August 1999 No 19

Current Scotland inUNISON | Back Issues | Communications Index

UNISON campaign begins to shift Private Finance agenda
PFI without people?

story2Careers members join forces to fight privatisation

"Amazing solidarity" wins Edinburgh benefits deal

100 jobs hit by Gas shops closures

Making sure our voice is heard - Scottish Committee plans for the future

Borders unions win fight against privatisation 

Dewar sets out programme for new parliament 

Need to see detail of new Scottish PFI announcements

PFI pensions protection

John McFadden unveils his Presidential art commission 

Scottish branches win top prize and five others

Winning millions for members

Jobseekers Allowance claims should be registered 

UNISON calls for local government finance review

Local Government pay response due now & Millennium pay news

South Lanarkshire College strikes the right notes

Round The Mags What's in the branch magazines?

LETTERS:-Calling all older youth members - Great Walk for Aberlour Child Care Trust

North Lanarkshire leads the way on Interact for Change 

We want to hear your news





UNISON campaign begins to shift Private Finance agenda - by John Stevenson, SiU Editor

PFI without people?

Despite plans to push ahead with more Private Finance Initiative schemes, the Treasury has set out 'new models' that would allow staff working in health service PFIs to stay as NHS employees.

The news was broken in a bulletin issued to branches by Regional Officer Dave Watson last month.

"This is a key UNISON negotiating objective and it supports our 'PFI without people' plan", said Dave.

It means ancillary workers will not be expected to transfer to private sector employers.

"The announcement only appears to cover the NHS and we must ensure that we can extend the policy to the rest of the public sector", added Dave.

"However, if it is possible in the accounting rules for the NHS, then there is no excuse for other employers like local government to claim that 'PFI without people' is not allowed".

Scotland overhaul

Scottish Finance Minister Jack McConnell has also announced a major overhaul of PFI schemes in Scotland

The key points are:

  • Facilities can return to public ownership at the end on the contract
  • Surplus land will not be included unless it represents value for money
  • Pensions protection
  • More financial information to be made public

Matt Smith, UNISON's Scottish Secretary commented: "Anything that takes steps to retain public assets in the public sector and protect hard won conditions has to be welcomed.

But the bulletin urges caution until fuller details are available (see story).

Translating this into action at the coal-face, Lothian Primary Care Branch have been working hard to protect members in PFI's long before the new changes, but they are set to use them to the full.

In a new PFI project in the grounds of Edinburgh's Eastern General Hospital, the branch is using the changes to try to ensure staff stay as NHS employees. The contractor is now taking its own legal advice.

UNISON is also trying to stop the transfer of staff in the Herdmanflats project at Haddington.

"We are optimistic that we will achieve protection for our members" said Mick McGahey, branch secretary.

But these are not new challenges for the branch.

Conditions protected

18 months ago Ferryfield Hospital became a PFI project. The branch has won Whitley conditions and transfer of the Trust policies and conditions, along with recognition in terms of UNISON's national agreement with Gardner Merchant.

Another project just signed is Ellen's Glen House (the old Southfield hospital) where the branch has won recognition and representation rights.

Probably the most infamous PFI project is the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary where Lothian Acute Branch is in talks with the contractor and is said to be "hopeful" of significant developments.

The branch campaign was the one that focussed the public eye on the whole PFI issue. But a recent UNISONfocus article has fallen foul of officers with complaints that they were not consulted on the story.




Careers members join forces to fight privatisation

By Katy Gordon, Glasgow Careers Service

Hundreds of Careers Services workers are fighting yet another attempt to privatise a public service, and have turned to their national officials for help.

The staff in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, Dunbartonshire, Argyll and Bute, Dumfries and Galloway and Fife have joined forces in their struggle to remain council employees.

Local UNISON officials, working together in the West of Scotland, have been raising the issue through their branches and writing to MSPs to try to co-ordinate opposition. Replies have already been received from concerned politicians.

