Thursday, 30 April 2015

Civil society groups demand ethical public procurement

UNISON Scotland is involved in launching the new #10Asks on procurement today. Here's the press release:
Civil society groups demand ethical public procurement

New public procurement rules in Scotland should help tackle tax dodging, blacklisting and climate change, according to a coalition of civil society coalitions.

International development charities, environmental groups, voluntary organisations and trade unions joined together today (Thursday) to demand that Scotland’s annual procurement spend of around £10 billion should promote key sustainable and ethical policy objectives.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Additional support needs are stretched to the limit

#stuc15. Additional support needs for pupils, particularly those who start at a disadvantage, are stretched to the limit with children not getting the support they are entitled to.

That was the concern expressed by UNISON’s Susan Kennedy at the STUC 2015. Susan was speaking in support of an EIS motion on additional support needs and local authority cuts.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Workers Memorial Day - Remember the dead, but fight for the living

"Remember the dead, but fight for the living" is the rallying cry for International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) today. It commemorates those workers across the world who died as a consequence of their work. There are events planned in Scotland and across the world today.

Over 20,000 people die every year because of their work; most of these because of exposure to dangerous substances. So this year the theme is, ‘removing exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace’. Hazardous substances are found in almost every workplace in the UK and many workers have no protection against the possible effects, despite the fact that tens of thousands of workers have their health destroyed by asthma, dermatitis, lung disorders and cancers due to exposures.

Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don't die of mystery ailments, or in tragic "accidents". They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn't that important a priority.

Most employers understand the importance of safety. However, it is bad employers who have been encouraged by the UK government’s approach. It was David Cameron who made it his new year's resolution in 2012 to "kill off the health and safety culture for good". Safety regulations were "pointless time-wasting" and "an albatross around the neck of British businesses".

This attitude explains why this UK government has slashed funding for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) by over 40% and banned unannounced inspections from entire industries. That has been compounded in Scotland by big cuts to local authority budgets that have seen safety inspections by environmental health officers reduced.

While we have our own problems, we should not forget that this is International Workers Memorial Day. In particular, we should remember the awful incident in April 2013 where almost 1200 workers, most of them young women, lost their lives when the Rana Plaza factory building collapsed in Savar district, Bangladesh.

All clothing companies that source from Bangladesh should make an adequate contribution to the Rana Plaza Fund, administered by the ILO. It is shameful that two years after the Rana Plaza factory collapsed, some companies still have not donated adequately to the compensation fund. Workers and their families urgently need this money to pay medical fees and rebuild their lives after this horrific event. Companies have a moral obligation to put the livelihoods of those who make their clothes in Bangladesh first.

Work-related illness and stress can be caused by toxic hazards or workplace accidents, but also by ever-increasing hours and impossible workloads. Mental health in the workplace is a growing concern, highlighted today by the See Me survey that shows nearly half of Scottish workers say people don’t tell their employers about mental health problems for fear of losing their job. Even more thought it would impact on promotion opportunities.

So, today we will remember those who have lost their lives at work and the families who had every reason to expect their loved ones to come home from work safely. But we must also end the undermining of our carefully developed safety culture and stop expecting workers to be at the beck and call of their employers 24-7 - stretching the physical and mental health of too many workers to breaking point.

UNISON Staff in Glasgow gather for a minute's silence to commemorate IWMD15

Thursday, 23 April 2015

UNISON condemns colleges for ‘hiding’ £99m in arms length foundations

Thursday 23 April 2015

UNISON Scotland has condemned colleges for moving £99m into ‘Arms Length Foundations’ while cutting student services and ignoring low pay.

UNISON welcomes research by the Educational Institute for Scotland, which shows that while £99m has been siphoned off into off campus bank accounts. The sector has cut staff by 9.3% (over the last three years alone). And over 300 members of staff are paid below the Living Wage.

