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Action plan on Social Work staffing crisis

Branch rejects reductions in public holidays

Health fears at Powderhall

Branch wins mag and web double award

400,000 plus reasons to join

Leith Street staff win up to £1600 back money

Reviewing UNISON's unique political funds



Leisure members accept single status and pay deals

£5 victory for NHS staff

Where does the broom go?

Registrars fight for local deal

Education debate must include school support staff

Best wishes as Denis returns to South Africa

UNISON Mela sponsorship celebrates diversity and all that's best in Scotland

Call to boycott Israeli goods


The views expressed in UNISON News are not necessarily those of UNISON City of Edinburgh Branch or the union.



Action plan on Social Work staffing crisis

UNISON is calling for urgent meetings with minister Cathy Jamieson and a local authorities' task group as Social Work members kick off a campaign to confront the crisis in recruitment and retention of staff.

And because low pay is a key element, a special UNISON conference last month set up an action group to consult on how best to push for better pay.

Edinburgh UNISON can take some credit for the local authorities' task group - chaired by Edinburgh Councillor Kingsley Thomas - after its grievance earlier this year called for a review and a joint approach to the Scottish Executive.

The Branch Committee has already initiated talks locally about a range of measures to tackle the crisis. Edinburgh Children & Families Practice Teams are particularly hit with staffing shortages, allocation problems and huge pressure on staff. Residential units are also feeling the pinch too. As the job gets more pressurised, it gets harder to keep existing skilled and experienced staff.

Edinburgh's John Stevenson was among 50 reps from 29 of Scotland's 32 local authorities who reported on the work they were already doing locally and forged the joint action plan at the conference. "The picture was grim across the country. Some councils are getting into a bidding war, offering 'golden hellos'.

Everyone was clear that this wasn't solving the problem, only moving it around", said John. "In addition, the morale of existing staff is hit when new staff come in on better financial terms".

"There were some positives about Edinburgh we should hang onto. Our Senior Practitioner grade, negotiated 10 years ago, our supervision policies and practice and the commitment to a qualified workforce are all things UNISON and management have worked for in Edinburgh which are not reflected in a lot of other authorities", he added.

Pay review

"We need to tackle pay head on", said Stephen Smellie, UNISON Local Government Group vice chair. There was broad agreement that reviews of social work pay and structures were needed - not exactly like the McCrone Report in Education but perhaps a range of initiatives to address deep seated problems.

And UNISON will use its voice to combat the demoralising 'blame culture' that pervades the press.

Crisis, what crisis?

Mike Kirby, UNISON Scotland Convenor told the conference, "Vacancies are running as high as 25%, fewer people are coming through colleges and only one in ten want to go into children and families".

80% of staff were unqualified, wages had fallen behind dramatically and violence to staff was on the increase, especially in residential child care. Absences were higher than in all other areas.

Challenging those who question whether this was a 'crisis', Mike said, "In the dictionary a crisis is a time of danger... but another definition is a turning point". The problems certainly pointed to a crisis but the initiatives the union could get involved in also offered a turning point.

Among the opportunities Mike listed was the CoSLA 'Recruitment and Retention' task group set up under Edinburgh Councillor Kingsley Thomas.

"This is an opportunity for us to pick up the issues with employers", said Mike. We also need to influence the Action Plan for Social Services Workforce launched in April by Cathy Jamieson, Minister for Education and Young People - who has a social work background herself - with targets varying from nine weeks to nine months.

"We broadly welcomed this but we are concerned at its extent and that it does not address pay", said Mike. The nearest the plan gets to pay is 'an economic study of the labour market of children's services'. This is welcome in part but Mike warned that it would only create further problems if they only target that area.

The plan also aims to improve access to training for experienced but unqualified staff.

"Many staff may not feel comfortable going straight into further or higher education and there is a role here for the Return To Learn initiatives", said Mike.

This was a key area, with many branches reporting Social Work Assistants carrying a qualified worker's caseload.

Delegates also highlighted pressures on core services, already at breaking point, as staff moved away to new more attractive - but time limited - projects funded by the Scottish Executive.

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Branch rejects reductions in public holidays

The Branch Committee has unanimously rejected Council proposals to convert six public holidays to six added days on the normal holiday leave entitlement.

If the proposal had been accepted it would have meant hundreds of workers who work on public holidays losing money due to the withdrawal of double-time payments.

Day care staff, domestic and catering staff in residential homes for the young and the old, mortuary staff, emergency switchboard, those called out on standby and many other categories of staff all stood to lose out.

