Thursday, 31 May 2012

Hume Institute’s report on public sector remuneration in Scotland – UNISON response

UNISON, Scotland’s largest trade union, today responded to the publication of the David Hume Institute’s paper ‘Public Sector Remuneration in Scotland’.

The paper claims to ‘start the process of careful consideration based on informed, rigorous and objective analysis’. However, UNISON says the paper falls somewhat short of this objective.

The union criticised the report for repeating, uncritically, many well worn neo-liberal economic myths about public sector pay and the private sector. There is little acknowledgement that most expenditure cuts in Scotland have been achieved by cutting the real wages and jobs of public service workers who did not cause the crisis. There is also virtually no analysis of the importance of pay – particularly the low paid – on local economies and the positive role public policy in this area can play.

While the paper does include some objective analysis from contributors like Alastair Hatchett of IDS, there is little effort at balance. In addition to the one-sided economic perspective, there are three papers by employers – including two predictable rants from the CBI and IoD. There is a veneer of balance in the excellent paper from the STUC’s Stephen Boyd but there is no contribution from anyone actually engaged in negotiating public sector remuneration in Scotland, who could have corrected the many misconceptions and reflected on current developments.

Dave Watson, UNISON Scotland’s Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, said:

“The report describes better pay for low paid workers as an ‘overpayment’ and suggests staff are ‘overpaid’. This is linked to the extraordinary and misleading claim that the public sector ‘pay freeze’ does not apply to lower paid workers. This will comes as something of a surprise to thousands of low paid public service workers whose living standards are being slashed.

“While there is a case for considering how public sector remuneration is developed – particularly in the context of constitutional change – the David Hume Institute, with its right wing ideological position, is not the body to offer an objective platform for such a debate.”

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

UNISON campaign sees new safety measures introduced to cut needlestick injuries

A Scottish health board has become one of the first to introduce new safety measures to reduce needlestick injuries among health workers, thanks to a UNISON campaign.

The majority of the new safety devices – which include various safety needles – have been introduced to Dumfries and Galloway Health Board in recent months in a bid to cut the number of needlestick and sharps injuries among staff. In the past decade, the board has seen more than 600 related injuries. UNISON member Andy Howat, who is employed by the board as a health and safety adviser, says he hopes the move will lead to a large drop in the number of needle-related injuries.

He said: “Needlestick and sharps injuries cause needless worry and injury to hospital staff as well as costing health boards thousands of pounds each year. This money could be saved by preventing the incidents in the first place and better spent on vital areas of healthcare.

“It’s only right that hospital staff have a safe environment to work in and I have no doubt that these new safety needles will reduce the number of injuries among health workers. The fact is, even one injury is one too many, so we need to remember that health and safety is a very worthwhile investment.”

The union will share its success story at a European conference in London on Friday (June 1). The European Bio Safety Network Conference aims to raise awareness of the serious health risks caused by needlestick and sharps injuries, as well as looking at practical steps employers and workers can take to prepare for implementation of the EU directive on needlestick injuries – The Prevention of Sharps Injuries in the Hospital and Healthcare Sector – which comes into effect in May, 2013.

Joe Lynch, UNISON’s regional organiser, said: “This is an excellent example of partnership working between UNISON and Dumfries and Galloway health board. Eight years ago the board didn’t even have a dedicated health and safety officer and now, thanks to a lot of union campaigning, it’s become one of the first health boards to implement these new safety standards for health workers.

“Two years ago, we worked with the board to introduce safety canulas and, since then, there’s been no canula-related injuries involving contact with patients’ blood. That’s a success in itself and we hope other health boards will follow suit and implement measures to protect their staff from needlestick and sharps injuries.”

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Ask your MSPs to support a Robin Hood Tax

UNISON Scotland supports the Robin Hood Tax and is urging members to contact MSPs asking them to back it.
Three years after the economic crash, ordinary people around the world are still paying the price of a crisis they did nothing to cause. A Robin Hood Tax on the banks could raise tens of billions to help protect public services, fight poverty and tackle climate change at home and abroad.