Some of the worst low pay offenders also had the most money in arms length accounts: Ayrshire £6.6m (79 staff), City of Glasgow £21m (26 staff), Dundee and Angus £21m (91 staff). 

Chris Greenshields, chair of UNISON Scotland’s further education committee said, ‘we’ve seen big cuts in student services and the sector has over 300 staff languishing below the Living Wage. So while managers hide millions in off campus accounts they claim they cannot find money to pay a decent wage rise to college staff or stop cuts to student services.’

Migrant rescue cut 'indefensible in its inhumanity'

#stuc15 Delegates mourned the terrible tragedy of the 950 migrants drowned as their ship capsized off the coast of Libya just before the start of the Congress and gave overwhelming support to an emergency motion condemning the trade of people trafficking but also the reduction in search and rescue operations which is having a dramatic consequence on loss of life.

The STUC will campaign for an increase in the number of rescue boats in the Mediterranean and will use its influence to encourage a more humane immigration policy and to encourage the UK Government to provide safe haven for more refugees, especially those from conflict zones.

Foodbanks: Solidarity not charity

#stuc15 The rise of foodbanks in the 6th richest country in the world is a national scandal and the STUC will continue to campaign vigorously against austerity, low pay and benefit sanctions which see so many people reliant on them.

It will also work to support foodbanks with advice on trade union and employment rights until the need for them can be eradicated.

Supporting the motion, UNISON’s Sarah Collins told delegates that we must make sure that the next UK government and the next government at Holyrood ends wage freezes and low pay and builds affordable social housing. She warned that we must join together to campaign against TTIP which, if agreed, will lead to an increase in food prices and a decrease in quality.

Poorer students are being failed

#STUC15. Too many students in Scotland drop out of full time education due to inadequate financial support.

Speaking on behalf of a motion from the Annual STUC Youth Conference, UNISON Scotland's Ryan Boyle said that ‘students from poorer backgrounds are being failed’

Ryan supported the STUC Youth Conference motion calling for significant investment in further education support, increased grants for the poorest higher education students, a fairer deal for post graduate students, and a fair and co-ordinated funding system incorporating Student Awards Agency Scotland, Education Maintenance Allowance and hardship funds, to ensure students from poor backgrounds are not denied access to education and qualifications.

Change society so women can live free from violence

#stuc15 Gender equality is at the root of violence against women and girls and the STUC will campaign to keep this issue at the heart of the agenda for all public bodies in Scotland. Delegates commended the Scottish Government’s “Equally Safe” strategy and the STUC pledged to lend its full support to groups campaigning to build a Scotland free from violence against women and girls.

Supporting the FBU motion, UNISON’s Helen Duddy told delegates that UNISON has campaigned against violence against women for many years, developing workplace policies to support women experiencing domestic abuse.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Call to challenge gender equality in apprenticeships

#stuc15 The STUC will press the Scottish government to work with them to tackle gender inequality in apprenticeships and to encourage women to take on apprenticeships in under-represented sectors.

Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary also committed to taking up incidents of abuse in the apprenticeship sector in his capacity as a board member of Skills Development Scotland.

Seconding the motion from the STUC Youth Conference, James Corry, from UNISON’s Skills Development Scotland branch told Congress that careers’ staff have a key role in combating all types of inequality in apprenticeships, by helping young people to think through their options at an early stage.

End 1 in 5 children living in poverty in Scotland

#stuc15 The STUC is appalled that 100,000 children live in poverty in Scotland and will call on both the UK and Scottish Governments to take steps to end the scourge the of child poverty across Scotland.

Delegates called for a review of the benefit system to ensure that it acts as a genuine safety net against poverty; and a wider provision of good quality, affordable childcare to improve parents access to work and children's education outcomes.

Tackling poverty to tackle education inequalities

#stuc15 Poverty affects the education and life chances of our children, and delegates condemned the disgrace of one in five Scottish children living in poverty and will campaign for additional resources to tackle educational inequalities, for the full implementation of the Scottish Government’s Child Poverty Strategy and for better training for teachers and other school staff on the effects of poverty on children’s ability to learn.