But the Scottish Office is holding fast to their view that the seven services must go private or lose the next contract in September.

The reason the government gives is 'lack of clarity and accountability' rather than any problems with quality or efficiency.

But UNISON says private boards would be less accountable because local democracy would be lost.
Stewards are worried that the extra costs of going private, along with a four year standstill budget, will mean a worse service for young people - hardly 'best value'.

They are also worried about the new boards' ability to 'set and vary the pay and conditions of staff'.

The stewards are frustrated that this is the third major reorganisation foisted on the service in the last five years.
At a time when members are heavily involved in government priorities like the New Deal, lifelong learning and social inclusion, a huge amount of time has been wasted on the first round of careers service privatisations, local government reorganisation and now another attempt to privatise the last remaining careers services.

Stewards met with UNISON's Scottish Local Government Service Group Executive recently and won a pledge that it would use its political contacts to argue their case. More information will soon be in branches to raise awareness and build on the campaign's solid start.
As one steward said, "It would be a great shame if one of the first acts of our new parliament was to remove yet another service which we have just gained control over from our remit. It would make a mockery of the trend towards more local accountability and democracy".




Calling all older youth members

Dear Editor

As you can imagine, certain people were only too happy to draw to my attention the photograph printed in a recent edition of 'Scotland inUNISON' featuring myself and Janis Hughes, in our younger days.

The caption under the photograph advised that the author was unable to identify the person located between myself and Janis. Her name is Kate Kennedy and I understand she is still a UNISON member.

Incidentally, the photograph wasn't taken at the 1986 STUC Youth Conference, but at a Special Conference organised by the STUC Youth Advisory Committee to discuss the STUC's economic policy document 'Scotland: A Strategy for the Future', which took place in December 1986. Sorry to be pedantic!

Seriously though, the STUC Youth Committee has, over the years, had a number of members who have gone on to careers in the Trade Union and Labour Movement, including a number from UNISON and its partner Unions.

Unfortunately, we don't have a complete record of all STUC Youth Committee members. As next year marks the 60th Anniversary of the creation of the Youth Committee, I am sure that the current Youth Committee would welcome any information from any UNISON members who were former Committee members, as they may wish to make contact with them if they are organising any events to mark this Anniversary.

If you wish to help in any way, please pass on the details to the current Secretary of the Youth Committee, Rozanne Foyer, who can be contacted on 0141 337 8100 or at the STUC, 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow, G3 6NG.

Yours sincerely
Deputy General Secretary, STUC




Great Walk for Aberlour Child Care Trust

Dear Editor

I have been a member of UNISON for several years.
I am currently fundraising for the Great Walk, which is being led in November by Muriel Gray. It is a demanding 100km walk along the Great Wall of China.

A substantial sum should be raised for two children's charities: The Aberlour Child Care Trust in Scotland and The Children's Society in England. The Aberlour Child Care Trust works for and with children across Scotland.

As a part of fundraising I am writing to businesses with whom I have a personal connection to ask that you support my fundraising for this vital work with children.

You could do this by making a donation. Any amount, however small will help ensure I am able to go on the The Great Walk and therefore secure more funds for charity. Your contribution will make a difference to children and their families in Scotland.

Any amount sent should be made payable to The Children's Society as they are responsible for the administration of The Great Walk. Thank you for your help.

Yours sincerely
Great Walk Participant




"Amazing solidarity" wins Edinburgh benefits deal

Edinburgh's Council Tax Benefits and Housing Benefit staff accepted a deal to settle a 16 month dispute culminating in a seven week rolling programme of strikes.

"The deal was won through the amazing solidarity of the members who had voted by 92% for the strike. Most of them stood to gain nothing, but they stood solidly for a better deal for their colleagues. That is to their great credit", said John Mulgrew, Edinburgh UNISON's chief negotiator.

