contribute, send your donation to ther Branch Treasurer at the
UNISON City of Edinburgh Branch,
23 George IV Bridge,
Edinburgh EH1 1EN.

Cheques made out to UNISON City of Edinburgh Branch Hardship Fund.

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Modest and fair pay claim

"We believe our claim is both fair and affordable and we are appalled at an offer which is less than inflation, less than average earnings, and less than other pay increases in the public sector", says Dougie Black, branch secretary and one of the lead national negotiators.

The union's pay claim submission to the employers sets out in detail why we must fight on pay this year.

"This year's claim for staff in Scottish local government is lodged at a time of major change and upheaval for councils and our members who work for them", says the claim.

The increases are aimed at addressing the problem of a large number of low paid employees in local government and are required to help restore and maintain living standards of employees who have seen their pay eroded considerably in comparison with those in the private sector and other areas of the public sector.

"The Trade Union Side is aware that the Scottish Executive is making additional resources available to Scottish local government in 2000/01 and that Government Supported Expenditure (GSE) is up 3.6%, Aggregated External Finance (AEF) is up 2.9% and Grant Aided Expenditure (GAE) is up 3.5%. ", says the claim.

"After years of real cuts in local government expenditure we believe our claim for 2000/01 is affordable.

The claim is both modest and fair."

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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.

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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.

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Exemptions and life and limb cover

All members are expected to follow the democratic decision of the ballot.

Now we have a majority vote for action, all members will be expected to come out. However, in the past there have been exemptions and this strike is likely to follow the same pattern.

The following categories have been exempt before, so long as they donate strike day earnings to the hardship fund. It is likely to be the same this time:

1. Members who are pregnant - strike action has an impact on Maternity Rights

2. Members in final year of service - striking would impact on their pension

3. Members not affected by the pay dispute (eg chief officers, craft workers)

4. Members asked by the branch to provide life and limb cover on strike days.

A YES vote gives authority to the union to call a strike. It also gives authority to ask certain members not to strike to fulfil our obligations under any emergency cover agreement.

Pregnant members or members in last year of service should tell their local steward as soon as possible and get an exemption application from the branch office.

Areas where life and limb cover may be requested are currently under discussion with senior management.

As soon as details are available, branch officers will liaise with stewards convenors.

No cover will be provided without the agreement of the Branch Strike Committee.

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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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 Free Internet with UNISON

Phone 0870 9009090 for your free unisonfree.net CD now. Quoting membership no.

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),

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Voluntary Sector Pay Crisis

Many voluntary sector members have had no pay rise for some years and most are falling behind public sector staff. Voluntary organisations are being forced into cuts.

In an article for the next UNISONNews, Sylvia Crick calls on the council to fulfil its responsibilities to the organisations it funds.

Sylvia says voluntary sector members "will support your fight in whatever way we can. We would appreciate your support over our fight too!".

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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.

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About UNISONNews

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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