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Lay edited bi-monthly bulletin for 5,000 activists in Scotland
 
 
Scotland in UNISON June 04

Back issues
We want to here your news

June 2004 No 49 (Next issue August 2004)  
Who says they didn't win a national review?
Just after thousands of nursery nurses returned to work after year-long industrial action, they heard last week that they had won a national Early Years Review that would focus on the workforce, qualifications and, crucially, pay and conditions.. more...>
  Local Government pay offer out for consultation
The Scottish 2004 Pay Offer for local government employees is being sent out to branches in a Scotland-wide consultation exercise. This follows what the employers claim is their first and final offer. more...>
 

CONFERENCE PREVIEW Impact of Devolution
National Conference is UNISON's supreme policy-making body and this year the impact of devolution will be a major issue, reports Mike Kirby, Scottish Convenor. more...>
 
Successful union initiative brings workers back into learning
UNISON is celebrating the success of thousands of members who have successfully undertaken training for the first time since leaving school. more...>
 
UNISON slams 'non-negotiation' in colleges merger

A UNISON response to the Executive's plans to merge Glasgow's College of Building and Printing and College of Food Technology has slammed the merger process as 'unsatisfactory.' more...>

UNISON Scotland condemns rise in NHS Assaults
UNISON Scotland has condemned the rise in NHS assaults outlined in the NHSScotland Occupational Health and Safety survey. . .more...>
 

STUC launches charter for Scotland's water industry
The STUC has launched a Charter for Scotland's water industry underpinned by the principle that Scottish Water should remain publicly owned and accountable...more...>

  UNISON backs Music in Hospitals
Music In Hospitals Scotland is being supported by UNISON Lothian Health to bring 17 events to the Lothians throughout June.
more...>


Cautious welcome for plans from Borders social work inspection
Proposals to look more seriously at the role of social work and to change the law on the protection of vulnerable adults will be cautiously welcomed by the social work workforce after the Social Work Inspectors report into Borders Social Work Department.. more...>
 
Campaigning against racism

As we went to press, this hard-hitting and topical advert was appearing in Scotland's national press as part of the UNISON campaign against racism. more...>
 
UNISON needs your knowledge

UNISONScotland needs your knowledge and expertise. We have thousands of members with special knowledge about a range of issues affecting public services and we need to capitalise on that to make sure UNISON's voice is heard in the Scottish Parliament. . more...>

ACTSA presents South African and Scottish writing event
Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) Scotland and the South African High Commission are running Exiles Within, a Symposium on South African and Scottish Writing, 1976-2004. more...>
  Peace Now Scotland presents Afif Safieh, Palestinian General Delegate to the UK and Professor Yuli Tamir MK, former Minister of Absorption and Immigration SPEAKING TO THE ENEMY? more...>   

HAITI: Locked out textile workers need your urgent support
Haitian textile workers who produce materials used by Levi Strauss have been battling for the simple right to have a union and to be free of management violence. more...>


OBITUARY George McArthur - a union man
George McArthur was the epitome of a trade union activist. Yes, he participated at the highest levels, however he never forgot that trade union organisation and power come from the work place. . more...>
 
OBITUARY Ewen Corbett UNISON Activist 1957 - 2004

Colleagues in the Highland Healthcare branch were shocked and saddened to hear of the untimely death of Ewen Corbett in Inverness earlier this month. . more...>
 
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.. . more...>

 

Published by UNISON Scottish Council, 14 West Campbell Street, Glasgow G2 6RX. Editor John Stevenson
© UNISON Scotland 1998-2003


 

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Who says they didn't win a national review?

by Chris Bartter and John Stevenson

Just after thousands of nursery nurses returned to work after year-long industrial action, they heard last week that they had won a national Early Years Review that would focus on the workforce, qualifications and, crucially, pay and conditions.

Education Minister Peter Peacock announced on 9 June that the review would "open new doors for thousands of workers" and "improve employment opportunities for early years and childcare staff and raise the status of the sector".

"We urged the Executive to set up such a review before the industrial action started", said Joe Di Paola, UNISON's Scottish Organiser for Local Government.

"They said it wasn't appropriate then. Now it has been established we will be looking forward to the opportunity for those - like nursery nurses - in the forefront of delivering this service to tell a review exactly what they do, what their qualifications should be and how they should be rewarded".