"The improved offer does not meet all our demands, but we always said we were prepared to negotiate for a fair settlement. It is only sad that it took strike action and disruption of the service to get to this point", added John.
The dispute arose after the merger of the Council Tax Benefit and Housing Benefit functions. Despite additional responsibilities, the Council graded the combined job up to £4,000 a year less than the old Housing job. The new deal is considerably more than the rate the Council had tried to push through.

The settlement brings a rise of one salary point for all staff backdated to October 1998 and a further increase from April 1999. A career scheme should bring everyone up to just one grade below the old Housing job and two grades up from the old Council Tax job, by October this year. Those previously on higher grades will have their salaries protected.

"This means our objectives of improving conditions for the lowest paid and protecting those who had higher salaries have been achieved. A fair deal was all our members wanted and they deserve credit for the dignified way they have seen this through", added John Stevenson, branch vice-chair.




100 jobs hit by Gas shops closures

Nearly 100 UNISON members across Scotland are threatened with job loss because of the decision of Centrica (the trading name of British Gas) to close all their 'energy centres'. This was because of a substantial loss in last year's trading.

Emma Phillips, Secretary of UNISON's Gas Branch, Scotland, said "It is a particularly bitter pill to swallow when you consider that these staff took a substantial pay cut last year to try and assist the financial position.

"Centrica have just spent £1.1bn buying the AA and that adds to the feeling of betrayal."

Despite the overall losses, some individual Energy Centres do - in fact - make a profit and UNISON's view is that the problem lies in the very centralised management that the shops were subject to.

Negotiations are currently taking place on redeployment but, it is unlikely that suitable jobs will be found for all those displaced. Emma says,

"These shops are spread across Scotland - from Dundee southward - jobs in Scottish Gas' Edinburgh or Uddingston depots are not going to be geographically possible for all - never mind the very different work they would be doing."

UNISON is making sure that the union is at the forefront of the fight for the best possible solution to protect and help these members.

UNISON has also issued a stress counselling helpline phone number to the members.




Making sure our voice is heard

By John Stevenson, SiU Editor

UNISON's Scottish Committee is looking to the future as it gears its policies and organisation up to face the challenges of the Scottish parliament - and of the the union's own devolution via the Strategic Review.

A special seminar later this month hopes to have a leading figure from the Scottish Parliament to brief members on the workings of the new institutions.

"With the parliament now up and running, and with the debate under way about devolving union resources, now is an appropriate time to review our structures and our policy and management objectives", said Mike Kirby UNISONScotland convenor.

"This will be an extension of the Serving Scotland Campaign to look at how best we can promote our policies in the interests of our members - especially when such radical changes are facing our public services".

Mike identified a number of areas UNISONScotland must address:

  • the union must identify and define our policy objectives
  • we have to get organised as to how we can access the Scottish Parliament agenda
  • if the Scottish parliament is going to have new ways of working, we have to gear up to how we are going to exploit them. For example, how do we get our members voice heard in the pre-legislation consultation stages?
  • we need to do detailed work on the eight proposed bills to ensure we have a detailed and influential input (see below).

The seminar follows a poll in the Spring which showed that UNISON members expected their union to be campaigning for their services in the Scottish Parliament.

"There are a whole raft of policies from our own Scottish Conference and the UNISON National Conference. We need now to work on how best to put these into effect", said Mike.

Mike also points to the need to get organised for Phase 2 of the union's Strategic Review. This review has radically altered HQ management structures and functions, in a context where there is supposed to be more devolution of resources to Regions.

"This phase will look at the future of lay structures at both Scottish and National level. Lay organisation is fundamental to the union and we need to play a major role in that debate", added Mike.




Borders unions win fight against privatisation

by Stephen Palmer, Organising Assistant

After a long campaign by the trade unions, the Scottish Borders Council agreed in March that its residential homes for the elderly will continue to be owned, managed and staffed by its own workforce, following agreement on a conditions of service package.

The membership voted in a ballot to accept the council's proposals, which reduce certain conditions of service in return for a one off payment buy-out worth three years in financial terms. (Details can be provided by Stephen Palmer, Organising Assistant at Douglas House.)