STUC call on University governors to reflect diversity of staff

#stuc15 The STUC has called on Scottish Government to legislate for all university governing bodies to have a chair elected by all staff and students, ensure they are representative of the university and wider community - including a quota for women members; and include reserved places for trade union representatives.

UNISON Scotland’s Davena Rankin backing the University and College Union Scotland’s motion said that “Senior management pay continues to increase at a time when workers in universities have seen their salary fall in real terms by 15% -with one university principal in Scotland receiving an increase of twenty five thousand pounds”

Attempt to take over transport police is another ‘polishambles’

#stuc15 The STUC will vigorously oppose Scottish Government plans to absorb the specialist British Transport Police (BTP) into Police Scotland and delegates were dismayed that the announcement of these plans was made without any public consultation.

Supporting an emergency motion from the RMT, George McIrvine of UNISON Scotland’s Police Branch told delegates that although there have been rumours that this merger was on the Scottish Government’s radar over a year ago there has been no acknowledgement of this by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, the SPA or indeed the Chief Constable.

House building and living rent to fix housing crisis

#stuc15 The STUC is to call for a major house building programme, focussing especially affordable and council housing, not only to meet need but also to boost employment and the economy. It also called for work with Shelter, other charities, community groups, and the People’s Assembly, to build a broad based campaign to support a living rent.

UNISON Scotland’s Susan Kennedy, backing the USDAW, UCATT and North Lanarkshire and Aberdeen trade union councils’ motion, said Scotland has a ‘housing crisis’.

Return power to local councils to act on services

#stuc15 The STUC overwhelmingly backed a range of measures to rebuild local democracy. It will press the Scottish Government to provide resources to ensure strong local democracy and to return to councils greater control over local taxes and powers to take services back in-house.

Moving the composite on behalf of UNISON and the GMB, Depute Convener, Stephen Smellie called for a return to the kind of local democracy that Scottish Councils used to enjoy.

“But it is not just about cuts, changes and job losses,” warned Stephen. “It is also about power and aspiration.”

Call to improve access to GPs

#stuc15 The STUC will lobby for GPs to be more available to patients to reduce pressure on emergency and other front-line, diagnostic services.

UNISON Health’s Catriona Beveridge told delegates that it is not appropriate for GP facilities only to be available during the traditional hours they work whilst the rest of the NHS has extended access.

Pay success needs unions to work together

#stuc15 The reason the Tories can justify five years of pay cuts for public service workers is simple according to UNISON’s Gordon McKay. “They don’t like you!”

“In fact it’s far deeper than that”, he said. “They despise you. Every public sector worker whether it is in the NHS, education, or local government who delivers world class public services to the ill, the young or the vulnerable is a barrier tp the selling off of these services to the Tory privatisers who see big profits there for the taking and they hate you for it.”

Let’s show the Palestinian people why Scotland supports them

#stuc15 The STUC was uncompromising in its backing for a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel until it ends its violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.

Delegates condemned the terrible Israeli assaults on Gaza over the Summer of 2014 which left thousands of Palestinian civilians dead and many more injured and homeless, many of them children.

Sam Macartney, Chair of UNISON Scotland’s International Committee told Congress that we need a clear commitment from politicians to support Palestine rights for world recognition as a nation.

STUC drive to improve equality

#stuc15 “Ensuring that an organisation reflects the community which it serves is clear proof of its commitment to equality and inclusion,” UNISON’s Priscilla Maramba told delegates, as they backed a CWU motion calling for a review of trade union activists and officials and action to ensure they are reflective of proportionality.

Priscilla added that the greater the equality of representation, the stronger, more organised and more inclusive unions will be. “It will also eliminate or reduce the “us” and “them” attitudes from those who feel unrepresented within the structures. In addition it’s the most sensible and right thing to do.”