This tax has gathered support from dozens of countries, including Germany, France, South Africa and, closer to home, Wales. Bill Gates, Joseph Stiglitz (the Scottish Government’s economic advisor) and 1,000 economists have got behind this tax. And First Minister Alex Salmond has also voiced his support. The Robin Hood coalition believes it is now time for the Scottish Parliament to raise its voice. 

It is important for Scotland to join this call to show that the UK Government is increasingly isolated in opposing a Robin Hood Tax. Many people have contacted MPs in the past; now is the time to contact your local MSPs and ask them to show their public support.

A Robin Hood Tax could happen but it needs your help.

You can easily contact your MSPs via the Robin Hood Tax e-action website here


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

UNISON challenges Glasgow’s councillors over immediate breaches of manifesto pledges

Tuesday 22 May 2012

UNISON has today written to Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council, charging the Labour-led council of breaching key manifesto pledges within days of being elected.

Labour fought the elections on a manifesto which promised job creation and fairer pay, however, the union has criticised the council for forcing through redundancies and pay cuts to workers who provide services and support to the most vulnerable in the city.

UNISON has long been raising concerns about Glasgow City Council’s personalisation agenda for social care and has been working with service users, carers, families and campaigning groups in the Glasgow Personalisation Network to highlight these. UNISON believes that the personalisation and transformation of social care has been introduced without adequate funding, with the focus being on reducing the cost of supporting individuals rather than genuinely giving people greater control and support to transform their lives.

The council’s latest actions involve requiring providers of social care services to cut their hourly rate in order to get on to the council’s ‘framework’ and thus be allowed to continue to provide services funded by the council. This has led to a rash of redundancies and pay cuts being embarked on by voluntary organisations such as the Mungo Foundation, Glasgow Association for Mental Health and the Richmond Fellowship Scotland.

Simon Macfarlane, UNISON’s Regional Organiser, said: “We are seeing a wholesale onslaught against our members working in social care in Glasgow with jobs, pay and conditions all being cut.

“The situation has been grim for a while, but the last few weeks have seen this deteriorate markedly due to the council’s overt pressure on providers to cut hourly rates. The whole sector is being demoralised and deskilled and our members are at breaking point, they want to maintain the quality of care and support but in this climate it is not possible. 

“Our members are committed to providing service users and their families with the best possible service and they are not willing to be exploited any longer. If the Labour council doesn’t act on its new mandate to stop these cuts then they are going to see significant unrest and disruption in social care and the blame for this will be laid squarely where it belongs - at their feet.”


Monday, 21 May 2012

Nurses and midwives should not be held to ransom says UNISON as unions condemn 60% registration fee hike

Monday 21 May 2012

'Scottish Chief Nursing Officer must intervene' says nursing union
UNISON Scotland, is condemning plans that will see the yearly registration fee that must be paid by every nurse and midwife increase by over 60%. This move comes at the same time as pension contribution increases mean that every nurse or midwife attempting to save for their future has just had their take home pay reduced.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has announced that it will begin consulting on raising the annual fee that nurses and midwifes have to pay to work from £76 to £120 per year. The last fee increase came in 2007, when nurses were asked to pay more to allow the NMC to build up its reserves.

The union said that serious questions need to be asked about financial management at the troubled regulatory body, which has been in special measures since 2008, and has had six chief executives and three chairs in that time.

Bridget Hunter, UNISON Scotland's lead officer for nursing said:
“Hard pressed nurses and midwives will rightly be very angry about plans to make them pay more to work. Many of these vital health workers and their families are already struggling to make ends meet. Not only have they had their pay frozen for two years, cutbacks in the Health Service mean that many newly qualified nurses are finding it difficult to get jobs and may question the value of trying to stay in the profession.

“The government cannot stand by and let the pressure keep piling onto nurses and midwives. Not only should it start applying serious scrutiny to the NMC, it must also step in and persuade the council that now is not the time to raise its fees. Health workers should not have to pay the price for the NMC’s own failures and for the government’s failure to police this body properly.