Peter Veldon, Regional Officer said, " The campaign has been successful in that the homes have not been privatised and has secured that the homes will be owned and operated by the council in the future.

The service conditions package has been negotiated within the terms of new single status agreement and has secured a buy-out with an equivalent to three years protection."




Dewar sets out programme for new parliament

By John Stevenson, SiU Editor

First Minister Donald Dewar outlined details of eight bills in June to go before the Scottish Parliament.

"We will work with local government, other public agencies, the private and voluntary sectors, with the communities of Scotland", said Mr Dewar. UNISON activists will be watching closely to see if these words are translated into real action and real consultation on public services.


The first Bill of the new Parliament will be the Education Bill, laying a duty on local authorities to raise standards, but also confirming local control of Education in a "national framework".

Local Government (ethical standards) Bill

More words here that UNISON will need to see turned into real action, but significant none the less.
"Local government is the foundation of our democracy. Its role is central to the good government of Scotland", said Mr Dewar.

The ethical standards bill will set up a Scottish Standards Commission and a code of conduct for local government.


Road charging and permission for local councils to put a levy on workplace parking are two contentious areas in this bill. It also promises to 'modernise' the regulatory framework for buses allowing councils to "work for improvement through quality partnerships", whatever they may be.

Land reform bill

This will give communities the right to buy as and when the land comes on the market. and will create a right of responsible access.

"Who could imagine (this bill) passing unscathed through the massed ranks of the Lords", he said.

Feudal tenure

A bill plans to abolish feudal land tenure, taking away superiors' rights to enforce some conditions on property and Land "in which they have no defensible interest", although some conditions will remain to protect common facilities or amenity.

National Parks Bill

This enabling legislation signals a plan to make Scotland's first National Park in the Trossachs and Loch Lomond.

Incapable Adults Bill

This Bill aims to protect the rights and interests of up to 100,000 people who, for whatever reason, are incapable of managing their own affairs.

The bill will not legislate on a range of medical issues and detailed discussion and consultation is promised.

The Finance Procedures and Auditing Bill

This technical measure will give a framework for the Parliament to scrutinise, in particular, the allocation of public spending. It sets out rules for how expenditure is undertaken and how income is dealt with.

Reacting to the programme, UNISON Scottish Secretary Matt Smith said,

"Many of these proposals will impact directly on UNISON members. We need now to discuss these with ministers and with the Parliament.

"The agenda being set is already taking us into areas highlighted in the Serving Scotland campaign. That campaign has now entered a key new phase as we take our message into the Parliament".





Need to see detail of new Scottish PFI announcements

Further clarification is needed on some of the Scottish announcements on PFI, warns the recent UNISONScotland Private Finance Illusion briefing.

For example, it is not clear on what basis facilities will transfer back to the public sector, or even if PFI deals will have to include this.

The bulletin also warns that the costs will probably just be added to the cost of the scheme.

"As the government has always claimed the inclusion of surplus land represents 'value for money' it is hard to see what is new", says the bulletin. In practice it will probably discourage such schemes.

The pensions proposals seem to be a repeat of the Treasury announcement (see story).

The greater openness about financial information is welcome, particularly when most existing projects barely meet the current disclosure rules. It remains to be seen whether the cloak of 'commercial confidentiality' is really lifted.




Scottish branches win top prize and five others

by Willia Carolan C&C Committee

Scottish branches continued their recent run of success at the National Communications Awards ceremony at UNISON Conference in June.

Amongst those presented with awards by General Secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe were,
UNISONNews (City of Edinburgh Branch) edited by John Stevenson (Stephenson according to the award!) won best overall award and £600 for the branch.

Speak in UNISON (East Renfrewshire), jointly edited by Carolyn Armstrong and Stephen Devine scooped both the Most Promising Newcomer and Best Use of Plain English awards and £200.

Of the four awards in the Best of the Rest Using a Computer category, no less than three went to Scotland.