The review will be looking at all aspects of early years education, as UNISON originally suggested, and the union is pleased that it will have an input from a representative from UNISON.

The union will obviously be making its case that the wage free-for-all the dispute has left is not helpful in providing consistent levels of service across the country, and welcomes the recognition that the work of the review will have implications for pay and conditions.

"It is clear that the increases in the duties and responsibilities of nursery nurses across Scotland have had implications on all aspects of nursery nurses' jobs", added Joe.

"We welcome the opportunity to contribute to a comprehensive review which finally concentrates on the workforce, their roles and responsibilities, their qualifications and the implications of all this on pay and conditions."

Whilst the union recognises that the strike action did not achieve its principle aim of a Scottish-wide grade for nursery nurses, UNISON points out that most councils have negotiated deals that increased nursery nurses grades far more than they would have achieved in other circumstances.

The action has also raised the profile of these important professionals and ensured a key role for them in the development of the service in the future.

At the beginning of June, Glasgow was among the last branches to go back to work as local settlements were either reached or reluctantly accepted.

Many members around the country were disappointed that they did not achieve more in the face of intransigent employers. But that should not undermine the huge achievements the nursery nurse action won.

John Stevenson, Edinburgh Branch Secretary, speaking after an emotional meeting which heard the Edinburgh ballot result on 31 May, said, "They have achieved at least a 10 point pay rise, a substantial lump sum and one in three can go on to higher grades. That is the best I have seen achieved by any group in the last 20 years. But still they were worth more".

Barbara Foubister, Edinburgh Branch Chair and a nursery nurse herself added, "It is a disgrace that the council could not recognise that just one more pay point would have sent people back with confidence in their council. But now the bad taste will stay with nursery nurses for a long time."

John paid tribute to how the nursery nurses ran their campaign. "They have been an example to every other trade unionist throughout this dispute with their good nature, solid organisation and real commitment to the future of early years care and education.

"The warmth they showed to their leaders today, even though we could not achieve what we wanted for them, was just one more example of their big hearts and solid principles", he added.

Carol Ball, Glasgow Branch education convenor and chair of UNISON's Nursery Nurse working group said, "We are deeply disappointed that Glasgow Council, who pride themselves that their service is second-to-none, saw fit to force nursery nurses back to work for a deal that is second-to-many other councils. "Nursery nurses can hold their heads up proudly, but we have work to do with councils like this."

Fife UNISON Chair Stevie Murray says on the branch's website, "We have finally reached the point where our members can get back to doing what they want to do - educating Fife's children."

Paying tribute to all those who held out for a settlement, he added "The solidarity our members have shown hasn't been seen in the trade unions for some considerable time. These members, in the main women, have stuck together through extremely trying and difficult times."

"Members would have preferred a national settlement that would have recognised that Nursery Nurses in Fife do the same job as those in other areas of Scotland."

National deals anyway?

UNISON has slammed CoSLA for resisting a national deal, then dragging things out only to end with what looks like two broad national rates after all.

"Whilst there are some councils who pay both above and below these, for most nursery nurses in schools and classes, local authorities have divided into those paying around £16,300 at the top of the scale, and those paying around £15,800", said Joe Di Paola, UNISON's Scottish Organiser for Local Government.

"It seems a bit of a hollow victory as CoSLA refuse to set one Scottish rate, and then its members set two! I wonder if Scotland's parents appreciate the disruption they have been through for CoSLA's Pyrrhic victory?"

UNISON also points out that the level of final settlements would never have been on offer without the action.

Stephanie Herd, Scotland's Local Government Service Group Chair said, "This has been a very difficult strike but nursery nurses have been an example to us all. Their profile has never been higher, the value of what they do has been accepted by the public, if not by the employers, and the levels of settlement they have achieved are far higher than they would have been offered at the beginning of the dispute."

  • Orkney nursery nurses, who were not part of the all-out action, have still to settle. A meeting with the employer is expected at the end of June.

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Local Government pay offer out for consultation

The Scottish 2004 Pay Offer for local government employees is being sent out to branches in a Scotland-wide consultation exercise. This follows what the employers claim is their first and final offer.

Joe Di Paola, Scottish Organiser for Local Government said, "We want branches to hold meetings in the workplace, and to ballot members to supplement meetings in order to consult as widely as possible with members regarding this offer".

The offer is to cover a two-year period (from April 2004 - March 2006) and is a straight percentage offer of:-

2.95% on all spinal column points, on all scales, with effect from 1 April, 2004

2.95% on all spinal column points, on all scales, with effect from 1 April, 2005

It is likely that this is the best offer that can be achieved through negotiations.

Branches should add together the total numbers voting for and against however the numbers are gathered. Joe added, "It is vital that each branch consults on the same question and a circular has been sent to branches outlining the question to be put."

Branches should only consult those members who directly benefit from any pay offer, that is those who are directly conditioned to the Scottish Joint Council for local government employees (former manual and APT&C staff pay scales).

Whilst this will include staff in the voluntary sector and services contracted out on Scottish Joint Council pay scales, it will exclude those covered by other agreements such as Colleges of Further Education, Police Authorities, Chief Officials and Craft Workers.

Nor should members on locally agreed pay rates or on individual contracts not directly related to the SJC be consulted.

If branches have any difficulty in deciding who should be consulted, they should seek advice from their Regional Officer, Joe Di Paola, Bill McAllister or Stephen Palmer at Douglas House on tel - 0845 355 0845.

The results should be returned to Joe Di Paola by 2 July 2004.

A similar process is taking place in England, Wales and Northern Ireland There, the offer is of 2.75% in the first year followed by two offers of 2.95% for the following two years. The last year is underpinned by a guarantee of RPI.


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CONFERENCE PREVIEW

Impact of Devolution

click here for Conference Minisite

As we go to press, delegates will be heading off for UNISON Conference in Bournemouth from 21 June.

National Conference is UNISON's supreme policy-making body and this year the impact of devolution will be a major issue, reports Mike Kirby, Scottish Convenor.

The process of regions and self organised groups prioritising issues for debate in consultation with branches, means that the major themes and debates at Bournemouth will focus on combating the BNP, Public Services, Pensions, Devolution and International Policy, together with discussions and debates on how the union organises and exerts its political influence.

UNISON Scotland called for a review of the impact of devolution on the organisation, policy process and resourcing the union's activities.

The NEC report and the associated rule changes are the product of a year of consultation throughout the union. It has been debated and supported by the Scottish Committee.

The one area of contention for others may be the proposed rule change affecting the conduct of business at service group conferences to allow, eg voting on solely Scottish issues.

This change is not prescriptive. It does give service group standing orders committees the power to structure business, subject to approval by the conference. It would answer UNISON's own West Lothian question - why vote on matters which don't affect you? A delicately balanced proposal should be supported.

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Successful union initiative brings workers back into learning

by Chris Bartter

UNISON is celebrating the success of thousands of members who have successfully undertaken training for the first time since leaving school.

The Scottish Minister with responsibility for Lifelong Learning, Lewis Macdonald MSP, addressed the union's Celebrating Learning event in Aberdeen on 21 May.

The UNISON project, Establishing a Culture of Learning, assisted by funding from the Scottish Union Learning Fund, ran for a year from April 2003.

In that time UNISONScotland, in partnership with the Workers Educational Association (WEA), trained 220 members as Lifelong learning advisers. The union's adviser network now stretches from Shetland to Stranraer and continues to grow.

Lifelong learning advisers encourage and support members back into learning in every local authority and NHS employer in Scotland as well as many from the voluntary sector, higher education, police, energy and water services.

They deliver a wide range of courses through the UNISON Learning @ Work programme.

Matt Smith, UNISON's Scottish Secretary said "Our Lifelong Learning Adviser network enables members to overcome the inequality that exists in workplace training and encourages new activists for UNISON.

"Many thousands of UNISON members are low paid, part time workers who have traditionally been excluded from workplace training.

"Advice, guidance and support from this new stream of UNISON activists will help to address this and allow all employees to fulfil their potential, in the workplace, at home or in the wider community."

Lewis Macdonald MSP, Depute Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, said "I congratulate UNISON on the effort it has made to promote learning for its members.

"It has made a real contribution, not least in its work in the NHS in Scotland. The learning that it promotes in this way has a triple benefit; a benefit to the employer like the NHS, a benefit to the union and individual union members and a benefit to patients and others who are assisted by the services they deliver.

"I am very encouraged by the different ways in which the Scottish Union Learning Fund is helping unions to promote learning.

"I want to see more union learning projects succeed and so we have now published the prospectus for the next round of SULF and will invest £600k in this over the next two years."

In this project UNISON/ WEA have trained 220 LLAs across Scotland (130 of whom were not active in the union before) 70% of these have been Women. 62% earn less than £14,000 per year. 45 Branches now have LLA's in their branch. Direct contact has been made with around 28,000 members across Scotland.


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UNISON slams 'non-negotiation' in colleges merger

by John Stevenson

A UNISON response to the Executive's plans to merge Glasgow's College of Building and Printing and College of Food Technology has slammed the merger process as 'unsatisfactory.'

"The pace of discussions is too hasty and liable to have a detrimental effect upon the future of a merged college", says the response.

And the union has called for a properly negotiated and agreed policy on voluntary redundancy and early retirement and has vowed to fight any new job evaluation scheme without prior negotiation.

The strongest words were reserved for the negotiating process which it brands as 'non-negotiation' with merely a series of papers from the shadow board.

To get the new college off on the right foot, UNISON wants a Shadow Negotiating Group and a properly negotiated and agreed timetable for harmonisation of terms and conditions of employment.

The response also calls for 'a vigorous bid' to be made to the Funding Council to meet the costs of harmonisation of staff pay and conditions. A

nd it has firmly stated its is opposition to the outsourcing of any contracts currently done in-house and any Private Finance Initiatives (PFI).

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UNISON Scotland condemns rise in NHS Assaults

UNISON Scotland has condemned the rise in NHS assaults outlined in the NHSScotland Occupational Health and Safety survey.

The union called on the Executive to regularise reporting of incidents and broaden protection for staff.

Jim Devine, UNISON's Scottish Organiser (Health) said, "Whilst we welcome this pilot study as a start, it shows that more needs to be done.

"We now need to move on to ensure the standardisation throughout Scotland of the definition, recording and follow up of violent and potentially violent incidents, including verbal abuse, for all NHS staff.

"We also welcome the initiatives introduced so far by the Health Minister and Executive but urge them to take the further step of extending the offence of assault - currently proposed for those who assault emergency workers - to anyone who assaults any public service worker.

"It is also important that people ensure - by moderating both their own behaviour and that of others - that the staff who deliver their public services are not physically or verbally abused at work.

UNISON has called on the Scottish Executive to introduce UNISON's six-point action plan to deal with violence against staff. This demands:

* The Scottish Health Minister and NHS trade unions jointly issue a Staff Charter, reminding the public that it is not part of an NHS worker's job to be physically or verbally abused at work.

* The standardisation throughout Scotland of the definition, recording and follow up of violent and potentially violent incidents, including verbal abuse, for all NHS staff.

* An agreed training course on the management of violent or potentially violent incidents for all NHS staff.

* The introduction of a 'yellow and red card' warning system to members of the public who consistently abuse NHS staff. These warnings could lead to the banning of individuals from NHS premises if they persistently physically or verbally abuse staff.

* Relatives who physically abuse NHS staff must be automatically charged and prosecuted by the Procurator Fiscal.

* Every NHS worker in Scotland has a duty of care to her/himself and to her/his colleagues, to use the reporting system for every incident, and accept and expect that zero tolerance is not just the preferred but the only option.


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STUC launches charter for Scotland's water industry

The STUC has launched a Charter for Scotland's water industry underpinned by the principle that Scottish Water should remain publicly owned and accountable.

In a presentation launching the charter last month, UNISON's Dave Watson laid out the objectives that our water industry should :-

be publicly owned and accountable

be an effective accessible public service

maintain public health

protect the environment

underpin economic development

"The challenges facing a publicly owned industry are considerable but not impossible to overcome given time.", says the charter.

"The key requirement for creating a safe, efficient and effective water industry will be the implementation of a more realistic financial framework rooted in the realities of the water and sewage infrastructure in Scotland, not economic theory or false comparisons with England."

And the fact that employees are the industry's strongest asset must be recognised. "Good employment practice is at the heart of high quality public services. High quality, efficient and effective water and sewage services will best be achieved by a well resourced, motivated, trained and rewarded workforce with extensive opportunities to influence decisions about the development of the industry", says the charter.

See the full charter and Dave's presentation at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/water/stuccharter.html

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UNISON backs Music in Hospitals

Music In Hospitals Scotland is being supported by UNISON Lothian Health to bring 17 events to the Lothians throughout June.

Geared at both patients and staff during the day and in the evenings, the project aims to bring the joy and therapeutic benefit of live music to people of all ages in hospitals, hospices, care homes and day care centres.

During 2003 Music In Hospitals presented 1722 performances across Scotland - 781 in hospitals, 51 in hospices, 758 in care homes and 132 in day care centres.

If you would like to find out more about the work of Music In Hospitals contact UNISON by emailing: UNISON@NHSLothian.net or by phoning 0131 537 1740 (x31740).

If you would like to assist in fundraising or to make a contribution, visit: www.musicinhospitalsscotland.org.uk for details.

For the full list of Lothians events, see www.unison-scotland.org.uk/ comms/music.html
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Cautious welcome for plans from Borders social work inspection

Proposals to look more seriously at the role of social work and to change the law on the protection of vulnerable adults will be cautiously welcomed by the social work workforce after the Social Work Inspectors report into Borders Social Work Department.

Linda Jackson, UNISON's Scottish Borders Branch Communications Officer, said "Whilst we will need to look at the proposed legislation, it is certainly the case that anything that allows social workers to take emergency action in cases involving vulnerable adults would be welcome.

"Indeed we asked for this at the time of the previous legislation. We have also been asking for sometime for a review into social work - so this too could be welcome."

But the union is clear that attacks on social workers either individually or collectively will not help improve the service.

"Social Workers do the job because they care about their clients." said Linda. "It is a job that involves pressure and it has involved working short-staffed - something that can only increase the chance of this type of failure.

"But increasing the pressure by political or other attacks only serves to exacerbate the staffing crisis - making it less likely that people will choose to become social workers - and increasing that chance of failure.

"We all need to accept that social workers work with risk all the time - no amount of resources or procedural changes can absolutely guarantee that people will not be abused, although we always want to deliver the best service we can. It is time that politicians and some elements of the media recognised that and delivered the back-up that diminishes that risk".

Mandy McDowall, UNISON's Regional Officer for the Borders, said: "The first response has to be that UNISON accepts that Social Work failed this vulnerable adult and others and that is something that we all deeply regret but it is not the time to single out scapegoats. They were failed by many agencies and in Social Work the faults went right through the system - the Black report recognised this system failure and the consequent need to avoid blaming individuals.

"This has been acknowledged since the case and there has already been considerable action taken in Social Work - including implementing many of the recommendations of this report. UNISON will be looking at the full report in detail and commits itself to work with the council the health board and the police to deliver any further changes necessary."

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Campaigning against racism

PosterAs we went to press, this hard-hitting and topical advert was appearing in Scotland's national press as part of the UNISON campaign against racism.

UNISON has produced leaflets and posters at UK and Scottish level for members (circulated to branches) and leaflets for street leafletting at Scottish level.

The advert, designed by UNISON Scotland Communications Officer Chris Bartter, has had a great reception and is paired with other similar ones.

The theme was to try to combat the risk that apathy or disaffection would stop people voting and let the BNP in the back door.

By the time you get this issue, we will know the result.
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UNISON needs your knowledge

UNISONScotland needs your knowledge and expertise. We have thousands of members with special knowledge about a range of issues affecting public services and we need to capitalise on that to make sure UNISON's voice is heard in the Scottish Parliament.

The union has set up Policy Pools to mirror the Parliament's functions so we can respond to the hundreds of consultations issued by the Scottish Executive.

We want to hear from any member with special knowledge on any of the issues so that it can be put to good use in the Policy Pools.

Check on all new consultations at www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/ parliament.html.

New ones include issues like Further Measures to Improve the Provision of Primary Care Services A Consultation, Merger of The Scottish Further Education Funding Council and The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, and Review of the Children's Hearing System.

If you have any special knowledge of any of these issues or if you just want to leave your name to be contacted when an issue you are interested in comes up, contact: The Policy and Information Team d.watson@unison.co.uk or tel: 0845 355 0845.

 

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ACTSA presents South African and Scottish writing event

Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) Scotland and the South African High Commission are running Exiles Within, a Symposium on South African and Scottish Writing, 1976-2004.

To be held on Friday 25 June 5.30pm - 7.00pm in the Mitchell Library Glasgow, Saturday 26 June 10.00am-1.00pm and Sunday 27 June 10.00am - 2.00pm in the Woolfson Building, University of Glasgow.

The event will feature famous writers from both countries.

Andre Brink is a distinguished South African author, whose works include A Dry White Season, Rumours of Rain and his most recent novel The Other Side of Silence which is about one woman's experience of colonialism in Namibia at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Alasdair Gray describes himself as a 'self-employed verbal and pictorial artist'. He was born in Riddrie, Glasgow, and trained as a painter at the Glasgow School of Art. He became a full-time painter and playwright and later he wrote fiction, illustrating many of his own books. His highly-acclaimed first novel Lanark was published in 1981. His collections of short stories include Unlikely Stories, Mostly (1983), winner of the 1983 Cheltenham Prize, and Ten Tales Tall and True (1993). He has also written for stage, radio and television.

Keorepetse "Willy" Kgositsele left South Africa in 1961 as one of the first young ANC members instructed to do so by the leadership of the liberation movement. He was a founding member of the ANC Department of Education as well as that of Arts and Culture. The recipient of many poetry awards, he has also studied and taught Literature and Creative Writing at a number of universities in the United States and in Africa.

Tom Leonard is best known for poetry written in the urban speech of the Glasgow area, a mode which was revolutionary and innovative when his first collection Six Glasgow Poems was published in 1969. Places of the Mind, his biographical study of James Thomson, author of The City of Dreadful Night, was published in 1993. Other work includes Intimate Voices: Selected Work 1965-1983 (1984), On the Mass Bombing of Iraq and Kuwait (1991) and Reports from the Present: Selected Work 1982-94 (1995).

Mzi Mahola started writing while he was at school. The Special Branch confiscated his first poetry manuscript in 1976 and he lost interest in writing for twelve years before he started writing again. His work has been published in more than eight anthologies. His first book with poems is titled Strange Things and was published in 1994. When Rain Comes was published in 2000 and won the Olive Schreiner Book prize. At the moment he is editing and finalizing a semi-biographical novel called The Broken Link. It will be finished by early next year.

Miriam Tlali from Johannesburg was one of the first to write about Soweto. Tlali is known for her semi-autobiographical novel Muriel at Metropolitan (1975); later published under its original title, Between Two Worlds, and a novel, Amandla (1980), and stories, Footprints in the Quag (1989), about Soweto. She writes a column, "Soweto Speaking," for Staffrider, a radical arts journal, and edits a literary magazine for women, Straight Ahead International.

For details of the symposium, contact david.kenvyn@actsascotland.org.uk.

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Peace Now Scotland presents Afif Safieh, Palestinian General Delegate to the UK and Professor Yuli Tamir MK, former Minister of Absorption and Immigration

SPEAKING TO THE ENEMY?

12 years ago Afif Safieh was the guest of the Glasgow Jewish community to debate the conflict and the prospects for peace with an Israeli MK.

10 years after the optimism of the Oslo Agreement, we ask what can be done to restore the dialogue which started then.

Wednesday, 23 June @ 8.00pm Clarkston Hall, Clarkston Toll, Glasgow Prior booking on 621 0027, or email peacenowglasgow@hotmail.com

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HAITI: Locked out textile workers need your urgent support

Haitian textile workers who produce materials used by Levi Strauss have been battling for the simple right to have a union and to be free of management violence.

In response to Labourstart's last appeal, the support was fantastic; over 2,150 of you sent off messages to the companies and this brought them to the negotiating table and led to the striking of a deal to end the dispute.

But last week, that agreement unravelled as the company - backed by troops - locked workers out.

At the request of the union in Haiti, we've launched a new campaign aimed at the Dominican company which employs the workers (Grupo M), at Levi Strauss (which has a code of conduct which is being clearly violated here) and at the World Bank, which has financed the building of this factory.

Please send your message of protest today and pass this on to your fellow union members. Go here to send your message now: http://www.labourstart.org/cgi-bin/solidarityforever/show_campaign.cgi?c=30

 

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OBITUARY

George McArthur - a union man

George McArthur was the epitome of a trade union activist. Yes, he participated at the highest levels, however he never forgot that trade union organisation and power come from the work place.

