Thursday, 28 January 2010

Relying on Shared Services won’t work - UNISON comments on Local Government Committee finance report

Date: Thurs 28 January 2010

UNISON - the union representing workers delivering local services in the local council and community sector, today said they were concerned that the report by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government committee published today, seemed to go half way to accepting the myth that shared services would save council’s money in the short term. However the union did welcome some other parts of the report.

Dave Watson UNISON’s Scottish Organiser said:
“Despite incontrovertible evidence in practice that shared services actually cost the public sector more money in the short term, the committee report appears to suggest that these should be used in part to deal with immediate financial pressures on local government. There may be good reasons to share certain services - but immediate cost savings is not one, and the impact on local economies are too often underestimated.”

The union, which represents staff in both the local authority and the community and voluntary sector, welcomed the committee’s warning that freezing workers’ pay levels could be seen as a blunt management tool, and threatened to damage local economies, but said that the lack of a clear recommendation on pay parity between staff in different sectors delivering services was disappointing.

Dave Watson said: “It is clear that the impact of public spending cuts in general and in particular any wage freeze would be damaging for both local and national economic recoveries. We welcome the warning from the committee on that issue, and will be highlighting this in our discussion with local authority employers...

“It is disappointing therefore that the report shies away from recommending fair pay between voluntary sector and local authority staff delivering the same service. Indeed there appears to be some confusion in the report between total pay costs and take home pay.”

UNISON, also welcomed a number of other recommendations in the report, and said they wanted to take part in further debate on service provision.

Dave Watson said: “We are campaigning in our current Public Works campaign for quality, efficient and accountable services. We want to continue the debate with local authorities, the government, and the Parliament. This report, has some positive recommendations towards that end – like the recommendations against outsourcing as a cost-cutting exercise. It is a little disappointing therefore that the relevant trade unions are not mentioned as prospective partners for future discussions.”


For Further Information Please Contact:
Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser) 07958 122409 (m)
Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)


Thursday, 21 January 2010

UNISON reaches out to community in campaign against cuts

Date: Thurs 21 January 2010

Glasgow City Council’s largest trade union is to reach out to community organizations and the people of Glasgow to build a broad campaign against the public service cuts being proposed by the council and its arms length trusts and companies.

The 12,000 strong city branch are organizing an open meeting for trade unions, public service workers, community organisations and the citizens of Glasgow on Saturday 23 January @ 11am, UNISON Branch office, 4th Floor (lift), 18 Albion Street, Candleriggs, Glasgow.

Cuts proposed by the council across Glasgow include:
* 12 Community Centres, a Pool and a Library to close
* Cuts in home care services and support to disabled people
* Welfare rights jobs lost and community workers cut by 50%
* Grants to voluntary and community organisations cut by 20% by 2013
* Over 600 jobs in the city lost

UNISON Branch Secretary Brian Smith said “Neither the people of Glasgow nor public service workers caused this economic crisis and they should not have to pay to bail out irresponsible bankers. UNISON has started a Scotland-wide campaign to unite users and providers of public services to stand up against the political demand to cut our services. This is a first step in building that Public Works campaign in Glasgow”

UNISON’s Public Works campaign points out that maintaining current levels of council spending would not only maintain services, but help the Glasgow economy during the recession by protecting jobs, and keeping contracts to private sector firms, many of which are under great trading pressure.

Brian Smith said “As unemployment rises and the social fallout of the recession grows the demands on Glasgow’s services increases. The council is proposing to cut services just as the demand for those very services increases.

“This policy also threatens economic recovery. Firms often rely on public sector contracts to keep them going during hard times like these. UNISON wants to:
* Protect vital council and community services
* Protect jobs in the city during the recession
* Build a united campaign of workers, service users and local communities”



Wednesday, 20 January 2010

UNISON rejects report on 'crude productivity' in NHS

Date: Wednesday 20 January 2010

 Health union UNISON Scotland has criticised a report published by the Nuffield Trust which claims that the NHS in Scotland is underperforming in comparison with England.

Glyn Hawker, UNISON Scottish Organiser said:
 "It sounds like this report has started from the wrong premise. It is precisely because Scotland has high levels of poor health, larger areas of health disadvantage and more challenging geography that spending is higher here.

"And to suggest that spending on the NHS is likely to tackle the root causes of ill-health is fanciful. As research and many reports have pointed out – ill-health inequalities will only be tackled by providing safe and healthy work, and well-funded public services that can guarantee decent lives for all – including housing and a safe environment. Fundamentally we need to address growing social and economic inequalities.

"We would also question what 'crude productivity for hospital doctors and nurses' means. If it is only to do with 'inpatient admissions' or waiting list reductions, then that would call into question the methodology behind this report. While they may increase numbers of sick people processed, they won’t necessarily tackle poor health."


Click here to read further comments on Nuffield Trust report by John Gallacher, Secretary of UNISON Scotland Health Committee 


Saturday, 16 January 2010

UNISON condemns redundancy and reduced hours plan as Council faces biggest cuts ever

16 January 2010

UNISON has reacted to a City of Edinburgh Council memo to staff asking them to take unpaid leave or shorter hours while announcing up to 700 redundancies.

The union is having a series of meetings with the Council and has urged it to join them in lobbying the Scottish Government for more money to stave off the biggest cuts Edinburgh has ever seen.

It has also warned against 'cuts by stealth' and urged the Council own up to what this would really mean for services.

Branch President John Stevenson said: “Local services are provided by people. Cut the people and you cut the services. Services provided by people like home helps, social workers, road workers, environmental staff and workers in trading standards, education, early years and public safety.

"The Scottish Government cannot just stand by while the Capital grinds to a halt. They need to make cash available now".

“The whole local economy will be affected. For every £1 a council worker earns, they spend 70p in their local community. Job losses and pay squeezes will put a stranglehold on local businesses and services, cutting off much needed income. Service cuts will affect local contractors and suppliers. These cuts will affect everyone. It is no way to build out of a recession”, he added

"We are astonished that this e-mail has gone out. We don't know where it will apply, or how the work that goes on normally will continue if people accept it..

"While UNISON will work hard with the council to avoid redundancies, there is a range of issues that have not been thought through and that they have not talked to us about. Some people might be quite keen to take a career break but it is what it means for those that are left over that we are worried about."

"Our concern is that if some staff do this, what happens to the ones that are left and how their workload is managed.

"We don't want this to be cuts by stealth. We wouldn't oppose any flexibility for staff. We just want honesty about cuts in services. For instance, we wouldn't see this as being an option for frontline social workers who currently have unfilled vacancies in all their teams."

"What is enraging our members is the complete dislocation of the people from the service they provide. There is no indication or reassurance how services, especially those to vulnerable people, are to continue if posts are cut."

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Sackings threat as leisure charity hires private contractor

Date: Wednesday 13 January 2010

 Ex-council leisure centre staff are being threatened with dismissal unless they sign-up to a range of detrimental working conditions, Scotland's public service union, UNISON, said today.

The union - who represent a large majority of the permanent staff of Renfrewshire Leisure Ltd. - the trust who run ex-council leisure centres - say they have been told that the company will cease negotiating immediately and issue staff with an ultimatum -sign up to new conditions or face the sack.

UNISON have been negotiating with Renfrewshire Leisure Ltd to try and reach agreement on new working conditions, as part of an attempt to end discriminatory pay by the company. The union has told the company that legal advice they have received makes it clear that the company proposals continue unequal pay systems and are discriminatory. In addition the company wishes to cut back on overtime rates and reduce the number of fixed public holidays.

Mark Ferguson, UNISON Renfrewshire Branch Secretary said "I am disappointed that Renfrewshire Leisure are choosing to ignore the sound legal advice UNISON has received, and want to walk away from negotiation, preferring instead to try to bully their staff into accepting a detrimental and discriminatory package of changes. This has left our members with no option but to consider Industrial action, a decision that is not taken lightly."

"Renfrewshire Leisure have recently contracted a private personnel firm to give them advice, a service which was previously provided by Renfrewshire Council. This and the attempts to bully staff suggests a further attempt is being made to move away from the original concept of a charitable trust and operate public services as a private business. "UNISON has found that this is commonly what happens when public services are hived off to charitable trusts."



Thursday, 7 January 2010

UNISON challenges 'very old-fashioned view of the deployment of police staffs'

Date: Thurs 7 Jan 2010

 UNISON Letter to Holyrood Magazine in response to interview with Stephen House in 7 December edition (


The apparent willingness of the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police "to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy" over shared services doesn't appear to extend to his old-fashioned approach to policing.

The inevitable consequence of his 'police officers last' policy is a return to 1970's policing, when police officers filled in forms and answered telephones rather than patrolling the streets.

The greater use of police staffs in recent years is not just about cost. It also enables specialist skills that do not feature in generic police officer training to be deployed and ensures that officers are available where the public wants them - fighting crime in our communities.

At a time of budget cuts effective deployment of staff is even more important. A report commissioned by UNISON shows that Scotland is someway behind police forces south of the border in adopting civilianisation. In England, police staffs make up on average 39% of the force, in Scotland the figure is only 28%. This disparity cannot be explained by any structural difference in Scotland - some forces here already exceed the English average for equivalent posts.

In fact, Strathclyde Police is the poorest performer in Scotland at only 25% and that may in part explain their current budget crisis. In fairness to Stephen House this performance pre-dates his tenure, but his approach will make the position much worse.

The approaches described by Stephen House in Holyrood, and in his evidence to the Justice Committee, reflect a very old-fashioned view of the deployment of police staffs.

Those offering 'challenging and radical ideas' should be willing to apply them to their own profession, not just to other parts of the public service.

Dave Watson
Scottish Organiser
UNISON Scotland


Quango reorganisation fails to simplify pay negotiations - UNISON

Date: Thurs 7 Jan 2010

The Scottish Government's Public Services Reform Bill will do little to reform Scotland's quangos and fails to address the bureaucratic and tortuous process of pay bargaining, said Scotland's largest public service union UNISON.

In a briefing to MSPs in advance of today's Stage One debate in the Scottish Parliament, UNISON calls for an amendment to enable streamlined pay bargaining arrangements to be introduced covering the different Agencies, Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) and Public Corporations, who all currently have their own structures.

Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish Organiser (Policy) said "Although this bill's aim is to streamline Scotland's quangos and improve their efficiency, it has missed the opportunity to streamline their lengthy and costly bargaining process. A process which has resulted in many disputes in recent years, undermined staff confidence and damaged public service."

The union has been campaigning for some time to improve the current confused state of pay negotiations in this sector, and backed the recommendations of the Parliament's Finance Committee inquiry into public sector pay.

Peter Ritchie, Chair of UNISON's NDPB staff sector group said "Sadly little has been done to implement these recommendations. We need to address the mess that has been created in this sector's pay negotiations by the variety of bodies, the range of different negotiating machinery, and the often unhelpful interference of the Government Finance Department."

UNISON is suggesting the creation of two negotiating bodies - one covering Executive Agencies (with staff closely tied to Civil Service pay and conditions) and one covering NDPBs and possibly Public Corporations, which employ staff drawn from a variety of other backgrounds. But the union recognises that the detail of this is not appropriate for primary legislation and is seeking an enabling amendment to be introduced at Stage Two.


Note for Editors:- UNISON is Scotland's largest public service union, representing well over 160,000 workers working in Scotland's public services.