Priscilla also welcomed proportionality for all elected positions as a method of increasing participation and representation. Policies and procedures, although good, were only a means to an end – “the end being when we start counting the actual numbers of disadvantaged groups within our structures.

“When the numbers begin to add up then we can say with a clear conscience that we are inclusive unions,” said Priscilla.

Defending Rojova's democracy and gender equality

#stuc15 The STUC sent solidarity and support to the people of Rojava and Kobane and pledged to lobby the Government to do everything it can to ensure that humanitarian aid gets through to Rojava, to support the refugees from other parts of Syria and to ensure that Kobane can defend itself and its people.

UNISON Scotland’s Depute Convener, Stephen Smellie “was privileged to visit North Kurdistan, where he met refugees from ISIS attacks on the Yazidi and Kobane. People who are traumatised and in desperate need.”

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Only hope for BME workers lies in their unions

#stuc15 First time delegate and speaker, UNISON’s Priscilla Maramba, told Congress that ConDem austerity has worsened the plight of BME workers, and the rise of UKIP and media bias have added insult to injury.

“Equality for BME workers is slowly slipping down the slope and the only hope for BME workers lies in support from their unions.”

TTIP needs international response

#stuc15 The STUC in Ayr heard a stark warning from UNISON’s Jane Carolan that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would be “an assault on democratic government”.

TTIP means that public services will face wholesale privatisation, over-ruling any state’s laws or policies through secretive tribunals. Worse still, any service privatised will not be able to be brought back in house.

Stop fracking and lobby for sustainable energy

#stuc15 Delegates backed a Fife TUC call to oppose fracking and underground coal gasification (UCG) until their potential impact on local communities and the environment is fully investigated and understood. Instead, the STUC will lobby for the development of sustainable energy including investment in renewables and lower carbon emissions.

This mirrors UNISON’s precautionary approach with regard to fracking and UCG. UNISON’s Martin Murray called instead for a viable pathway to decarbonise our energy supply without further investment in unabated fossil fuels and shale gas fracking which have led to consequences “such as ignitable tap water, earth tremors and unexplained illnesses, resulting in millions in compensation paid to some in the US.”

Climate change and fuel poverty are urgent challenges

#stuc15 The STUC will work with NGOs and trade unions internationally to press for a Just Transition as part of a binding international deal at the UN Conference on Climate Change due to be held this year in Paris, which is “critical for the future of the planet.”

UNISON’s Pat Rowland told delegates that a Just Transition will ensure that the costs and benefits of switching to a low carbon economy are fairly distributed, with workers involved in planning.

Prentis sends solidarity to Kobane

#stuc15 UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis took time out at the STUC conference today to visit the Kurdistan Solidarity stall along with Depute Convenor, Stephen Smellie. Dave expressed his solidarity with the efforts to re-build Kobane and the continuing struggle against ISIS.

Quality child care needs a valued workforce

#stuc15 The STUC will work across the early year’s sector to ensure that all parents have access to free, universal and flexible childcare, geared to the needs of children and their families and will press the Scottish Government for proper resources to support this.

Welcoming the commitment to date from the Scottish Government, political parties, business and civil society to good quality early years education, child care and out of school care, delegates nevertheless recognised that the rising costs of child care in Scotland still means that for many families, work does not pay, and has led to many parents, mainly women, giving up their jobs.

Care workers deserve living wage

#stuc15 The STUC endorsed UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter and committed to campaigning for a living wage for all care workers in Scotland. Delegates backed the call from the Chartered Society for Physiotherapy, which recognised the invaluable contribution of care workers to health and social care provision in Scotland and slammed the terrible working conditions for many as exposed by UNISON’s “Time to Care” survey.

Monday, 20 April 2015

End exploitation of young vulnerable workers

#stuc15 The STUC will press the Scottish Government to set up and fund an STUC administered vulnerable workers’ project as part of a wide ranging strategy to end the exploitation of young vulnerable workers in the fast food and related sectors.