The Branch Committee (made up representatives from all departments and Branch Officers) rejected the proposals on the basis that, whilst the change may suit some, it would be unacceptable to accept a deal which would lead to many low paid workers losing out.

The proposals were also condemned for allowing individual directors to decide if the changes should be implemented in full or partially. This meant some departments might open on public holidays whilst others were shut.

All other unions in the Council have also rejected the proposals. In response to the rejection the council has withdrawn from talks on extending to all staff the ex-District Council provisions for Career Breaks and Pre-retirement provisions. These will continue to apply only to staff who transferred from Edinburgh District Council in 1996.

A proposal to stop the abatement of Annual Leave in instances of long-term Sickness Absence has also been withdrawn.

Commenting on the rejection Service Conditions Coordinator John Mulgrew said, "The Branch Committee was unanimous in rejection. The proposals may have been attractive to some but we cannot forget that many of our colleagues may be disadvantaged. It is for this reason that the Branch Committee rejected the proposals".

Branch Secretary John Stevenson said "The Council's withdrawal from discussions on the other issues is more than disappointing, specially since the financial implications were minimal. It will just maintain the anger of staff who see colleagues getting benefits denied to them."

At time of print the Council has not responded to UNISON's calls for these discussions to be reopened.

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Health fears at Powderhall

The Health and Safety Executive has issued a damning report on working conditions at Powderhall Waste Transfer Station.

A squad of staff from the Executive spent a full two days in the workplace and found a catalogue of concerns including the lack of safety barriers at the waste pits, the risk of Legionnaires Disease due to filthy water tanks, dangerous vehicles and open access for members of the public.

Worst of all was the presence of damaged asbestos.

The Station has now been closed to allow repairs and refurbishment to be carried out but members within the workplace are concerned for their long-term health given it was certain they had breathed in spores when working in the areas with damaged asbestos, In February the council were aware there was a high risk of asbestos and decided to carry out a site survey but did nothing until June.

This delay was slammed by the Executive who stated, "These timescales and the limited extent of the survey did not reflect any urgency to deal with a potentially high risk situation."

The work environment was filthy and the report refers to unacceptable levels of dust and the presence of large amounts of bird droppings. What makes this situation even worse was a Health and Safety Representative had submitted a detailed report over two years ago but management had simply ignored the concerns.

Service Conditions Convener John Ross pointed out "The role of a Health and Safety Representative is laid down in law. Management not acting on an official report is just not on. How many of our members now have to live with the threat of asbestosis hanging over them? Even at this stage they are still resisting our calls for health checks."

Once the station is ready to be reopened UNISON will carry out a full inspection to ensure that members can work in a safe environment and all health risks have been addressed properly.

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Branch wins mag and web double award

Edinburgh Branch won UNISON's Best Website award this year and was second in the UK magazine competition. Webmanager John Stevenson picked up the £100 award for the Branch.

The site was described as "a veteran site (it was the first Branch site in Scotland) that has been re-designed" with a clean and simple design and lots of information. This is the second time we have won the award.

UNISONNews was described as "an excellent example of a well-designed newsletter with lots of news". And that brought a prize of £250 for the Branch.

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400,000 plus reasons to join

UNISON won Personal Injury Settlements from £400 to £84,000 for members in Scotland in June and July. The total figure topped £412,000. Yet more examples to use when urging colleagues to join.

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Leith Street staff win up to £1600 back money

Members in Leith Street Hostel are celebrating pay increases following the conclusion of months of negotiations with Housing managers.

In June 2001 local steward Gary Peden discovered staff were being shortchanged in shift allowances. Years previously the staff, who had fluctuating weekly earnings due to shift arrangements, persuaded management to pay anticipated annual earnings in 12 equal payments across the year.

But last year eagle-eyed Gary discovered the original formula was flawed. Following very complex negotiations members achieved back payments of up to £1600 and annual increases of nearly £500 each.

Service Conditions Convener John Ross said "If it had not been for Gary's perseverance the members would not have achieved this marvellous result. This demonstrates what can be achieved when you have a good local steward who acts in the interests of their members."


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    First negotiated deal won after years of imposition

Leisure members accept single status and pay deals

Following months of tough negotiating and two ballots of the membership, agreement has been reached with Edinburgh Leisure on a three year pay deal and the creation of a new pay spine which will be applied to all staff.

"It was a narrow vote on Single Status", said George Lee, UNISON Edinburgh Service Conditions Convenor (Manual).