Branchline (South Lanarkshire) edited by Jane Aitchison,

Counterpoints (North Ayrshire LG) edited by Joe Burns, and

Organise in UNISON, (Southern General Hospital NHS, as it was), edited by Robert Rae.

Congratulations to all entrants for their hard work and there is no truth in the rumour that the award to the City of Edinburgh had to be cleared by the Monopolies Commission.




Winning millions for members

In the first six months of 1999 UNISON won £1.5 million for members injured at work in Scotland.

And as a huge £20 million was won across the UK, UNISON warned employers that they must make the health and safety of their employees a key priority.

"The money we have recovered represents an enormous amount of pain and suffering endured by our members. All too often lives are wrecked and careers destroyed by faulty equipment, lack of training and pressure of work," said Jim Devine UNISONScotland Health & Safety Officer.

"Employers have a legal responsibility to carry out risk assessments and we will continue to press for improved standards".




Jobseekers Allowance claims should be registered

By Chris Bartter

Confusion has been created by contradictory decisions by separate Social Security Commissions on whether term-time staff can claim Jobseekers allowance (JSA) during academic year holidays.

Whilst an appeal is awaited, many local Benefits Agency offices are apparently refusing to allow members to register claims. Legal advice obtained by UNISON is clear that this is not legally permissible.

Obviously this is being raised with the DSS directly but in the meantime UNISON is advising members who have had the Benefits Agency refuse to accept their claim, to write in to the office in question registering their claim and keep a copy of the correspondence so they have something to refer to if and when the Appeal is decided in the claimant's favour.

Members should also keep a note of what is happening and keep the branch and regional officers informed.




UNISON calls for local government finance review

UNISON has criticised the failure to set up an independent review of local government finance as recommended by the McIntosh Commission.

"McIntosh recognises the need for a proper evaluation of how local government is financed. So do local government workers, employers and most outside bodies", said Dougie Black, UNISONScotland Local Government Chair.

"It is a great pity that Scotland's government has failed to take their opportunity. Wendy Alexander (Minister for Communities) welcomes most of the report and has set up working parties in other areas. She should remember that McIntosh is a package, and not something that can be picked from", he added.
UNISON has also slammed the decision to do nothing about returning control of the business rate to local government.

"This betrays a curious lack of understanding of the need to redress the balance and reduce local government's financial dependence on central government", added Dougie.

UNISONScotland is preparing a detailed response and is campaigning for changes that will deliver "the expressed wish of the Minister for local government to be 'at the heart of the New Scotland".




Local Government pay response due now.

Responses to the consultation on the 1999 offer of 3.3% are due now, before the next meeting with the employers on 27 August.

Millennium Payments

As we go to press, negotiators were hoping to agree national payments for Millennium working - particularly for workers in residential units. Look out for details in your branch (STOP PRESS: Deal is £100 payment for working. £50 for standby and £50 if called out)




South Lanarkshire College strikes the right notes

By Chris Bartter

The three demands have been won by UNISON members at South Lanarkshire College, who took strike action earlier in the year.

Steven Jollie - senior steward at the College, part of South Lanarkshire Branch, says that staff voted overwhelmingly for four days of action in response to a 2% pay offer with strings.

"After one day's strike the college came back with an improved offer of a 3.5%-2% sliding scale, no conditions changes, and they tabled a formal recognition agreement - something we haven't had since the break up of national bargaining.

Staff are pleased that sense has prevailed and we seem to be moving towards a better working relationship with the College."

The photo is of an early morning contingent of pickets at the Cambuslang campus of the South Lanarkshire College. They represent the whole range of UNISON members - Cleaning, Catering, Computing, Administrative and Technical staff.