"We hope that Scotland’s Chief Nursing Officer, Ros Moore will add her voice to those opposing this desperately unfair hike in fees. ”

UNISON is seeking an urgent meeting with the NMC and with ministers, and is calling on the NMC to undertake an urgent review of its financial systems. The union made it clear that it will not support the fee rise.


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Extra police should be out on the beat - not replacing police staffs

Wed 16 May 2012

Survey by UNISON indicates half of extra officers are covering non-operational duties
Up to half of the 1000 extra police recruited by the Scottish Government are spending some or all of their time doing the work previously carried out by police staffs who have been made redundant. That’s the result of a survey by UNISON, the union representing police staffs ahead of Thursday’s parliamentary debate on policing.

Police forces across Scotland have been trying to make savings. As the Scottish Government has an arbitrary target to maintain police officer numbers at 17234, the focus of the savings are concentrated on police staffs. This has resulted in over 1000 police staff posts being lost. As a consequence police officers are taking on the work of police staffs.

Police staffs operate in corporate and support roles in functions such as intelligence, information technology, control rooms, station assistants, forensics and human resources. They also take on operational roles in areas such as custody and detention, financial investigation and scenes of crime.

It is very difficult to precisely specify the amount of job substitution because most of the duties are spread among a larger group of police officers who often spend only part of their time undertaking these duties. To get a better picture UNISON Scotland undertook a survey of a random sample of UNISON members employed in police boards in Scotland.

This survey shows that around 53% of the 1000 police staff posts which have already gone are being covered in part or in full by police officers. That means around 500 police officers are now not out on the street fighting crime for part of the time they used to be.

If this was applied to the future staffing plan it would suggest up to 2,000 officers could, at least in part, be taken off operational duties. UNISON accepts that extrapolation from survey data is not a precise calculation. But it does give an indication of the scale of loss – one police officer lost in this way would be too many. And remember - we already have hundreds of police officers undertaking roles that elsewhere in the UK would be done more efficiently by police staffs.

George McIrvine, Chair of UNISON Scotland’s Police Staffs Committee said:
“People expect police to be out on the beat - not doing jobs that, quite frankly, other people are better qualified for. It’s also pretty galling for staff to see people made redundant to save money being replaced by uniformed Officers earning nearly double the wages of those who’ve gone out the door."

UNISON Scotland Head of Bargaining and Campaigns Dave Watson said:
“The fixation on maintaining numbers of uniformed officers while slashing budgets everywhere else wastes money and does nothing to keep people safe. Scottish police forces are already less specialised with lower levels of civilianisation than those in England. If current trends are carried on into the proposed single police force we will see anything up to 2000 police officers spending some or all of their time off operational duties. It’s the wrong approach in terms of public safety - and makes no sense economically”


Thursday, 10 May 2012

UNISON calls for a balanced, modern police team ahead of parliamentary debate on national forces

UNISON response to stage 1 debate on Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill

A balanced, modern police team must be the focus for the future of Scottish policing. That was the message from UNISON, the police staff union, speaking ahead of today’s stage one debate on the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill at the Scottish Parliament.

The union has been highly critical of the Scottish Government’s plans to maintain an artificial target of police officers, a move the union says will result in the loss of thousands of civilian roles.

George McIrvine, chair of UNISON’s police committee, said the loss of these roles will lead to fewer police on our streets as officers are taken off the streets to perform the tasks of civilian staff.

He said: “We deserve an efficient and effective police force, with the right people doing the right jobs.

“To date, 1,000 police staff have already been cut and we’re seeing more and more police officers being taken off the streets to carry out these roles – roles they are untrained to do and at a greater cost to the taxpayer. The Scottish Government’s plans to maintain an artificial target of police officers will see between two and three thousand civilian jobs being cut - it’s a crazy strategy and it makes no economic or operational sense.

“We want to see a balanced, modern police team, with the right skills and expertise for an effective police force. We need the skills of police staffs to 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.”

Gerry Crawley, UNISON’s Regional Organiser, said: “On top of these cuts, the new national forces could see the police lose their VAT exemption which will cost Scottish taxpayers at least £30m. 