"The deal is intended to address differences in employment contracts between staff who transferred from the Council and new staff who were on lesser conditions", he added.

The deal moves all posts into six pay bands, consolidates bonuses, shift allowances, weekend enhancements for all staff and includes an earnings detriment protection clause for those whose consolidated wage is more than their pay band.

Employees old and new will now be paid the same overtime payments and a standard working week of 35.75 hours will be introduced by April 2005. Edinburgh Leisure also intends to introduce a flexible benefits package (ELFLEX) to encourage recruitment and retention.

Consolidation for all

George Lee said "This deal was a long time in the coming and while it does not address all the previous discrepancies between staff groups, it represents a significant improvement in pay for some and consolidation of bonuses and allowances for all".

At the time of going to press, UNISON was in further discussions to fine-tune and clarify elements of the deal.

Pay deal

The ballot on pay brought an overwhelming yes vote for a three year pay deal. A 1.5% plus £200 rise in 2002 will be followed by 4% in 2003 and 1.5% plus £200 in 2004.

"The combination of percentage and flat-rate weights the overall package towards the lower paid", said George. This is the first negotiated pay settlement with Edinburgh Leisure for three years. prior to that, the Trust had unilaterally applied pay awards.

"While this deal goes some way to addressing low pay, there are still many of our members working for Edinburgh Leisure and having to claim benefit!", added George.

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£5 victory for NHS staff

The latest victories in the Health Service, especially for a £5 an hour minimum wage, are a 'wake up call' to the Scottish Executive, says Jim Devine, UNISON Scottish Organiser for Health.

Following the Lothian Acute branch success, there have now been victories in Argyll and Clyde and in the Sodexho dispute at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

"The barriers against £5 an hour for Health Service Workers have now been ripped down", said Jim.

On 15 August, members at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary celebrated victory after their strike action won a £5 an hour minimum pay deal from a private contractor. The ancillary staff - including cleaners, caterers, domestics and porters - agreed an offer with Sodexho after a day of negotiations.

The deal also included a phased return to former NHS terms and conditions of employment, guaranteed to take place by April 2004.

  • The Scottish Local Government three year deal brought a £5 minimum from last year.

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Where does the broom go?

Many of our members perform generic duties. For example it is commonplace for reception staff to deal with the public and perform routine office duties. In general they carry out a wide range of tasks which were previously carried out by different groups.

So when management in City Development suggested generic working in some areas, local stewards were not overly concerned and waited for the anticipated full consultation.

It was not until job descriptions were released that the full extent of generic working became clear. Members will be aware of the detail normally recorded in Job Descriptions to ensure it is a fair reflection of the duties and responsibilities. This time the main job description (drafted locally and without the involvement of anyone trained in the drafting of job descriptions) contains only 9 bullet points and it will not take you long to read the substance of this job description:

- To undertake records management duties:

To provide maintain and develop revenue earning services:

To provide an enquiry service:

To process (income generating) applications:

To undertake general clerical, admin and secretarial duties:

To undertake Reception duties: To undertake telecommunication duties:

To assist in other duties assigned from time to time:

Develop a working knowledge and appropriate skills to carry our tasks across all activities within Service Development.

And that is it!

Branch President Joe Galletta said "This is laughable. There is no way one individual can learn all the knowledge required to deal with the switchboard, to carry out finance tasks, to process planning and building control applications, be a secretary and handle enquiries in all the services we provide. They may as well say your job is to do what you're telt, when you're telt and be thankful you've got a job!"

Despite UNISON requests for talks, management have written to all the staff involved saying their new job is now formally in place and that, without discussion, a new grade of GS 2/3 is in place. Members have made it clear the extent of the expected generic working is unacceptable and are working to their old Job Descriptions.

As one irate member said "I may as well stick a broom up my a*** and sweep the floor as well".

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Registrars fight for local deal

Ever thought of getting married on the top of Arthurs Seat or in the penguin enclosure in Edinburgh Zoo? Well you may be able to with changes in the law.

The Scottish Executive has put through changes which will allow weddings to be conducted by Registrars outwith the usual Registrars Offices and beyond normal working hours.

This raises many issues like safety factors and how this will be managed on top of the normal daily functions.

Members recently attended a meeting in Glasgow where they were advised the law states the council cannot make surpluses or profits from the extended service but it was clear many authorities were planning to do just that.

The meeting heard several councils had accepted this was a unique situation and that special payments to staff were merited.

