Friday, 31 August 2012

New Police Authority chair should put force needs ahead of political targets says police staffs union

Friday 31 August 2012
UNISON - the union for police staffs - congratulated Vic Emery on his appointment as chair of the new Scottish Police Authority (SPA) but warned that he faces a near impossible challenge in maintaining the effectiveness of policing given current plans to cut back staffing in the new national force.

UNISON has concerns that the new national structure will decrease not just democratic accountability but may not be flexible enough to meet local needs. Of even greater concern are spending plans which will mean losing thousands of police staff jobs undermining the balanced workforce necessary for a modern police force.

George McIrvine, Chair of UNISON’s Police Staffs Committee commented:

“We wish Mr Emery well in his new role but he will have to grapple with the reality that hundreds of police officers are already being taken off the streets to backfill police staff jobs – jobs they aren’t trained to do and at a greater cost than the staff they replace – and this will rise significantly if current plans go ahead.

“We need a balanced workforce where the skills of police staffs enable police officers to do the job the public wants them to do, where they want them to do it – that is fighting crime, out on the streets. We hope Mr Emery will see his role as role as putting the effectiveness of Scotland’s police service ahead of artificial political targets devised by Ministers.”


Notes to editors

1. As the Scottish Government has an arbitrary target to maintain police officer numbers at 17,234, the focus of the savings are concentrated on police staffs. This has resulted in over 1,000 police staff posts being lost already. As a consequence police officers are taking on the work of police staffs.

2. Other documents giving analysis of the Police reform process and UNISON’s campaign for a balanced, modern police force – rather than cutting thousands of police staff jobs – are available on UNISON’s police pages

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

CBI budget submission is recipe for misery

Tuesday 28 August 2012  

Business body suggestions fail to support economy, services... or most businesses

Reacting to the CBI Scotland budget submission public services union UNISON condemned the lobbying organisation for big business as being out of touch with reality and stuck in a Thatcherite timewarp.

There is a bit of a contradiction between the CBI call for spending on infrastructure to promote growth and their enthusiastic backing for UK government spending cuts - which have reduced capital spending in Scotland and across the UK. When asked how they will pay for it the CBI advocate cuts in public service wages and jobs.

A strategy of cutting demand won’t get the economy moving - and cutting jobs and wages will only reduce consumer confidence further.

As ever the default position of the CBI is more privatisation of public services – specifically Scottish Water. Scottish Water capital spend is £500m per year - much of it by construction companies – were Scottish water privatised the charge payer would face additional costs to provide profits and massively increased executive pay packages.

UNISON Scotland head of bargaining and campaigns Dave Watson said:
"With their year in year out insistence on cutbacks and privatisation you do wonder who exactly CBI Scotland is representing here. Their proposals won’t help public services, the wider economy or frankly many businesses. Retail and manufacturing business members desperately need consumer spending, instead CBI Scotland argues for or a narrow group of privatising companies, desperate to rip off the taxpayer.

"Needless to say while telling public servants to get poorer and pick up P45s the CBI has nothing to say about top directors pay - which in the midst of economic crisis went up by 50% last year."


CBI Scotland stuck in a time warp

They say there is nothing more certain than death and taxes. Well there is, the annual CBI submission on the Scottish budget. Always predictable, always economic nonsense.

You are lured in with their call for capital spending. Yes, we can all agree with that, even if the very same CBI supported the UK government's spending cuts that have slashed capital spending in Scotland and across the UK. Then when asked how they would pay for it, sadly we get no Plan B, but instead they propose cutting current spending by wage restraint and public service job cuts.

Cabinet Secretary, John Swinney MSP politely explained on GMS this morning that you dont get the economy moving by further reducing demand. Cutting wages and jobs is guaranteed to further reduce consumer confidence. I will be less polite. You do wonder who exactly CBI Scotland is representing here. Their retail and manufacturing business members who desperately need consumer spending, or a narrow group of privatising companies, desperate to rip off the taxpayer.

And it is here that we move onto the CBI's other solution. Privatise everything including Scotland's water. The G4S Olympic scandal simply flows past CBI towers as if it never happened. Even Tory ministers wonder if privatisation is the right approach. According to the CBI there is no economic benefit to Scottish Water being in the public sector. Excuse me, £500m of capital expenditure per year has no effect on the Scottish economy? Do they talk to construction companies who do most of this work? If it was privatised the charge payer would end up paying for the profits and the fat cat wages. But of course I probably missed the call for wage restraint for CBI bosses, who award themselves ever greater bonuses, while everyone else suffers long term real wage cuts.

The CBI solutions defy even basic economics and are stuck in a time warp on privatisation.

Monday, 27 August 2012

JOBS at UNISON Scotland: New job opportunities working for UNISON Scotland

Area Fighting Fund Organiser (2 posts) and Local Fighting Fund Organisers (8 posts)

Area Fighting Fund Organiser (2 posts)Fixed Term Contract or Secondment up to 11 months - Scottish Region:
Closing date: 14 September 2012 by 4 pm. Full details at

Local Fighting Fund Organisers (8 posts)
Fixed Term Contract or Secondment up to 11 months – Scottish Region:
Closing date: 14 September 2012 by 4 pm
Full details at

The above vacancies are on the UNISON web site ( and on

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Unemployment stats – UNISON Scotland response

Commenting on the latest unemployment figures released by the Office of National Statistics today (Wednesday, August 15), Mike Kirby, UNISON’s Scottish Secretary, said:

“This small fall in unemployment is welcome, but we have little to celebrate. Youth unemployment continues to rise and there’s no disguising the fact that young people face a bleak jobs future. These figures also hide underemployment in Scotland through the use of self-employment, part-time and zero-hours contracts.