Delegates condemned discriminatory practices which adversely affect all low paid, unorganised workers, but which particularly impact on young workers. The STUC will explore new ways of reaching and supporting young workers and will lobby the Scottish Government to ensure it plays its part.

Flexible working good for life and the workforce

#stuc15 The STUC will campaign for a legal right to flexible working and will support affiliate trade unions to challenge unreasonable and discriminatory management practices.

Seconding the motion from the teaching union NASUWT, UNISON’s Maggie Cook told delegates that flexible working, when handled well, can enhance workers’ quality of life and lead to a happier and more productive workforce.

Partnership means rights on both sides – repeal anti-union laws

#stuc15 STUC delegates slammed the attacks on equalities, employment rights and trade union freedoms and backed a UNISON led composite to continue the fight for the repeal of all anti-trade union laws.

STUC reiterated its support for the Mather Commission “Working Together” report and pledged to make sure that the fundamental principles of trade union rights, including the right to strike, are at the heart of the Fair Work Convention.

STUC welcomes Glasgow strikers

#stuc15 The STUC Congress in Ayr gave a standing ovation to strikers from Glasgow Council’s Homeless Service who have been on all-out strike since 31 March over pay grading. Helen Craig, Sally Currie and Stewart Graham were introduced to delegates by President June Minnery.

The 70 strikers took their own “negotiating table” to the front doors of the city chambers last week because senior officials and the council’s political leaders have refused to meet the strikers trade union representatives in an effort to resolve the dispute.

Public contracts should demand fair treatment for workers

#stuc15 The STUC demanded an end to exploitative procurement contracts that leave workers at the mercy of low wages, poor employment practices, scams that mask employment status and zero hours contracts.

Supporting the motion UNISON Scotland’s Brenda Aitchison reminded Congress how dependent business is on the state, including the £1.4 billion funding for apprenticeships and the benefits businesses get from a state educated workforce.

“It doesn’t take a genius to work out just how much assistance the taxpayer gives big business in terms of generating profits.

Pledge for collective bargaining as Fair Work Convention welcomed

#stuc15 The STUC Congress in Ayr gave its full backing to the Mather Commission “Working Together” report which “sets out a new blueprint for industrial relations in Scotland.”

Welcoming the Scottish Government’s commitment to establish a Fair Work Convention to take forward its recommendations, the STUC pledged to ensure a robust industrial relations framework is established, based on collective bargaining at workplace and industry level.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Scots overwhelmingly support meat inspectors staying independent, says UNISON

Wed 15 April 2015

UNISON Scotland are highlighting an independent survey showing that Scots want slaughterhouses to be independently inspected by government meat safety inspectors.
This polling is released when there is continued pressure from Europe to de-regulate meat inspectors, and when meat inspectors have been brought into a new Scottish Government Agency, Food Standards Scotland.

UNISON Scotland has released the independent polling, from Ispos MORI, showing that almost all Scots (98%) believe that official slaughterhouses should be inspected to ensure they are meeting food safety and quality standards; the vast majority of Scots (95%) believe that slaughterhouses should continue to operate to official standards; three quarters of Scots also believe slaughterhouses should be inspected independently (75%), and majority of Scots (70%) also agree that standards are more likely to be met if they are carried out by government inspectors.

Dave Watson, UNISON Scottish organiser, said: 
"This report is a timely reminder to Scottish Government that food safety is a priority for Scots. Scots believe the meat trade should be independently inspected and regulated, and they think that meat inspection should be carried out by government inspectors.

"This is too important to get wrong.

"We have been concerned about the lighter touch regulation which has been promoted across UK and EU meat trades. The Scottish Government’s new agency Food Standards Scotland must ensure we maintain a strong, well regulated, independent meat inspection regime."


Notes for editors:
• UNISON is the biggest trade union in Scotland and represents meat inspectors. 

• The independent polling was carried out by Ipsos MORI, published in February 2015, and can be read here:

• Previous UNISON press release on deregulation of the meat trade

• Scottish Government brought food safety into a new Food Standards Scotland on 1 April 2015. Food Standards Scotland has a new broader remit to consider consumer protection more generally. It includes making sure food is safe to eat but also food labelling and improving nutrition.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Strikers take negotiating table to Glasgow City Council

Seventy striking council workers took their own “negotiating table” to the front doors of the city chambers on Thursday. The council’s homeless caseworkers have been on indefinite strike action for over a week in pursuit of a regarding of their posts. However senior officials and the council’s political leaders have refused to meet the strikers trade union representatives in an effort to resolve the dispute.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Key questions in The Public Services Election

In the third of a series of articles, UNISON Scottish Secretary Mike Kirby lays out UNISON's plan to get our members' issues at the centre of the election debates.

 "This is the Public Services Election. The outcome will have a huge impact upon UNISON members, their families, communities and the public services in which we work, to protect the disadvantaged and provide a better quality of life for all."

In Scotland the 2015 general election marks the start of a three year programme of elections with the Scottish Parliament in 2016 and the Scottish local government elections in 2017.

It is not uncommon for election to be described as “the most vital in a generation”. However, given the Tory plans for public spending there can be little doubt that the outcome of this election will have a huge impact upon UNISON members, their families, communities and the public services in which we work.

Last month we published a full scale poll undertaken by Survation, for UNISON Scotland, that asked Scottish voters to explain their priorities. They said that public services, welfare, jobs and pay were the most important issues for them in the coming general election.

Public services are the number one election issue for the majority of Scottish voters. They were also clear about their spending priorities. If the next government was to raise £2bn by cracking down on tax avoidance, 58% of respondents believe that the money should be spent on improving public services, compared to 19% who think it should be spent on reducing public borrowing, and 17% who think that it should be used on income tax cuts.

People provide the services. Our people and our jobs are at risk.

The latest workforce statistics for Scotland have been published. They cover the period up to December 2014.

The headline figure shows a massive 24,000 reduction in public sector staff last year. However, this is misleading as it includes a reclassification of mostly bank staff back to the private sector. The adjusted cut was 1,000 jobs; from 532,000 down to 531,000. This means a total of 62,000 jobs have been lost from the public sector in Scotland since the post-crash high point (2009 Q1), reducing public sector jobs as a proportion of the total workforce from 24% to 20.5%.

Last year, local government employment fell by a further 600 jobs from 247,100 to 246,500. 40,000 jobs have been lost in Scottish local government since the post-crash high point (2009 Q1). The largest percentage cut last year was in South Ayrshire at 6.4%.

Last year, health staff increased by 2,400; from 158,100 to 160,500.While that’s an increase of 809 jobs since 2009(Q1), it is a drop of 1091 jobs since the 2010(Q1) highpoint.

FE colleges recovered 300 jobs last year increasing from 13,600 to 13,900. That’s still 3,000 jobs lost since 2009.

Police and fire lost another 700 jobs last year taking the total cut since the national services were created to 1600.

The other public bodies group gained 600 jobs last year. However, they have still lost 2,900 jobs since 2009.

Wherever you work, it is vital that you start the conversation with colleagues, that you challenge candidates of all parties.

Suggested questions for members to ask candidates:

• What will be the consequences for public services of the Conservatives proposed job cuts?
• If elected as my MP, how will you protect these threatened jobs?
• How will you ensure my pay makes up lost ground in the next parliament?
• How would further cuts to public services help me and the local economy, exactly?
• Personal debt is rising again, how do you expect low-paid workers to make ends meet?
• How will you ensure rich individuals and corporations pay their taxes like the rest of us?
• How will you use further devolved powers to support and protect Scotland’s public services?