Our council has adopted its usual Scrooge attitude. Despite charging several hundred pounds for these special ceremonies they are only offering staff normal overtime payments.

Members were rightly outraged and are seeking special payments in line with other councils.

Negotiations are being led by Service Conditions Coordinator John Mulgrew who said, "If the council follow through with the overtime proposal we will boycott the work. We want real recognition for the work these staff do and will call upon the Scottish Executive to check the books to see where the monies charged is going."

Watch this space!

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Education debate must include school support staff

UNISONScotland has warned that school support staff must be included in the National Education debate.

In an initial response to the Scottish Executive Debate, UNISON points out that, although support staff have a key educational role, they appear to have been ignored by the Executive.

"UNISON members are involved in all aspects of education", said Joe Di Paola, UNISON Scottish Organiser for local government.

"Caring, protecting, assisting and directly teaching our kids. Yet both the pack and the video that introduce the National Debate ignore them. McCrone's proposals could mean increasing loads on support staff."

The union's response details a number of initiatives that members are already involved in - including improving the status of Nursery Nurses; campaigning for Free School Meals; better conditions for term-time only staff and opposing the use of PFI to build and run new schools.

Agnes Petkevicius, Edinburgh UNISON Education Convenor said, "PFI aggravates the split between teaching and support staff. Breaking up the team by transferring a whole range of support staff to the private sector, to employers whose motivation is profit - not education. It is also increasingly being exposed as an ineffective and inefficient use of public money."

See the full response at www.unison-scotland.org.uk /response\eddebate.html

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Reviewing UNISON's unique political funds

UNISON National Conference called for the review of the political funds to be top priority. The National Executive had mounted a huge consultation exercise over last year and had wanted more time to complete it after a progress report this year. But this was not enough for most delegates.

But Conference was by no means unanimous in its views about the funds. For example, attempts to amend a motion on public services to withhold funds from the Labour Party and restrict support to MPs were defeated.

The outcome of Conference can be seen to demonstrate, on the one hand, a continued antipathy to New Labour policies and on the other, a distinct lack of enthusiasm for resolving these problems by attacking UNISON'S links with the Labour Party and MPs.

The current review document identifies a number of issues and below are just a few samples.

How can UNISON branches use the political funds better to promote UNISON policies at a local level? - branches should affiliate to and send delegates to all constituency labour parties - branches should be in contact with and put pressure on their local MPs, particularly those in the UNISON Group of MPs, MSPs/AMs. - question as to the degree to which the GPF can be used for indirect assistance to political parties, for example, research for the Liberal Democrat front bench.

How can current fund arrangements be improved and better co-ordination achieved? - the funds should be more transparent, democratic and workable - more regional co-ordination of GPF funding. Impact of devolution and regional economic and social policy initiatives and union response - both funds should be subject to democratic control by the levy payers

What would be the advantages and disadvantages of disaffiliating from the Labour Party or funding candidates from other parties? - disaffiliation would take away the choice of paying the APF levy from the 600,000 members who choose to do so

- the majority view appears to be against disaffiliating from the Labour Party

- this view seems to be shared by some groups on the left who would like to see an alternative to Labour in the longer term. Other groups believe it has become a party of big business, and that the trade unions should sever the link immediately - supporters of parties such as the SNP believe that they should not be denied access to political fund money

- affiliation is not simply a question of giving money to the Labour Party

- it involves membership and representation at all levels of the party

- the ability to affiliate and play a part in the party structure does not appear to be on offer from other political organisations

- the Labour Party has ceased to be a trade union party. Parts of the leadership are uncomfortable with the link

- scrapping the current arrangement in favour of one political fund would enable the union to put money where it is most effective, including Labour and other candidates and organisations as well

- disaffiliation would mean UNISON losing its voice and influence on the political stage, leaving the field to other unions

- the trade unions created the Labour Party and disaffiliation would break faith with a tradition over a century old.

Funding should be made available to candidates who back UNISON policy whether in a political party or not - the union could find itself backing candidates standing against each other which would make UNISON a laughing stock - difficult to find a party that had policies identical in every way to UNISON's - local and national links with CLPs and MPs/MSPs/ help UNISON to get issues taken forward - there would be a problem with allocating funds fairly - for example there are many times more Conservative supporters in UNISON than say the Socialist Alliance or SNP.

The review is due to report in December.

Local links

Picking up on using our links to promote UNISON's policies, APF Officer Matthew Crighton and Branch Secretary John Stevenson have started on a series of meetings with local MPs and MSPs and have already met with Alistair Darling.