He would regularly finish meetings with 'the high heid yins' to cycle around the villages of East Lothian to meet with home helps, school meals, refuse and gardening staff.

He understood that, whilst policy matters were important, so were the kitchen sink issues like not getting your holidays at the same time as your spouse, or a query about a pay shortage. He gave a complete service to the members he represented.

On leaving school at 15, George started work at a local nursery in Prestonpans. He then got a job with the Health Board where he learned his gardening craft.

For a brief period he worked in a convent but I think he was too irreverent for the sisters. Changing occupations, he worked in a Structural Engineering factory where he organised the workforce into the A.E.U. George then went back to gardening with East Lothian District Council.

He joined the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) and quickly became a steward and then Branch Secretary. He was later elected chair of NUPE's Scottish Local Government Committee and a member of the Scottish NJC for Local Authorities.

He played an important part in job evaluation and regrading of 100,000 manual workers, a mammoth task. Also the fight against compulsory competitive tendering, which we largely won but unfortunately has again reared its ugly head under the guise of PFI/PPP.

In 1987 George was elected Scottish Chair of NUPE. These were hectic and important times. A Tory government was in power and we had to organise politically. The Tories' attack on the Trade Unions had shown the need for greater unity and strength. Mergers were in the air.

NUPE had long argued for one public services union. Through his own experience in the health service and local government, George supported the merger talks between COHSE, NALGO and NUPE. Equally important, George wanted to see an end to the inferior conditions for manual workers and appreciated that all being in one union would help eliminate this.

There is now a single status agreement in local government which has largely achieved George's ambitions.

From 1990-1993 George played a leading role in the merger talks. During long detailed discussions, his openness, patience and good humour helped to forge the structure of UNISON in Scotland.

He was instrumental in ensuring that UNISON retained an Affiliated Political Fund supporting the Labour Party, this was a red line issue for George. Crucially, he went out and campaigned to win the grass root members for a yes vote.

In retirement, George continued to keep himself busy with his garden, as Secretary of the Community Council and his involvement in Prestonpans Labour Club, the busiest and best of those remaining in Scotland.

The union business is not all work and no play. George was a conference aficionado. He was a regular delegate at the three Bs, Blackpool, Bournemouth and Brighton, where he had his favourite watering holes. He had great expertise at gatecrashing conference freebies though sometimes he would cadge the invitations of others.

I remember in Brighton, at one particularly formal cocktail party, they announced the guests, and George was introduced as the Honourable John Home Robertson, MP. He carried it off with aplomb.

George lived 65 of his 66 years in Prestonpans in the same house. There was a large and diverse turnout at his funeral. The venerable Prestongrange Kirk echoed to the strains of the Internationale. The MP and Past President of UNISON, Anne Picking read out tributes from Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. He was buried to the singing of the Red Flag.

Bob Thomson
Former Associate Scottish Secretary,
UNISON

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OBITUARY

Ewen Corbett
UNISON Activist 1957 - 2004

Colleagues in the Highland Healthcare branch were shocked and saddened to hear of the untimely death of Ewen Corbett in Inverness earlier this month.

Ewen was an Activist in UNISON and NUPE before it for many years, and was a valued colleague and friend to many, as well as a father, brother and partner.

Relatives, friends, colleagues and some of Ewen's former patients came from all over to attend his funeral, which was conducted with great sensitivity by the Rev Iain Macritchie, the Inverness Hospitals Hospital Chaplain.

The attendance reflected the respect and esteem in which Ewen was held, and stopped the traffic in Inverness. As well as being a sombre occasion, the funeral was also a celebration of some of Ewen's many achievements, in all spheres of his life, with some happier moments telling of his wicked sense of humour!

Ewen had a calm, measured approach to everything, which was a huge asset in his role as a mental health nurse. Nothing was ever too much bother to him. Indeed there were occasions when he took in clothes of his own to help out a needy patient on his ward.

As an activist, Ewen will be sorely missed by the Branch and will be an impossible act to follow at New Craigs hospital. He has provided guidance and advice to many of us in the Branch as well as keeping a very weather eye on the goings-on in Inverness's psychiatric hospital.

Ewen has been at the forefront of many campaigns, and has done untold work to benefit the members - his colleagues and friends.

Adam Palmer,
Branch Secretary.


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