“If the new national forces were organised on the basis of local authorities, not only would this strengthen local democratic accountability, but it would retain s33 status and maintain the exemption to the taxpayer.”

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Early years staff have vital role to play in children’s education, says UNISON

‘Early years staff have a vital role to play in children’s education’. That was the message from UNISON Scotland today ahead of a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s education committee in Edinburgh.

It’s time for fair pay say unions as they lodge pay claim for local government workers

‘It’s time for fair pay’. That was the message from Scotland’s local government unions today (Tuesday, May 8) as they lodged their annual pay claim on behalf of council workers in a bid to end the continued pay freeze. UNISON, GMB and Unite unions are calling for a Living Wage of £7.20 to be implemented in councils across the country. The unions are also calling for a £1,000 flat payment for workers; inclusive of £500 for this year and £500 for last year.

Monday, 7 May 2012

May Day Edinburgh: We got a taste of victory and its tastes good

UNISON's John Stevenson told Edinburgh's May Day Rally, "There is an alternative and we need to keep telling them that. We need to keep telling our members that and we need to keep organising around that And just when we think we’re hitting a brick wall, let’s remind ourselves. We won in the privatisation fight in Edinburgh. We won in Aberdeen. We’ve turned the tide in Southampton. We’re fighting on in Barnet and councils across the country. We’ve got a taste of victory and its tastes good. Let’s do it again!" See full report at

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Vote today for public services

You value your services so vote for them today! Polls open till 10pm

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Public Accounts Committee report on PFI

The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has warned today that, in too many cases, investors have made "eye-wateringly high" profits while taxpayers are trapped in expensive and inflexible contracts.

The Committee Chair said: "The current model of PFI is unsustainable. Time and again my Committee has reported on problems with PFI, including the costly contracting process and the prospect of little risk being transferred but high returns being enjoyed by  investors. 30 year contracts are inflexible and don’t allow managers to alter priorities or change services that have become outdated. We have even seen evidence of excess profits being priced into projects from the start."

All of this could have been lifted from a UNISON briefing 15 years ago. Time for the UK and Scottish Governments to think again.

If police targets are maintained, large scale civilian cuts will follow - warns UNISON

UNISON response to stage 1 report on Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill

Plans to maintain the Scottish Government’s target of 1,000 extra police officers will lead to large scale civilian cuts and turn the policing clock back decades, warns UNISON.

The union’s warning follows today’s (Wednesday) publication of the Justice Committee’s stage 1 report on the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill.

While UNISON welcomes the committee’s decision to seek clarification on the impact of police staff redundancies, UNISON says the sheer magnitude of cuts will lead to an inefficient and outdated police service.

Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish Organiser, said:

“The committee needs to look beyond the small print and see how the Government’s targets of recruiting an extra 1,000 police officers will decimate Scottish policing. The committee can be assured that if police targets are maintained, then large scale civilian cuts will follow, as sure as night follows day.

“The projected savings from the move to a single police force will be primarily achieved by reducing the number of police staffs by thousands. This is nothing but a recipe for service chaos and makes no economic sense, as police officers are taken off the streets to carry out the roles of civilian staff – jobs they are not trained to do and at a greater cost to the taxpayer.”

The report also highlighted the committee’s concerns about the loss of VAT (known as s33 status) that would result if the single fire and police services are established as proposed by the Scottish Government.

Mr Watson continued:

“The committee is rightly concerned about the loss of VAT exemption which will cost at least £30m. This means Scottish taxpayers will have to foot an additional bill of around £26m for the police and between £4m and £10m for the fire and rescue service. 

“If the new national forces were organised on the basis of local authorities, not only would this strengthen local democratic accountability, but it would retain s33 status and maintain the exemption to the taxpayer.”

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

May Day greetings to UNISON members and trade unionists everywhere

عمال العالم اتحدوا
Trabajadores de todos los países se unen
Proletari di tutti i paesi si uniscono

Workers of All Countries Unite