 “The UK Government must not condemn an entire generation of young people to the dole queue and must instead focus on rebuilding our economy and safeguarding the future. The government must ditch its failed austerity policies and promote growth through investment in jobs and services, with targeted help for young people.”

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Capital cities join to back public services during festival

‘A Tale of Two Barnets’ film comes to Edinburgh. Edinburgh and London UNISON members are bringing an acclaimed film to the city during the festival on 20 August to highlight the dangers of wholesale privatisation of council services.

Police and fire VAT update

UNISON Scotland did a follow up Freedom of Information request to the Scottish Government on the Issue of exempting the new centralised police and fire services from VAT. This was to get the latest exchanges between the Scottish Government and HM Treasury. 

The e.mails explain that, as we predicted, the Scottish Government tried to use the local funding of additional police officers as a basis for arguing the necessary local taxation element to bring the provisions in line with the purpose of s33. The Treasury minister in a letter dated 17 July sets out why. A bit of discretionary funding for services, that don't in any case attract VAT, doesn't meet the test. The key line in this letter says;

"We have been unable to persuade you to alter your reforms to introduce an element of local funding which is consistent with the guidance".

They are not the only ones! 

No great surprise but it does confirm our position that it is the Scottish Government's obsession with centralisation that is costing police and fire service over £30m. Money that could be better employed fighting crime and fire.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Falkirk Wheel Welfare Fun Day 9 September

Branches are urged to support the UNISON Welfare Family Fun Day and Sponsored Walk at the Falkirk Wheel on 9 September. Full details are on the website with forms for branches to sponsor events or stalls and sponsorship forms for walkers. See

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Tory attack on union facility time is nothing more than mischief making, says UNISON

UNISON has hit back against Tory attacks on trade union facility time and says it amounts to nothing more than mischief making.

Their attack is also factually inaccurate, as union reps do not ‘work’ for unions as the Tories falsely claim. Facility time is time off from an individual’s job, granted by the employer, to enable a trade union rep to carry out their trade union role.

Trade union facility time is common practice in both the private and public sector, endorsed by law and statutory guidance and widely accepted by employers as a sensible way of facilitating engagement with workplace representatives.

Mike Kirby, UNISON’s Scottish Secretary, said:

“The Tories attack on trade union reps is nothing more than mischief making. Union reps are, in fact, a massive boost to our workplaces. We all know the value of trade union facility time; study after study has confirmed that trade union representatives save councils money through their everyday work around sickness absence, suspensions, training, reductions in tribunal claims and costly legal action. This adds up to a massive saving for the taxpayer.

“Given the huge scale of cuts hitting the public sector, the role of workplace reps in our public services is more important than ever before. Attacking union reps – who already give countless hours of extra work outside of their facility time – doesn’t make any sense and would only cost the taxpayer more money in the long run.”



  1. An independent report by NatCen Social Research for UNISON, published in June, shows facility time for trade union reps in the public sector saves the taxpayer money, cuts the number of strikes and disputes and improves workplace relations.

The report highlighted the following key benefits that facility time brings to public sector workplaces:

·         Creating a ready-made structure for consultation and negotiation, saving organisations money and giving workers reassurance that their views will be heard when decisions are made.

·         Allowing partnership working with trade unions to improve workplace relations, helping to create the reputation of an employer as ‘a good place to work’.

·         Earlier intervention in relation to complaints, grievances and disciplinaries, helping to stop issues escalating, which saves organisations and ultimately taxpayers’ money.

·         Better communication to manage change during restructuring and redundancy processes; thereby improving understanding of decisions, minimising negative impacts and reducing the number of working days lost through industrial action.

The full report is available here:

A two-page summary of the findings is available here:

UNISON response to FoI Amendment Bill online now

The UNISON Scotland  response to the Scottish Parliament Finance Committ's call for evidence on the Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill is online now.

As a longstanding supporter of strong freedom of information legislation, UNISON Scotland is disappointed that the Scottish Government is making only minor changes via this Bill. It should use section 5 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) to extend FOISA to cover all public services.

The Scottish Government says that its aim is to “add strength and clarity to the existing legislation”. However, failing to ensure that freedom of information rights "follow the money" means the existing legislation is weaker and less clear than it should be for the growing number of public services delivered by private companies and other bodies not currently covered by FOISA.

The public should be able to access information about the public services they use and about public and political decisions that affect them, whatever type of body holds the information or provides the service. The use of section 5 to ensure this is long overdue.

We strongly support the call by the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland for the Scottish Parliament to amend the Bill to extend FOISA in this way.

As the Committee knows,  this (including a rolling programme of active review) was a key recommendation by Kevin Dunion, the first Scottish Information Commissioner, in a Special Report when he finished his final term of office earlier this year.

His successor Rosemary Agnew has also called on the  Scottish Government to act in her July 2012 response to the Finance Committee on its call for evidence.

We hope that the Finance Committee will agree that it is wrong for Ministers to proclaim their commitment to FOI and its Six Principles and to argue that this Bill tackles weaknesses, while failing to use section 5 to protect the public's FOI rights.

See the full response here: