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 June 2000 No 29

 Action planned as pay offer rejected
  * Pay: Why we deserve it and they can afford it  

  * Success after 27 years
Greendykes Social Work wins permanent home at last

* Janitors vote for strike ballot on irregular hours  * UNISON gets involved in mainstreaming equality
 * Childrens units cleared  * Streak of successes at Employment Tribunals
 * Director gets it right as prison social work up for bids  * Report slammed as project closes
 * On the negotiating line...
- Single Status talks start
 * Stevie's new career spoiled by homophobic bigots
  * Free Internet with UNISON  * Is the person next to you a member?
UNISONNews Top of Page  * About UNISONNews



 UNISONNews June 2000 No. 29

Action planned as pay offer rejected

Scotland's 100,000 UNISON local government members looked set to reject the employers' 2.5% pay offer as UNISONNews went to press (5 June).

Returns in the Scotland-wide consultation exerecise were showing a 2-1 vote against the offer, in the knowledge that substantial industrial action would be needed to shift it.

Union leaders were due to meet on 8 June to make final decisions on action plans.

Any industrial action would require a full official ballot of all members.

Edinburgh UNISON had one of the highest returns in Scotland to its consultative ballot with 40% of members responding and 55% voting for action.

"The 2.5% offer was derisory and comes nowhere near the claim for 5% or £500 with a £5 minimum hourly rate", said Dougie Black, branch secretary and national negotiator.

"Inflation is set to hit 2.8% in August and apart from 1999, our members have suffered year on year from below inflation rises."

"Council workers have fallen behind other public sector and private sector staff and they deserve to catch up. The employers cannot expect us to carry on subsidising local government", he added.

"We are confident most people were consulted and 40% is a huge return in this kind of ballot", said John Mulgrew, branch service conditions co-ordinator.

"However we are hearing of isolated incidents where stewards did not get papers out in time and we will have to address that

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 Greendykes Social Work to get permanent home at last

Success after 27 years

After 27 years of working in temporary units, staff at Greendykes Social Work Office can look forward to a permanent workplace.

Following a union campaign the council have agreed to provide staff with a new build by 2003. Until then the members will be moved to new units at Pefferbank.

When the staff moved into the temporary units in 1973 there were promises of a new build and staff were in fact shown drawings of the proposed accomodation.

Unfortunately that commitment never came to fruition as the project never received the priority it required and deserved.

As years came and went the accomodation became more delapidated with leaking roofs, subsiding floors and no ventilation.

The units were subject to vandalism. There was ant infestation and the drains were blocked.

In March this year staff said enough is enough and called for union support. They planned to present themselves at Social Work HQ, available for work in an acceptable environment but not at Greendykes.

Service Conditions Convener (APT&C), John Ross, met the members and immediately set up talks with Social Work management.

"Following intense negotiations and several site visits including one for councillors - this had a real effect - a report was placed before the full council", said John.

He made representations and was delighted with the outcome which gave a short term resolution with improved accomodation (costing £450,000) and a long term solution with a new centre which will cost over a £1 million.

The resolution was opposed by Conservative councillors who wanted to rent accomodation over a mile away from the area where Social Work clients live.

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Pay: Why we deserve it and they can afford it

The evidence is there to back UNISON's 2000 pay claim.

The new Earnings Survey, an independent review of pay trends, shows that Local Government workers are falling behind both the private sector and other areas of the public sector.

Pay increases since 1994 ran at an average of 23.5% while local government only got 16.2%.

This is made worse when you see that the retail price index rose 17.8% - we've been having pay cuts!

Even last year when we got an above inflation 3.3% (inflation was 1.6%), the average pay rise across the economy was 4.6% - so we still got less.

Finance and computer jobs, went up 10% while the Civil Service got 6.9%.

Men in local government get on average £31 a week less than men in the Scottish economy in general. Women get £10 less but are also likely to be paid less across the board.

Even more astonishing, the average male council worker in Scotland gets £17.50 a week less than his England/Wales counterpart and women £16 less. This cannot be justified.

So even 5% would not fully redress how far local government staff have fallen behind. UNISON cannot be accused of putting in an unrealistic claim.

And as for the £5 an hour 'living wage' minimum, well with a catering assistant in McDonalds able to get £5.90, a cleaner in Tescos £5.74 and a cook in Woolworths £6.50, we are hardly tipping the economy over with that claim.

Can they afford it?
The Scottish Executive is making additional resources available to councils. Government Supported Expenditure (GSE) is up 3.9%; Aggregated Expenditure Finance (AEF) is up 2.9% and Grant Aided Expenditure (GAE) is up 3.5%.

After years of real cuts in local government expenditure we now believe our claim for 2000/2001 is affordable.

The claim addresses three main points:

  • The need for a fair settlement. 5% is a modest claim.
  • The need to address low morale and low pay. The £500 will help the lowest paid - 5% of low pay is a low increase.
  • The £5 minimum wage will help address poverty in local government. That in turn will stimulate local communities.

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UNISON gets involved in mainstreaming equality

Branch Officers, Irene Stout and John Ross, have met senior council officials to discuss how the union can participate in the council campaign to mainstream Equalities.

The council has set up an authority wide exercise to ensure none of our practices or policies discriminate against anyone.

This involves public contact (accessibility ?), communications (simple English?) and service provision (equality of opportunity?).

All reports considered by council committees and the Chief Executive's Management Team are pored over with the project team having direct influence to ensure the themes of equality are actively considered and taken on.

A huge training programme has been taken on with all staff, up to and including the Chief Executive, attending and a comprehensive programme of activities involving the public has been initiated.

Irene Stout said
"This will have a major influence on the services our members provide to the public and links in to our union policies on Equalities.

"It is vital staff be seen as equal partners and we have ideas on how that can be done.

"For instance we can use our Lesbian and Gay Self Organised Group to ensure those members have a chance to influence those issues which affect them. "

John Ross said
"Clearly the council is looking at this as part of their theme of Modernising Local Government.

"It is an exciting initiative with huge potential not just to improve service provision but also to strengthen the focus on equality across a wide range of Conditions of Service.

"We want to maximise our influence and to do that we need a seat at the table."

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 Janitors vote for strike ballot on irregular hours

Janitors have voted overwhelmingly for a strike ballot in a dispute over irregular hours payments.

On a 56% return in Secondary schools, 91% voted for action and a 38% return in primary schools brought an 83% backing for a strike ballot.

Branch offficers are now meeting national officials to set up an official industrial action ballot.

The dispute arose when janitors in primary schools and community centres were not paid enhanced rates for starting work at 6am and finishing at 6pm.

Management's interpretation was that irregular hours payments were lost when a local agreement - the Janitorial Review- was agreed and implemented.

"This is nonsense", said branch service conditions co-ordinator John Mulgrew.

"Irregular hours payments are part of a national agreement and the council must honour this"

UNISON has offered to go to arbitration and to refer the matter to the Scottish Joint Council (an arbitration forum for local government) but management has refused.

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 Streak of successes at Employment Tribunals

Branch officers are continuing their purple streak of successes at Employment Tribunals.

Unfortunately, due to confidentiality clauses, the employers and details of cases cannot be reported. But typical of recent successes are:-

- a member who suffered ill health due to harassment

- a member not allowed to return to work after maternity leave

- a casual worker winning the right to paid leave

- a member compensated when their fixed term contract was terminated early.

It is important to note that these cases are being won by branch officers who are experienced in employment matters.

"There is often a misconception that lawyers need to be involved", said vice-chair John Stevenson.

"This is not always needed or the best way of doing things. But the branch will always seek legal advice where it is appropriate".

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 Childrens units cleared
Now it's time for more resources

Members will remember the media attacks on the staff and services of the Social Work units at Howdenhall and St Katherines.

Basing their stories on anecdotal evidence and anonymous witnesses they portrayed staff and services in a poor light

Following a thorough management investigation, UNISON welcomes the findings which found no wrong-doings within the units.

What the findings did show was that staffing levels were poor and must be addressed. Strangely enough, this was one of the main recommendations arising from the Edinburgh Inquiry of some two years ago which looked at the council's Children's homes.

UNISON will be requesting the department and the council do something about it this time!

This instance highlights the problems caused by accepting all "whistle-blowing" as having substance and worthy of investigation.

UNISON recognises there is a responsibility on the authority to be willing to recognise and address service issues but the approach that everything must be investigated creates a field-day for mischief-makers.