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UNISON's political funds explained

UNISON has two political funds and members can choose to join one, both or none. Only members of the fund can make decisions about the fund. Both funds were set up by ballot of the membership when UNISON was formed.

The Affiliated Political Fund

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 or other organisations related to the Labour Party, is the money paid by Affiliated Fund members.

The General Political Fund

This 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 the union would not be able to campaign on 'political' issues without this fund.

This fund cannot be used for donations to any political party.



UNISONScotland and the South African Municipal Workers Union met at Conference in Bournemouth in June to formally sign and discuss twinning links.

As they met, Roger Ronnie (SAMWU General Secretary) and Lance Veotte (second and third from the right) got news that SAMWU had resolved to embark on a national wage strike.

After three weeks of strikes, when sadly some strikers were killed, SAMWU won a deal on 19 July bringing a 9% rise and inflation plus deals to 2005.

For more information see: www.unison-scotland.org.uk/samwu

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Best wishes as Denis returns to South Africa

After 17 years in Britain, Denis Goldberg returned to his South Africa homeland in July - not to retire of course, but to become an advisor to the Minister of Water and Forestry.

The Branch sent him off with a special quaich and a book of the trade union banners from the Peoples Story museum.

Denis won enormous respect in UNISON and became a great friend and regular visitor to the Branch, first working for the ANC, then setting up Community HEART - the charity working for health, education and reconstruction training in South Africa.

Born in Cape Town in 1933, he became active in the ANC-led Congress Alliance of South Africa in the 1950's, becoming a technical officer for the underground armed wing, UmKhonto we Swize (Spear of the Nation).

He was jailed in 1964 at the Rivonia trials and while in prison he and Nelson Mandela were adopted as patrons by the United Democratic Front alliance of 700 anti-apartheid groups.

Denis spent 22 years in prison and joined his family in exile in Britain in 1985 on his release.

Anyone who has had the pleasure to hear Denis speak - or better still, sit down and chat with him - knows that measured, quiet but incisive manner that hushes and sucks in audiences to hang on to his every word.

"I could have listened to him all night", said a UNISON member after a meeting on Palestine in Edinburgh last year. Perhaps a measure of his commitment and courage was that he spoke at a series of meetings backing the cause of the Palestinians just after September 11, creating a much-needed dignified and thoughtful debate when there was danger of anger and retribution. His words as someone of Jewish descent were all the more significant.

At a quiet lunch in Edinburgh some years ago, a colleague asked Denis if he was not concerned that the thousands of books he was collecting for South Africa school libraries were in English portraying mainly white children.

After explaining that culture was hugely important, but that children needed English to empower themselves, Denis said with that familiar mischievous grin, "I went to a white school and ended up in the Spear of the Nation. School is only part of your socialisation, you know".

Asked whether he was able to keep in touch with old comrades in the new South Africa he recalled that Nelson Mandela once complained Denis had not been in touch. "Have you ever tried phoning the President?", Denis asked him.

The Branch wishes Denis all the best for the future.

Community H.E.A.R.T. 3-5 St John Street Manchester, M3 4DN 0161 254 7505 info@community-heart.org.uk


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Call to boycott Israeli goods

The Branch has backed the STUC call for a boycott of Israeli goods to to put pressure on the Israeli government to withdraw from the occupied areas, respect human rights (including right of refugees to return to their homes and lands) and obey International law.

A comprehensive list of goods can be found at: www.boycottisraeligoods.org/ - in the meantime read the label.

The boycott comes at the request of our colleagues in the Palestinian trade unions. Their members are currently suffering up to 60% unemployment because of limitations on movement and have suffered under occupation for years.

When Iraq is being condemned for failing to implement UN resolutions, Israel continues to ignore 66 such resolutions.

As UNISON's John McFadden told the STUC after his recent visit to Palestine, Israel and Egypt, "Individual acts of terror, whether September 11 or suicide bombings in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, must be condemned. The murder of innocent civilians can only prolong the agony. But the actions of any nation that responds in the way Israel has and the US plans to do in Iraq, must also be condemned".

"One of the more positive signs we encountered was the attitude of the Israeli trade union centre, Histadrut, in opposing Sharon, although they and Israeli peace campaigners are treated similarly to Palestinians when they try to speak up".

"What is needed is to deal with the issues of oppression and poverty. Removing the breeding grounds for terror will be more effective in 'rooting out terrorism' than all the tanks and bombs", he said.

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