Back Row l to r Stephen Jollie (Senior Steward - Holding the Banner), Maureen Clayton (hidden behind placard), Agnes Kearey, Sheena Orr and Karen McFarlane (both holding the other end of the banner)

Front Row l to r Martin McGibbon, Amelia McKeown (half hidden), Flo Aitken, Carol Gordon, and Marie McVicar




North Lanarkshire leads the way on Interact for Change

Congratulations to North Lanarkshire Branch who were recently the first branch in Scotland to work with their employer to promote the Council's payroll giving scheme while raising funds for Interact for Change

Interact is UNISON's payroll giving partnership of UNISON Welfare, The Terence Higgins Trust and Community HEART (Health, Education and Reconstruction Training in South Africa).

Altogether employees have so far pledged over £10,000 a year to a wide range of causes with about £2,000 pledged to Interact.

To find out how you can raise the profile of your branch while raising funds for causes which reflect UNISON's vision of creating a better world - and taking action to achieve it - contact Brian Jones, Fundraising Co-ordinator at UNISON's Mabledon Place, London, office.

- Community HEART founder and director Denis Goldberg was not at UNISON's National Conference this year because he was called to South Africa for the Presidential Inauguration.

An old friend of UNISONScotland, we congratulate Denis in what must have been a very difficult choice (not!).




John McFadden unveils his Presidential art commission

Maria's art has roots in Ireland

by Chris Bartter, Communications Officer

John McFadden, last years national President, unveiled three wall-hangings at Glasgow School of Art on Friday 30 July.

These wall hangings were commissioned by the union from Maria McCavana, a student at Glasgow School of Art. Also present was Hector McKenzie, UNISON's Associate General Secretary.

The commission, entitled 'Journeys' is part of UNISON's long established Art Sponsorship Scheme, where each year the incumbent President commissions a work of art of his or her choice. A catalogue of the complete commissions has been published.

Hector McKenzie said, "UNISON is proud that its scheme has always been used to show our support for the arts. The catalogue lists the huge variety of art forms we have commissioned during the scheme's twelve year history.

"This particular commission was chosen by John McFadden - the son of Irish immigrants from Donegal - to reflect the influence of Irish Immigration on industrial life and the trade union movement.

"At this crucial time for Ireland, I wanted to pay tribute to the work done by Irish immigrants to Scotland." said John,

"Particularly in the trade union movement. My father was a lifelong trade unionist and I thought this was an ideal opportunity to pay tribute to his work and the work of others like him."

Maria McCavana's work is a wall-hanging in three parts, and this is the only time they will be exhibited together. After the 27 August, one will be hung in the STUC Offices in Glasgow; one in the UNISON Offices in Belfast; and one in the Irish Museum of Labour History in Dublin.

Maria said "The idea is to make the viewer think of the other cities, and the relationship between them. I have used images of the maps of Glasgow, Belfast and Dublin, not only for their aesthetic value but so we can gain a sense of where we are within a bigger picture."




Round the Branch Magazines

"It's a Wash Out" is Lothian Acute Health Branch's headline in Not the Newsline.
The branch is urging members to use the Royal Infirmary'Trust's laundry for uniforms. This comes after the tax office refused tax relief because the RIE said it could cope - well we'll see.

Glasgow Health's bumper 12 page issue leads on pay covers a host of issues from millennium working to adoption and foster leave, with a helpful page on how to contact branch stewards.




PFI pensions protection

The Treasury has announced a five point plan to protect the pensions of staff transferring to the private sector under PPP/PFIs.

While the rules are an improvement, UNISON believes it is better to keep staff in their current schemes by adopting 'associated employer' status. The plan includes:

-'Broadly comparable' pension schemes will be required in new contracts

-Includes subsequent transfers or sub contracting

-Government actuary will publish rules on assessing 'broad comparability'

-Accrued pension credits transfer on fully protected basis

-Contracts will not be signed until unresolved employee concerns considered by appropriate minister.




We want to hear your news

Won any deals or cases for members? Any 'people' stories we could use? SiU is your paper, we want to hear your stories.

Your SiU contacts are:
John Stevenson (Editor)
0131 343 1991
Chris Bartter
0141 332 0006,
FAX PRESS RELEASES to 0141-331-1203