Saturday, 31 December 2011

Review of 2011 - Celebrate the Successes... It’s going to be a Long War

A review of 2011 from the unofficial UNISONActive blog calls on us to celebrate our successes but focus on organising for the challenges ahead.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Public sector employment in Scotland

The latest public sector employment figures highlight the impact public spending cuts are having on jobs and services. Branches have a received a briefing today but the headlines include:
  • There are 588,900 people employed in the public sector in Scotland, a decrease of 23,500 (3.8%) since last year. Public sector employment accounted for 23.7% of total employment, down from 24.7% 2010.
  • This has been driven by a decrease in local government (inc. Police & Fire) employment. Total local government employment decreased by 13,300 (4.5%) over the last year. 
  • Employment in the NHS decreased by 4,200 (2.7%) over the year, from 158,800 to 154,500.
  • Other Public Bodies (inc NDPBs) down by 1,000 (6.0%); Public Corporations down by 50 (0.4%).
  • Further Education colleges down by 2,000 (11.8%). HE is not classified as public sector. 
This is also grim news for the economy. For every public sector job lost, more than one goes in
the private sector. That's why, contrary to the Chancellor's claim, private sector jobs are not
plugging the gap. The consequential unemployment figures are highlighted in today's STUC analysis 'Christmas on the dole in Scotland'.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Pensions negotiations updates

No decisions till UNISON service groups meet 10 January: STUC unions to meet in January. See website links for latest briefings:

19 Dec: Health pensions - UNISON response

19 Dec: Local Govt briefing (England and Wales) No change before 2014

Dec 2011: Scottish pensions Bulletin No 28 - December 2011

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Climate Change - two ways to get involved in early 2012

SCCS bike stunt and Earth Hour 2012

Calling all cyclists - SCCS needs your help with our campaign stunt.

We need as many people on bikes as possible to gather outside St Andrews House (which is the main office of the Scottish Government), in Edinburgh, at 1pm on Wednesday 11th January.

We need your help for just one hour to urge Scottish Ministers to increase funding for cycling and walking. Read more

Earth Hour 2012 takes place on Saturday 31 March and branches are being encouraged to get involved.

UNISON Scotland supports Earth Hour and works with WWF to encourage branches to promote the event and include it in Green Workplace action. 

This year a special WWF / UNISON Earth Hour toolkit is available for branches with ideas for activities that could help raise awareness and involve members and the public in taking action on climate change. More here 


Wednesday, 14 December 2011

PPP/PFI in Scotland

Scottish Government ministers talk of Scotland being "set free from the shackles of PFI." Sadly as UNISON Scotland's latest briefing shows this is far from the case.  

The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) – the quango that was originally proposed by the SNP as an alternative to PFI - is currently in charge of a £2.5 billion Scottish Government PPP pipeline of PPP projects rebranded as NPD and hub DBFM projects. One of the biggest programmes of its type in Europe. Ministers talk mainly about NPD, arguing that it removes the "excessive profits and financing costs" of PFI, although officials admit it is still a PPP scheme. DBFM is a traditional PPP model.

The SFT says they differ from PFI in various ways including that profits are capped to prevent "super profits". However, Mark Hellowell, of Edinburgh University and expert adviser to the House of Commons Treasury Committee for its summer 2011 PFI inquiry, says that the long-term cost to taxpayers of NPD is "similar" to that of the classic PFI model and that it "makes PFI a bit more politically acceptable without changing any of the economics."

There is no doubt that the new models are an improvement on the original PPP schemes. Officials have learned some lessons from the mistakes of the past. However, for schools in particular PPP has returned "as the only game in town" for councils who want Government support.

So why have the SNP abandoned their opposition to PPP? Probably for the same reason the last administration continued with it - keeping the costs off the balance sheet. The problem is that in the real world you still have to pay the bills and PPP bills are always bigger.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Our Future, Our Fight - sign the NUS petition on college funding

13 December 2011 
The UNISON Scottish FE committee strongly supports the National Union of Students (NUS) Campaign concerning the funding of colleges. Please sign their petition and get your members to sign this petition.

Colleges have been severely hit by the funding cuts, losing 30% in 3 years. This has already led to substantial job losses and a poorer service to students and things are going to get worse. In this time of high unemployment, particularly in young people, the colleges play a vital role in getting people prepared and trained for the job market.

We already know that:
  • there have been over 1000 job losses
  • many courses have been cut
  • there are less students in colleges
  • the support students gets is decreasing so staying in college is becoming increasingly more difficult
  • many of our members in colleges are not even paid the living wage
Colleges play a vital role in our communities, so please sign the petition. When you sign, your MSPs will be automatically emailed. Make sure they know that the slashing of college budgets is unacceptable.

Thank you for your support

Emma Phillips, Regional Organiser, UNISON Scotland FE Committee

Monday, 12 December 2011

Durban: ITUC: No Guarantees for Climate as Governments Again Delay #COP17

The international trade union movement today expressed its disappointment after climate negotiators in Durban agreed a platform to continue negotiations, but without any guarantees that will make the cuts to emissions demanded by science to stop a climate disaster.

Trade Unions in Durban demanded the extension of the Kyoto Agreement, a globally negotiated legally binding agreement and a plan to operationalise and fill the Green Climate Fund.

"The Kyoto Protocol, a critical piece in the climate agreement, survived the talks but without key countries, without commitments on emission reductions and with major loopholes. A Green Climate fund was agreed, but without commitments to fill the fund. And a new negotiating round was launched aimed at being implemented in 2020," said Sharan Burrow.

Scientists, environmental groups have warned the delay to 2020 puts the planet, and people at great risk of irreversible damage from rising temperatures.

“Governments must not abandon the principals of equity, social justice and historical responsibilities, as they start the new round of negotiations.

"This delay must not distract from the immediate action governments need to take to invest in a low-carbon economy and create green jobs and a Just Transition,” said Sharan Burrow.

"Unions will not wait until 2020 for action to reduce emissions and reshape economies. In Rio in 2012 and beyond, workers will call for a renewed, more ambitious mandates from our governments, for green and greener jobs, and for social justice to prevail over the current economic order, that once again won in Durban.

"One trillion dollars of investment is now being directed towards the green economy, but too many nations are left out, Instead of waiting for an agreement to be negotiated and implemented in 2020, nations need to act now to deliver green jobs for the future," said Sharan Burrow.

The international trade union movement will be taking the call for climate action to the G20 Summit in Mexico and the Rio+20 Earth Summit next June as well as mobilising workers in each country.

"We have been vocal in calling for a Just Transition where workers are involved and shape the social and economic transformation to tackle climate change. Now our voice will only get louder as the urgency for government action becomes greater," said Sharan Burrow.

Read more here


Sunday, 11 December 2011

SCCS: Durban - disappointment at desperate lack of ambition #COP17

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland today expressed disappointment at the desperate lack of ambition contained within the UN climate agreement in Durban.

Despite the growing warning from scientists, the reality is that this will be woefully insufficient to avoid global temperatures rising by more than 2 degrees, as was committed to at the talks last year in Cancun.
Tom Ballantine, Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland said:
"It is really disappointing to see such a desperate lack of ambition resulting from the Durban talks. What we are left with falls short of what scientists say will be needed to avoid runaway climate change.
"Climate change is a truly global issue and must be tackled by countries coming together with a global climate change agreement. In spite of the outcome in Durban countries must not be distracted from the urgent need to support people in developing countries survive the impacts of climate change, nor the responsibility to ensure their own houses are in order.
"Scotland's Climate Change Act commits us to emissions reductions which are in line with climate science and was appreciated by many nations in Durban. But, to maintain that leadership, Scotland must ensure that those promised emissions cuts are actually achieved, and that the government's commitment to establishing a climate adaptation fund to support developing countries is made a reality."

Monday, 5 December 2011

Ask Scotland’s climate change minister a question at UN talks in Durban

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and international trade union campaigners are in Durban at the important UN Climate talks.

On Wednesday 7 Dec SCCS will be meeting Scottish Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson.

You can post questions to be put by them to Mr Stevenson in South Africa on Facebook or via Twitter. A video recording of the meeting will be posted online afterwards.

The International Trade Union Confederation is also at the talks. Read about what they are doing – including about the need for a Just Transition to a low carbon economy on the Touchstone blog
You can see the ITUC reports from Durban here, including the ITUC contribution to the talks.

SCCS is running a blog from Durban and you can see updates here A video of the Stop Climate Chaos online debate last week with UK Energy and Climate Minister Chris Huhne is here

SCCS also produced a briefing for MSPs on the Durban talks.


Public service pensions benefit business

Strathclyde Pension Fund is launching an innovative £100million scheme to benefit small and medium size businesses in Scotland. The aim is to deliver a return for the fund, boost the economy and create jobs.

Proposals from Scottish firms will be studied by a panel of experts who will sign off loans or equity deals. The fund will target firms looking to expand and willing to pay the "living wage" of £7.20 an hour.

Fund Chair Councillor Paul Rooney said: "By making these funds available for appropriate investments, we can generate jobs. But there will have to be a return for the pension fund and for people's pensions. It's important the small firms we invest in have a clear business plan and meet the criteria we set."

This plan highlights the economic benefits of the Local Government Pension Scheme in Scotland. Across the country nearly £20bn of assets are available for investment. UNISON has long argued that this resource gets insufficient recognition and should be used for public investment and to promote the living wage. 

However, UNISON has also warned that there is a real risk that the UK Government's attack on public service pensions could result in increasing numbers of workers opting out from these schemes. Something that even Lord Hutton highlighted again this weekend. That would undermine the viability of the schemes and have a knock on effect on investment into the economy. Not to mention increasing the burden on the state welfare systems in retirement.  

Friday, 2 December 2011

Rodney Bickerstaffe at Edinburgh #N30 - video

Rodney Bickerstaffe's speech to the magnificent Edinburgh Rally on November 30. Public Sector Workers stand united against attacks on pensions.

More on and

Mike Kirby's speech to the Glasgow Rally #N30

Mike Kirby, Scottish Secretary of Unison and STUC President addresses the Public Services Pensions Rally in the Barrowlands Glasgow on the 30 November 2011.

More on and

Thursday, 1 December 2011

BBC News - Public sector strikes in Scotland: video

BBC News - Public sector strikes in Scotland: Services across Scotland have been disrupted as up to 300,000 public sector workers joined colleagues in the rest of the UK in a strike over pension and job changes.

Some good footage of rallies around Scotland and vox pops. There's a token numpty for "balance" but you'll spot and ignore him.

Morning Star: Strikers Show The Tories Who's Boss

Strikers Show The Tories Who's Boss: 2 Million Out To Save Their Pensions / Britain / Home - Morning Star: In Scotland over 300,000 workers took to the streets while in Wales an estimated 170,000 walked out in opposition to the brutal cuts.

Rallies up and down England drew tens of thousands - and received the overwhelming support of the public.

Speaking at a rally in Birmingham TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "On this unprecedented day when 30 unions have members taking action together we are sending a crystal-clear message to the government.

"That we are strong, that we are united, and that our campaign will go on until we secure justice and fairness for every public servant."


South Lanarkshire pickets pic

Strike pics from Dumfries, Stirling, Glasgow Life, GHA & Argyll & Bute

On the picket line in Dumfries

Lots more pictures from Dumfries on Picasa here

Picketing in Stirling

And at Glasgow Life's Gorbals swimming pool

And at Glasgow Housing Association 

Argyll & Bute branch picketing. See lots more from them here

All the pictures from the strike on Picasa here

Inverness Courier on strike rally and Danny Alexander 'robbery'

DEAFENING cheers and the sound of claxons reverberated throughout the Mercure Hotel in Inverness this afternoon as hundreds of public sector workers gathered at a rally to make a stance against proposed changes to public sector pensions.
Before the rally, workers, holding placards and banners, marched to the hotel past MP Danny Alexander’s office in Huntly Street just before noon where one striker, dressed as ‘Danny the Robber’, mockingly ran away from the workers holding a pensions 'swag bag'.
Over 300 hundred workers packed  the hotel at noon to listen to hard hitting speeches from different trade union representatives.
Etta MacKay, a midwife at Raigmore Hospital and a member of UNISON, gave a heart felt speech which received a standing ovation.

Full story from Inverness Courier here


Highland News: Inverness strikers vent fury at "robber" MP Alexander

ANGRY strikers in Inverness vented their fury at local MP Danny Alexander over pension changes as public services were crippled in the national day of action by trade unions.
Picket lines formed outside many buildings in the city and were visited by a character named "Danny the Robber". 

Dressed in comic book burglar gear and carrying a "swag bag" of stolen pension cash, the character had a face mask of Mr Alexander and was the centre of ridicule and hostility.
The Inverness MP is the Chancellor’s right-hand man as Chief Secretary to the Treasury and was viewed by picketing public sector workers as the architect of the controversial plans which sparked the national strike.

Full story from Highland News here