Thursday, 28 February 2013

UNISON calls for new devolved powers to create a Fairer Scotland

Thu 28 Feb 2013

UNISON today launched a set of policy proposals calling for fresh powers, including pensions and income tax, to be devolved to Scotland.

The union’s ‘Fairer Scotland and devolution’ document opens up a debate which has so far focused on fiscal issues and argues that new devolved powers for the Scottish parliament are essential to create a Fairer Scotland and improve the lives of working people.

UNISON Scotland says a range of fresh powers should be devolved: public sector pensions, health and safety, labour market regulation and broadcasting – as well as stronger fiscal powers, including all of income tax revenue.

The focus for UNISON of decisions about which powers to devolve and which to leave at UK level is social change and the creation of a more equal society.

Lilian Macer, Convener of UNISON Scotland said: “Our union hasn’t made a decision about which option to back in the referendum - but we are intent on putting public services and the people who provide them at the centre of the debate.”

In common with much of the trade union movement, UNISON has not as yet taken a stance on the referendum itself. Instead the union has challenged all parties to the debate to explain how their preferred option will match UNISON’s priorities laid out in the previously published document ‘A Fairer Scotland’.

Today’s publication marks a development of longstanding UNISON principles in relation to devolving power to the lowest practical level, and includes devolution below the Scottish Parliament, with a stronger statutory footing for local authorities.

Mike Kirby, UNISON Scottish Secretary said: “We have always been strong supporters of devolution - and supporters of strong devolution. As political campaigns and parties are discussing more powers for the Parliament we want to make sure we are part of this debate.

“Our concern isn’t with constitutional mechanics. Our aim is to create a fairer and more equal Scotland. The referendum debate so far has focused on fiscal matters. These fresh new powers which we are calling for should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament and used – along with the many existing powers it already has –  to improve the lives of working people.”  


Ministers called to Parliament to explain climate change plan deemed ‘not credible’

27 Feb 2013 news release from Stop Climate Chaos Scotland. Ministers in Parl 27, 28 Feb and 6 March.
In an unprecedented move, six Scottish Government Ministers [1] have been called to Parliament to explain their plans to reduce Scotland’s emissions - plans which the diverse Stop Climate Chaos coalition has branded ‘not credible’.
Four Parliamentary Committees are currently scrutinising the draft Low Carbon Scotland: Report on Proposals and Policies 2013-2027 [3].  The document could be the blueprint for how Government will ensure that its legally binding targets to reduce emissions, as set out in the Scottish Climate Change Act of 2009, can be met.  This is particularly important given that the first emissions target set under that Act was missed and with emissions from housing and transport higher now than they were in 1990.
The Committees have already heard from a range of stakeholders, most of whom have expressed concern about the credibility of the plan.  Professor Pete Smith, a renowned climate scientist from Aberdeen University and one of the authors of the global Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, dismissed some of the Government’s proposals for reducing emissions as ‘wishful thinking’[3]. 
Tom Ballantine, Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland said:
“...The Parliament came together in 2009 to unanimously vote through the Scottish Climate Change Act.  We look forward to the Parliamentary Committees again working together to recommend that Ministers up their game over the coming weeks and come forward with a revised plan of which we can all be proud.” 
[1] Keith Brown MSP (27/02/13), Margaret Burgess MSP (27/02/13), Paul Wheelhouse MSP (27/02/13), Richard Lochhead MSP (28/02/13), Fergus Ewing MSP (06/03/13), Derek MacKay MSP (27/02/13)

See the full news release on the SCCS site here

SCCS evidence to the Committees is here

Contact your MSPs to get the climate action plan improved. Information here


Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Rise in fuel poverty linked to higher prices

27 Feb 2013

UNISON, the UK’s largest union, today accused the government of doing “precious little” to help the millions of people trapped by fuel poverty.

On the day that Centrica announced a rise in profits to £606m for its residential arm, the union is calling for urgent action to stem the flow of people falling into the despair of fuel poverty.

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said:

“The rise in fuel poverty is a blight on this country with hundreds and thousands of people joining the growing numbers now spending more than 10% of household income on energy costs. Without action we are sleepwalking into very cold and dark future.

“The high cost of fuel has made ‘heat or eat’ a dilemma for many families and it is a scandal that 1.6m million children are living in fuel poverty in the UK. Shareholders and directors should not be creaming profits from British Gas and adding to the numbers of consumers struggling with their bills.