It also ties up resources and causes great stress and trauma for staff.

The Director of Social Work has agreed to meet lead branch officers to agree principles for future investigations.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to provide quality services when your job is continually under investigation and it is perhaps understandable the Unit Manager, Mark Smith , has decided to take up a lectureship at Strathclyde University.

The past two years must have been a terrific strain on Mark and his family and it is to his credit he stuck it out until such times as his staff were vindicated.

That demonstrates a truly professional approach from a manager who believes in his staff and the services they provide.

Perhaps others should take note.

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Report slammed as project closes

Last month we announced the branch had managed to get the closure of Craigmillar Children's Project deferred.

Staff and parents were delighted and looked forward to participating in a real dialogue which could bring about real service improvements.

Unfortunately the result was a report that barely mentioned parents views and made no mention of the projects successful work.

The report further demoralised staff. It was riddled with judgements , none of which was backed up with evidence

Branch vice chair John Stevenson and project steward Rona Leese made one last attempt to reinstate staff's integrity by making representations to the Social Work Committee.

While they got a clear statement that the project closure was a budgetary decision and there was no question of the staff's professionalism, the project was closed.

UNISON fought this battle on the basis of service provision. Redeployment was found for all the staff (except for those who were so disenchanted with the council, they left for jobs in the Voluntary Sector ).

Only time will tell if new plans will be as good as the previous multi-discipline approach which had the support of parents and produced results which benefitted many families in the Craigmillar area.

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 Stevie's new career spoiled by homophobic bigots

Homophobic bigots have forced ex UNISON branch administrator Stevie Weddell out of the Edinburgh pub he ran.

Stevie is now jobless after having to abandon the 'Grey Horse' pub he sank his savings into to set up a new career. To make matters worse his partner Mark Davies was beaten up in the pub in a homophobic attack.

Stevie believes the campaign to keep Section 28 is to blame for whipping up anti-gay feelings and contributed to the campaign of harassment since he took over the pub in February.

"There has been an increase in attacks since the Section 28 thing started to the extent that there are signs in gay bars warning people to be wary.

"The Grey Horse is a working man's pub and always will be. 99% of the people who drink there were fantastic and we made a lot of friends. It was customers who stepped in to defend Mark", said Stevie.

"But there was an element who through ignorance or homophobia just could not accept that their pub was being run by a gay man".

Stevie is a popular figure in the union and, because of his personality, did a great deal to break down discrimination.

"Maybe I was slightly naive but I didn't think we would encounter what we did. I've never come across such homophobia before".

The Evening News reports one local as saying, "Steve and Mark are an absolutely delightful pair of gentlemen. We are dreadfully sorry to see them go. The people who did this are thugs".

Stevie is now looking for a new job and our best wishes go to him for early success.

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Director gets it right as prison social work up for bids

It is customary to slag off senior managers when they get it wrong. So, to balance things up, let's give a pat on the back to a manager who got it right! Step forward Les McEwan, Director of Social Work.

On the first morning back after a peaceful holiday, Les opened his mail to discover that Scottish Justice Minister, one Jim Wallace (Liberal Democrat) had come up with the super wheeze of putting prison Social Work out to tender. As to any consultation, why bother? It's only Local Government.

Instead of wringing his hands and saying the minister was a bad man, Les leapt into action.

He immediately cancelled all his meetings and went straight to meet the staff who provide Social Work Services at Saughton Prison (inviting UNISON too) on the basis it was his job to tell his staff what was happening to their jobs.

He also contacted UNISON branch officers advising them of what was going on.

Les then took the case to CoSLA President, Norman Murray, who took up the cudgels on behalf of all the affected authorities. At the same time as Norman went off to have a rant at the Deputy First Minister, Les was networking with his counterparts in other authorities.

UNISON was equally speedy in its reaction. Within 24 hours our Branch delegates were raising the matter at a Scottish level and a full-time officer was specifically designated to take on the case.

The tendering process is continuing but at every turn the Director is demonstrating the sheer lunacy of Mr Wallace's brainwave.

Through Les's efforts we have a co-ordinated campaign involving councils, the unions, COSLA and the professional bodies.

A perfect example of partnership working. Branch Officers look forward to working with Les on other issues (as long as he keeps up the high standards he has set himself ).

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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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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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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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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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