Scotland's largest utility trade union
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Scottish Council 17 February 2001
1. Scottish utilities continue to be threatened by regulation
and competition with a consequential impact on jobs and services.
This most serious current threat is in the water industry.
2. The water industry in Scotland is facing a new privatisation
threat through the Competition Act 1998 which will be implemented
through a Water Services Bill. This bill is likely to be presented
to the Scottish Parliament in the Spring 2001.
3. The Scottish Parliament's Transport & Environment Committee
is undertaking an inquiry into the Scottish Water Industry. UNISON
has submitted written evidence to the committee and is due to
give oral evidence on 31st January.
4. In preparation for competition the Water Industry Commissioner
has announced proposals for massive efficiency savings totalling
£134m. This could lead to the loss of 2000 jobs - up to
a third of the current workforce. These cuts are based on false
comparisons with English water companies which have had the benefit
of 25 years of investment and debt write off at privatisation.
The Scottish Water Committee is seeking support for its campaign
against these proposals. A copy of our current briefing is attached.
5. The Utilities Act coupled with the EU Internal Market
Directive is forcing a major reorganisation, dividing Scottish
Power into several different PLCs. This follows the disposal and
outsourcing of other businesses. Cost and share price pressures
continue to threaten the job security of members including further
outsourcing. There are extensive consultations being undertaken
with members as a precursor to the 2001 pay round.
6. In British Energy negotiations continue to harmonise
pay and conditions with the English end of the company. Again
financial pressures are resulting in new cost cutting proposals.
7. Staffing reorganisations within Transco continue as
a consequence of the de-merger. The Scottish Committee has supported
a call for an independent inquiry to investigate safety performance
and the impact continual staff cuts have had on pipeline safety.
8. British Gas Trading (part of Centrica) are considering
the outsourcing of processing tasks which are current undertaken
largely by agency staff to a company based in India. There are
also concerns that changes in Planned Flexible Working could lead
to the closure of another office. Fuel Poverty
9. UNISON Scotland is continuing to work with Energy Action
Scotland and others to develop a fuel poverty action plan for
government. UNISON Scotland with support from the UK Energy Committee
have sponsored a short video on Fuel Poverty which spells out
the message in a new format. Copies will be available for use
9. The joint committee continues to develop close working
relationships between utility branches in Scotland. The committee
will be considering new joint objectives at it's meeting on 7
10. The latest edition of the UNISON Scotland bulletin
Scottish Utilities can now be viewed on the UNISON Scotland web
site along with further details on all the issues covered above.
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"KEEPING SCOTLAND WARM"
30% of Scottish households live in fuel poverty
and 9 in 10 homes fall below current energy efficiency standards.
UNISON Scotland has argued that these conditions are not acceptable
and we believe that a comprehensive multi-agency solution is required
to address the problem.
To take this agenda forward, UNISON Scotland, together with Energy
Action Scotland, the CSPP and Transco, are organising a series
of seminars, which aim to provide policy recommendations to the
The inaugural seminar was held in Edinburgh on Friday, 4 February
2000. UNISON Scotland Convenor, Mike Kirby, Chaired the seminar.
He highlighted the role UNISON members in local government, health
and the utilities have in addressing fuel poverty.
Speakers included Ann Lochray, from EAS, who argued that keeping
warm is a basic right. It was no longer acceptable, in 21st Century
Scotland, for people on the lowest incomes to die in cold, damp
houses. On energy efficiency we should be targeting resources
on the worst homes first, making the link between energy efficiency
and fuel poverty. Whilst the Scottish Executive's commitment through
the Warm Deal is welcome, we need a strong policy commitment to
fuel poverty to replace Labour's 2007 target which was lost in
the partnership programme.
Liz Nicholson, from Shelter, highlighted the poor state of housing
in Scotland, with 25% of houses suffering from dampness and condensation
and a repair bill exceeding £10billion. She argued that
this was the single most important housing problem in Scotland.
362,000 Scottish children are growing up in damp houses creating
an ongoing health problem. Fuel poverty is a combination of inadequate
money, poor housing and the cost of fuel. 123,000 people in Scotland
spend more than 20% of their income on fuel.
She also argued that we need a new standard of housing measurement
to replace the Below Tolerable Standard (BTS). This does little
to reflect the importance of energy efficiency an issue which
should be addressed in the forthcoming Housing Bill.
Damien Kileen, from the Poverty Alliance, argued that the reduction
in VAT on fuel and winter fuel payments was an inadequate response
to the problem. The link between poverty and health was now accepted
but this needs to be translated into practical policy. Resources
allocated to improving Scotland's housing would have a practical
effect on health, including hospital admissions. Scotland need's
an anti-poverty strategy with warm, dry homes as a key element.
People had a right to get out of fuel poverty and this should
be reflected in social policy. There was a need to focus priorities
on social investment which contributes or reduces the call on
the national product including those which leverage other investment.
Kevin Dunion, from Friends of the Earth, highlighted the environmental
consequences of excess energy use and the impact on climate change.
He called for more efficient generation through the promotion
of CHP and renewables, with better planning and more imaginative
regulation. More efficient use of energy is essential with better
measurement with an energy efficiency `MOT' for every house. However,
the real scandal of fuel poverty is the impact on the health of
individuals. A range of medical conditions can be attributed to
Scotland's poor housing stock.
A range of issues were covered in the question and answer session
including the effectiveness of current programmes and the role
of local authorities under the Home Energy Conservation Act.
The next stage in the process is a series of seminars looking
at housing, health, social, environmental and energy efficiency
policies. Reports from these groups will form the basis of a final
seminar to be held on Thursday, 30 March 2000, when final recommendations
will be proposed for presentation to the Scottish Executive.
Contributions from UNISON members and others with an interest
in this issue would be very welcome. Please send contributions
to Dave Watson, Senior Regional Officer, UNISON House, 14 West
Campbell Street, Glasgow G2 6RX, or e-mail:email@example.com
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