“The Government is doing precious little to address this problem. They need to pursue positive and concrete policies to stem the flow of people falling into the despair of fuel poverty. We want a nationwide programme of measures to insulate homes and provide energy efficient central heating systems for domestic consumers.

“This would help counter rising energy costs as well as providing a much needed economic boost by creating thousands of jobs. “ The union is calling on the government to plan for the future with a coherent energy policy that keeps the lights on for all consumers at an affordable price.

Notes to Editors

UNISON represents thousands of members working in the energy industry. We also operate a charity ‘there for you’ that is dealing with members who are suffering fuel poverty.

See this release on the UNISON UK website


27 Feb 2013

A presentation at the Food Standards Agency to explore ways to ‘tackle the burden’ of EU legislation is wholly inappropriate in the wake of the meat crisis, UNISON said today.

The UK’s largest union said that stronger, tighter regulation was needed to restore consumer confidence in the meat industry and protect the health of the public.

Ben Priestley, UNISON national officer said:

“Given the ongoing horsemeat scandal, it is wholly inappropriate that discussions on how to ‘reduce the burden’ of EU legislation should be taking place at the FSA. Regulation is not a burden; it is there to protect the consumer, and to keep the public safe.

“This latest scandal to hit the meat industry is evidence enough that what we need is more, stronger legislation – including a daily inspection regime – in place to ensure that a scandal on this scale cannot be allowed to happen again.”

UNISON has hit out against the light-touch regulation that has persisted since the mid-2000s, and has called for: The reintroduction of daily official inspections of all licensed meat cutting plants and cold storage facilities to ensure public health and consumer confidence. The testing of horses killed in the UK for the drug BUTE, and for the dangerous parasite, ‘Trichinela Spiralis’. A permanent move away from ‘light-touch regulation’, including the inspection – official or independent – of food manufacturing premises.


The presentation ‘How to get what you want in EU negotiations’, from the Better Regulation Executive Europe Team, will tomorrow (28/02/13) address the FSA on ‘how departments can influence EU legislation’, and discuss how they can ‘support the FSA to minimise the burdens of EU legislation’.

See this release on the UNISON UK website


Lies, damn lies and pension statistics

The Daily Telegraph ran a story on public service pensions yesterday that appears to be based on data provided by the Scottish Conservatives. Sadly, it is financially illiterate.
Firstly, it conflates the pension costs of cutting swathes of local government staff with normal pension costs. If overall pension costs have risen from £700m to £1.03bn and £300m of that is redundancy related - then the simple maths tells you that underlying pension costs have not risen at all. That is correct, because the standard contribution rate has actually fallen since the new scheme was introduced in 2009. Not least because pensioners have had their indexing cut from RPI to CPI. That alone will cost pensioners, but save the scheme at least 15%.
The £300m is as a direct consequence of losing 34,500 jobs in local government and other aggregate pension costs will increase because many of those are drawing pensions rather than working. This is driven by the UK ConDem cuts. In other words it is the direct consequence of Conservative policy. Money that would have been better spent on services and jobs rather than damaging the local economy.
Secondly, we have the fatuous claim that the ratio of pension costs to Council Tax income is rising. That is true of any spending because there has been a Council Tax freeze. This is the worst type of statistical manipulation for political purposes.
The facts are that the Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme was renegotiated in 2009. It included a cost sharing agreement that reacts to underlying increases in the cost of pensions. That would be working now had it not been for the intervention of the UK government through their Public Service Pensions Bill. That means we have to start all over again and renegotiate the scheme with no benefit to scheme members or the taxpayer. If the total cost of pensions is increasing, that is almost entirely down to Conservative polices.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Major cuts in food safety and environmental health are putting the public at risk

Tue 26 Feb 2013

UNISON Scotland warned today that new figures and staff surveys show cuts to local council environmental health departments and to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) are putting public health at risk.

Council responses to Freedom of Information requests and the results of two surveys of UNISON members confirm the union’s warnings about the impact of cuts on food safety, public health and health and safety.

One member working on food safety in an environmental health department said: “We have not submitted any samples for food in ten months!”

The total number of qualified Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) employed by 30 of Scotland’s 32 councils*, has gone down by 13% between 2008/9 (519) and 20011/12 (450). There has been an even bigger drop in other staff carrying out an enforcement role in environmental health departments. (507 down to 423 in the same period. 17% **)

UNISON, which also represents meat inspectors, revealed last week that the number of inspectors has more than halved in Scotland since 2003, down from 170 to 75 – a shocking statistic in the light of the current horsemeat scandal.

In a new survey of environmental health staff and meat inspectors, 56% said that their team has seen “major” cuts, with a further 10% describing cuts as “severe”, and more than 95% expecting further cutbacks and job losses in the next couple of years.

One commented: “A further loss of posts and a reduction of the food related sampling budget are expected.” Another said: “There are far too few staff for the amounts of food premises and other additional jobs required to be carried out by EHOs."

Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, said: “We know from what our members tell us that the headline figure of staff cuts, news that food sampling has gone down, and concerns about the future of the meat inspection service only tell part of a very disturbing story.

“Councils are under immense financial pressures with the worst of the so-called austerity cuts still to come. The impact of cuts so far is not necessarily visible to the public unless something goes wrong, as has happened with the crisis over horsemeat.

“But our members can see departments depleted, with the loss of experienced staff, ‘lighter touch’ regulation, fewer proactive inspections, preventive and educational work, with other essential services, as well as food safety - particularly health and safety - being cut back drastically. It is not scaremongering to say that this is a very worrying picture and many staff are under incredible pressure.

“We don’t believe this level of reduced service and increased risk is what the public wants. Councillors, the Scottish Government and the UK Government have to think again about the potential disaster waiting to happen with further cuts, unless proper funding is put into these vital services. They literally can and do make a life and death difference IF they are resourced properly.”

The responses to the FOI request showed a mixed picture for the number of food safety, public health and health and safety inspections, reflecting some recent changes to inspection regimes, with an emphasis on higher risk premises and often no visits to low risk premises. However, it is hard to compare figures over time or between councils as some include different types of inspections in the totals for each category. Health and safety inspections have fallen by 7% since 2009/10.

Alex Gordon, UNISON vice convener for environmental health and trading standards at Glasgow city council, said: “The cuts have led to a deterioration in the depth of the inspection visits, even if the paper trail shows the number of inspections are being kept up. They are not as thorough inspections as was possible with higher staffing levels. You want officers in food hygiene premises telling them how to avoid a Wishaw butcher scenario, not coming in to investigate after it has happened.”

*Two councils, Dumfries & Galloway and Highland, provided incomplete data.
**This is from the total for 29 councils as Scottish Borders also did not provide this data.


Further quotes from our members’ surveys are below:

“The FSA, following on the heels of DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), is heavily biased in favour of industry at the expense of the consumer.”

“Qualified EHOs in my council are now doing ALL their own admin work due to reduction in Admin/Clerical staff. This has reduced ability to do the job by 30-40%.”

“The food safety inspection numbers have fallen mainly due to the implementation of the cross contamination guidance. This means more time being spent with higher risk premises ensuring they reach compliance but no time at all with the lower risk premises."

“This sounds sensible but for a large number of ‘lower risk’ businesses this lack of attention will see them increase in the risk they pose to public health. That is when we will have to pick up the pieces and try and get back to a structured inspection programme.”

“The number of health and safety inspections is extraordinarily lower than it used to be - driven largely by the Government's 'Better regulation' agenda.”

“The almost complete withdrawal from any real health and safety work is leaving the country's workforce wide open to injury and occupational ill health. We all know that that costs a vast sum in terms of lost worker hours to the employer, the health service and the individual.

“Short term financial gains are being made at the expense of significant future cost. We need to view investing in health and safety as a means of investing in the future economy of the country.”

“I have major fears about the changes to health and safety inspections having inspected a lot of businesses in the last 7 years. About 75% of them did not have risk assessments or any awareness of the need to do them. Most knew nothing about accident reporting regulations.”

“We regulate not just food and health and safety but animal welfare, tattooists, air quality, contaminated land, housing disrepair, landlord registration, regulation of houses in multiple occupation, pest control, infectious disease control and public nuisance amongst other things. With reduced staff most time is now spent in focusing on higher risk business activity. That is not to say the rest is low risk! We will be unable to spend time with businesses helping them comply with regulation and so will become more reliant on formal action such as notices or court action. This has been shown not to secure long term change in business behavior – education achieves that.

“I have spent time with parents whose child has been desperately ill with Ecoli poisoning. It is awful and preventable. We can help prevent this and other tragic things happening. But this will become less and less often. A rise in public health related illness and injury will happen. But possibly more gradually than most think. Un-noticed maybe. But it will happen.”

For information please contact:Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, 07958 122 409
Fiona Montgomery, Communications Officer, 0141 342 2877 or 07508 877 000
Malcolm Burns, Communications Officer, 0141 342 2877 or 07876 566 978

Notes to editors:

1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union representing 160,000 members working in the public sector in Scotland.

2. UNISON carried out two separate surveys of environmental health staff, one last summer and another snapshot survey in February 2013.

3. Bargaining Briefing number 31 covering the information reported here is on the website: Briefing 31: Bargaining - Cuts in Food Safety and Environmental Health PDFFeb 2013

4. A report by UNISON ‘The Damage’, covering environmental health services in the whole of the UK was published earlier this month. 

A similar report on trading standards is at

5. Figures from the Food Standards Agency show a fall in food samples taken by councils from more than 16,000 in 2008-09 to 10,200 in 2011-12.

6. Last month Audit Scotland raised concerns about food safety staffing and training levels and a loss of expertise


Monday, 25 February 2013

UNISON Vice Convener Stephen Smellie on the challenges facing local government

25 February 2013

UNISON's Vice Convener Stephen Smellie has told Holyrood Magazine about the challenges facing local government and the 'people services' it provides.

In an interview published today, Stephen highlighted how local government is taking the brunt of the cuts, how the council tax freeze leaves those worst off still paying, and about how staff fear for their jobs.

He also hit out against benefit cuts and, in particular, the bedroom tax, warning that it has not been thought through.

Stephen said: “There’s a big promotion to boost the numbers of foster carers in council areas. But if you are a foster carer, you might have a spare bedroom because kids come and go, and if you are on housing benefit, all of a sudden you are under occupied.

"Also you have informal carers, grandparents, for example, who have a spare room because their grandchildren come and stay. But under these measures, those grandparents might not be able to keep that room.

"There are a whole number of consequences which we’re left trying to support people through. In that example, kids might be taken into care instead of going to stay with a grandparent for a few nights. It is one of the consequences which haven’t been thought through.

"We’ve raised it and others in social work have raised it but there’re no answers.

“The welfare state is becoming meaner on a number of levels. Local government picks up a lot of that, we pick up through social work or housing or education. All the time this is happening, our resources and pay are being cut.”

See the full interview here


Sunday, 24 February 2013

UNISON welcomes rise in student nurse and midwife numbers

24 Feb 2013

UNISON today welcomed the Scottish Government's decision to fund an increase in student nurses and midwives, the first since 2009.

There will be 100 more student nurses and midwives starting degree courses in 2013/14, a rise of four per cent.

STV reported on the decision announced by health secretary Alex Neil.

Matt McLaughlin, UNISON Scotland's Lead Organiser for Nursing, said the union had been making the case for an increase and welcomed the news.

He said: "UNISON welcomes this increase in the student nurse intake for 2013. We have and will continue to campaign and work hard to ensure that nursing and midwifery remains a key component in the future of our NHS.

"Essential to the delivery of that objective is a steady flow and invest in our student nurse recruits. We are pleased that the Scottish Government has listened to the compelling case for more students in 2013."


UNISON Scotland is back online

The website is now back online at

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Sorry, UNISON Scotland website down

The fault has been reported and we hope to be online again soon.

UNISON condemns Stirling Council over unnecessary cuts

UNISON has rased major concerns following Stirling Council's budget meeting on 21 February.

Stirling UNISON said that the council's budget paper proposed making a saving of £9 million when there is only a need to achieve a £7.4 million saving.

The impact of this is to be felt by both staff and service users, including job losses, proposed changes to terms and conditions and reduced services.
After being informed of a need to make savings of £3 million from costs of employment, UNISON worked with the council and identified over £650,000, budget reductions. Unfortunately the employer then increased the savings required to close to £4.25 million including the budget reductions identified by UNISON.

James Douglas, UNISON Branch Secretary said : "To say we are disappointed is a gross understatement. We will of course attempt to negotiate to mitigate against the negative impact on both our members and services, although a ballot for industrial action at some stage cannot be ruled out."


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

UNISON wins Living Wage for low paid staff at Central Scotland Police

20 Feb 2013

UNISON today welcomed news that Central Scotland Police has become the first police force in the UK to be an accredited Living Wage employer.

The union, which represents police staff, had proposed the move to boost pay levels of low paid staff and is celebrating success after the police board backed the policy.

Cleaner May Couper, who works in the Stirling police office, is one of the members who benefits from the rise. The Scottish Living Wage is currently £7.45 per hour.

May said: “With the cost of living increasing, the introduction of the Living Wage and the increase in take home pay was very welcome.”

Raymond Farrell, UNISON steward, said the pay increase affected more than 20 people who were very pleased with the extra money in their pockets.

He added: “Central Scotland Police must be given full credit for being the first police service in the United Kingdom to recognise the importance of the Living Wage. It is inspiring that as the second smallest force in Scotland we can lead the way on something so important. 

"UNISON is calling for the new Scottish Police Authority to follow Central Scotland and introduce it to all Scottish police staff.”

The police force confirmed that it has now been granted formal accreditation and will be recognised nationally as a Living Wage Employer.

Accreditation is administered by the Living Wage Foundation, on behalf of Citizens UK, who said that Central Scotland Police is the first police service in the UK to receive such accreditation.


STUC on labour market statistics

Wed 20 Feb 2013

STUC News release:

Commenting on the new labour market statistics for Scotland published today, Grahame Smith, Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) General Secretary said:

“Once again, today’s figures make grim reading for Scotland. Although the headline unemployment rate has fallen quarter on quarter the reality is that it is that people are leaving the labour force rather than finding jobs. Employment has now fallen by 40,000 over the last six months and 55,000 more people have become economically inactive. This situation simply cannot be spun into good news.

“This prolonged period of stagnant growth, high unemployment, rising underemployment and falling real wages is the inevitable consequence of the Coalition’s failed economic strategy. Unless the Chancellor introduces a targeted, time limited stimulus in his Budget next month there’s little prospect of a robust demand led recovery taking hold anytime soon."

UNISON General Secretary in Stornoway visit to support case against cuts

Wed 20 Feb 2013

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of the UK’s largest public sector union, UNISON, will tomorrow (21 February, 2013), join members in Stornoway to add his voice to their opposition to spending cuts and job losses.

He will be attending and speaking at the union’s Western Isles local government branch AGM, scheduled to start at 3pm.  Over the past two years, 200 jobs have been cut and more are on the cards as a result of the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) budget for 2013-15.

He will be urging the Comhairle to do all in its power to protect jobs and services.

Dave Prentis will say:
“The Western Isles rely heavily on the public sector for employment, for services and for maintaining the health of the local economy.  More job cuts will simply add to the misery of families affected and will do nothing to assist the economy.

“People out of work have no money to spend in the local shops and businesses, and the economy suffers as a result. All the evidence shows that there are few private sector jobs out there, apart from those that are part-time and low paid.

“This is not the time to cut jobs and the services that people need to help them through these tough times.

“UNISON will continue to fight spending cuts and make the case for real investment in real jobs to give us the real growth families so desperately need.”

Dave Prentis will also call on the Comhairle to join the growing band of Living Wage employers.

The Scottish Living Wage is currently set at £7.45 an hour.



Unemployment figures - UNISON response

Wed 20 Feb 2013
Commenting on the unemployment figures released today, Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said: 
“These figures appear to show some relief after years of economic stagnation, but it is just an illusion. Real wages are continuing to fall, and youth unemployment is still rising. It is telling that more than 4 million people are now classed as self employed. If there are enough jobs to go around, why did 1,700 people apply for just 8 jobs at Costa Coffee?

“We will not experience a real recovery until people have more money to spend. For this to happen, the government has to take action to boost the number of full time, fairly paid jobs that are available. The Coalition’s failure to act makes the chances of a catastrophic triple-dip recession a near-certainty.”


Regional unemployment between October and December;

Region                Total unemployed   Change on quarter      Unemployment rate

North East            125,000             minus 2,000            9.7%

North West            295,000              plus 2,000            8.5%

Yorkshire/Humber      245,000             minus 1,000            8.9%

East Midlands         178,000             minus 1,000            7.7%

West Midlands         238,000              plus 3,000            8.6%

East of England       212,000               no change            6.8%

London                362,000            minus 10,000            8.4%

South East            295,000              plus 6,000            6.5%

South West            150,000             minus 6,000            5.5%

Wales                 127,000              plus 6,000            8.6%

Scotland              206,000            minus 13,000            7.7%

Northern Ireland       68,000              plus 1,000            7.8%


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

European Advocate General sets legal precedent: privatised workers should retain ongoing parity of pay and conditions

Tue 19 Feb 2013

The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union, today backed UNISON’s claim that privatised workers should continue to benefit from increased pay and conditions negotiated at their previous workplace, setting an important legal precedent.

Over the past seven years, UNISON has argued that 24 members transferred from the London Borough of Lewisham to Parkwood Leisure, were entitled, under their contracts of employment, to continue to benefit from nationally agreed pay and terms negotiated by the local government pay body.

The  Alemo-Herron & Ors v Parkwood Leisure Ltd case, which has been waged through the Employment Tribunal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal,  the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and now the Court of Justice of the European Union, sets important legal principles both in the UK and through EU member states.

The union will now await the final decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union, which will be followed by a decision in the Supreme Court. If both courts back this ruling, TUPE (Transfer of Undertaking Protection of Employment) will again provide ongoing protection for employees, rather than a one-off protection at the time that they are transferred.

The UK government is already consulting over limiting the law in this area, as a part of its continued attack on employment rights, which the union is campaigning against.

Bronwyn McKenna, UNISON Assistant General Secretary, said:

“We are delighted that fairness has won out in this important case. UNISON supported our members to the hilt, taking our fight to the highest possible court. We knew that our members should have a right to the same pay and terms of employment which they signed up to when they took their jobs.

“This ruling will be a huge relief for the many thousands of people who have been transferred out from their original employer, including those who have been, or are now at risk of being privatised.

“We are now calling on Parkwood Leisure to pay our members what they are owed, and for other employers to honour any contractual pay increases owed to transferred staff, or run the risk of finding themselves in court.

“UNISON will continue its fight to protect employment rights, in light of the government’s plans to limit the law following this decision.”  

UNISON UK News release:


Sunday, 17 February 2013

Inspection cuts and the meat scandal

Environment Editor Rob Edwards highlights the cuts in regulatory activity that has led to the meat scandal in today's Sunday Herald.
An investigation by the Sunday Herald has uncovered steep declines in the testing and inspection regimes meant to prevent frauds such as horsemeat being sold as beef. Experts are warning that such scandals could happen again, and politicians are demanding urgent action.
According to trade union Unison, the number of meat inspectors in Scotland has fallen by more than 50%, from 170 in 2003 to 75 today. A further five inspectors are facing redundancy with the closure of the Hall's meat factory in Broxburn, West Lothian.
Over the last four years there has been a 21% drop in the number of specialist food safety officers employed by local authorities. A survey by the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland has also revealed an 11% fall in the number of environmental health officers.
The institute's food safety adviser, George Fairgrieve, pointed out that the declines inevitably led to less work being done to protect public health. "A reduction in sampling is just one consequence of the cuts in local authority environmental health budgets," he said.
"A worrying impact of the reduction in the number of inspections being carried out is that the opportunity for fraudulent activities increases and law-abiding traders are disadvantaged."
Professor Andrew Watterson, head of the occupational and environmental health research group at the University of Stirling, argued that the horsemeat fiasco was a "sentinel event" with widespread implications.
"We need to protect public health better," he said. "Declines in meat inspector numbers and local authority food safety officers, along with reduced food sampling, must contribute to a weakening of public health standards and the possibility of criminal abuses in the food system."
He also criticised Government ministers for trying to heap the blame on food processors when it was their responsibility to safeguard public health, saying: "We need to revive, not marginalise, environmental health and food safety and raise standards of protection for consumers."
Unison's Scottish organiser, Dave Watson, accused governments of forgetting the lessons learned from the BSE crisis in the 1990s about controlling the meat industry.
He said: "Only strong, independent inspection can properly protect the public from industry malpractice.
"The current scandal follows cuts in meat inspection and environmental health services, proving that 'light touch' regulation has been a disaster for consumers."

Friday, 15 February 2013

Multi-million pound cuts to council services and thousands of local government jobs lost

15 Feb 2013

A range of news reports today highlight multi-million pound cuts to council services and the loss of thousands of local government jobs around Scotland.
BBC Scotland reported on a third of Scotland’s councils setting budgets.
The Herald's front page headline was: “Thousands of jobs go as councils wield the axe.”
And STV said that millions of pounds and hundreds of jobs have been cut.
UNISON Scotland highlighted last week how council services are taking the brunt of spending cuts and called for a review of funding.
Stephanie Herd, chair of the Local Government Committee, said:
“Essential services provided by councils, including education, home care for elderly and disabled people, social work, environmental health, trading standards and many more are all affected by cuts and job losses.
“The austerity measures imposed by governments at Westminster and Holyrood are not needed. There is a better way and we will fight to retain good quality services. Paying off council and other public sector workers does not help local economies.”
UNISON Scotland works with the STUC to show that There is A Better Way 


More Valentines for public services - Edinburgh and Glasgow

15 Feb 2013

More work by branches on Valentine's Day showing how UNISON members love public services.

In Glasgow, maternity, nursing and domestic staff joined in the 'have a heart for public services' action yesterday. All pictures are from Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Domestic staff

Maternity staff

Nurses at the GRI
And City of Edinburgh branch secretary Andrew Barnett was outside the head offices of housing provider Dunedin Canmore.


Thursday, 14 February 2013

HAVE A HEART FOR PUBLIC SERVICES – Valentines to the NHS in Glasgow and to police teams in Tayside

Theatre staff at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, members of UNISON's
NHS Glasgow and Clyde branch
14 Feb 2013 

From Durham to Dundee, Gateshead to Glasgow, around Scotland, down to SW England and over to Northern Ireland, UNISON members are today gathering for a Valentine's Day blitz.

Hospital theatre staff in Glasgow, police staff in Tayside, health workers in Belfast and council workers in Edinburgh are all taking part in the union’s ‘Have a Heart for Public Services’ day.

With a predicted 1.2m public service jobs under threat - giant Valentine's Day cards are being taken to hospitals, schools, day centres, libraries, leisure centres, town halls and police stations, to highlight the variety and value of work carried out every day across the UK.

Theatre staff and other health service UNISON members at Glasgow Royal Infirmary sent a Valentine to the NHS.

While in Tayside, members of the new UNISON Police Staff Scotland branch, showed their hearts are on the side of local police stations and the local police team.

PC Bob Cowan, PC Ashley Lee, Sheila Mitchell & Fran Benison (Crime management),
Leanne Meldrum (Warrants), Mandy Robertson (Staff Development/Training)
and Fiona Christie (Divisional Admin)
Branch secretary George McIrvine, who will lead the new UNISON Scottish police staff branch when the single police service comes into operation in April, said: 

"The photo of 'We love our local police team' is one which shows the importance of the current ‘Police family’ structure that ensures effective and best value policing for Scotland and the taxpayer.

“The threatened cuts that face up to half the police support jobs (3000) across Scotland will inevitably hinder this process, with the only alternative for the employer being to backfill with police officers at greater expense to the public purse.
“We continue to call on the Scottish Government to revisit their commitment to the artificial manifesto pledge of 1000 extra cops on the beat.”
Part-time shift worker Louise Phinn
UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said: "The hearts may be different - but the message is the same, have a heart for your public services - they are too valuable to lose.

"Since the Government came to power it has declared war on public services with savage cuts and job losses expected to rise to 1.2m.  This means that the services in hospitals, schools, libraries, elderly and children's care and many more that the public rely on, are disappearing fast.

"With 2.49m people unemployed, axing more public service workers makes no sense. It is time for the Government to have a change of heart and think again about pursuing its failed economic policies that are leading to rising inflation and threatening to drag the country into a triple dip recession.

"What the country needs from Government is a coherent plan for investing in jobs and growth in order to boost the money available to spend on improving and providing public services, instead of devastating them." 

Other branches taking part in the Valentine’s Day events in Scotland included Edinburgh City branch and members at Glasgow Caledonian University, where the big card said ‘We love our support staff’.

George McIrvine, Police Staff Scotland branch secretary.