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Scotland in UNISON




Mike Kirby

Pat Rowland

UNISONScotland positions on all the main issues

Delegates' Briefing

This briefing, compiled by Scottish Region delegates Mike Kirby and Pat Rowland, is based on policies set or guided by Scottish Council.

It is intended as a guide to branch delegates. It will reflect Scottish Council policy and will assist the two Scottish delegates in their discussions and negotiations with other regions, the NEC and the Standing Orders Committee.

The guide cannot mandate Branches who may have different policies. However, it may assist delegates in taking an overview of Conference.

The general line is to support motions unless listed to oppose. Comments have also been made against important issues for support. If you need any help, advice or assistance during Conference, do not hesitate to contact the Scottish Regional delegates.

Of the 147 motions and associated amendments submitted, experience suggests that around forty motions and composites will be chosen for debate, after prioritisation by NEC, regions and equality groups.

That process has highlighted the following themes. With a few exceptions the agenda should provide a broad consensus.



The importance of growing the union is debated in motions 1- 3. With half an eye to what's happening elsewhere in the trade union (merger) movement. UNISON should seek to strengthen relations with unions with whom we work already.

Engagement rather than merger or enlargement may be the message of a composite of motions 2 and 3, while motion 1 seeks to maximise the potential for growth in our traditional areas particularly among younger recruits to public service.


Learning and organising are essential to growth. The opportunities for learning, presented by union membership, provide benefits to the individual, the union and the employer. We must also develop and refresh the experience of long-standing representatives.


The precise makeup of the TUC General Council may be a minority sport. Motion 6 addresses issues of a General Council consisting of a federated conference or accountable to the whole TUC. UNISON, so far, has taken a longer term view to the appointment of equality representatives from equality conferences. This may be more than an issue of the "big bears" cutting a deal, and something of the different stages of development and participation in equality trade unionism across the various affiliates.


Is any kind of monitoring of the workforce a means towards a positive end taking up constructive enablement or forcing identification and victimisation? It depends upon the conditions and these are addressed in Motion 8.


The Health & Safety debate now has a regular space on the UNISON conference agenda of 150 submissions, but motion 17 thinks it merits a special conference. Mainstream or sideline? Conference decides. While we in the trade unions increase our attention to health and safety matters, motion 16 states that there is a trend in government to downplay.

It mentions the UK government's weakest proposals on corporate manslaughter. The proposals under consideration at Scottish Parliament are better. As we strive for the future protections, motion 15 seeks the remembrance of past victims of workplace tragedies and failings.


Public Service Reform? Efficiency Reviews? Shared Services? Privatisation? We, and the government, at Westminster, Holyrood and the other devolved administrations, say we want quality public services. However, we obviously disagree on the direction under Blair. Incidentally wasn't Brown the architect?

PFI is costly but we can provide protection for workers (18). Efficiency Reviews do not guarantee that money goes to "the front line" (20). Shared services seemed a good idea as a means of resisting externalisation of services.

But with questions over employment models, permanency of funding, terms, conditions and pensions, is this just an attack on "the back office"? (21) (29) Broader Vision of the Future of quality Public Services, well-resourced, democratically controlled, with public engagement and well-trained, motivated and paid staff are discussed in motions 22-24.

Whatever direction we decide, we should follow a trade union path and not wander off to follow the campaigns of others which may be proposed - debate.


The under funding of social care, particularly of the elderly, reduces the quality of care and leads to the exploitation of care workers, particularly migrant workers. Free personal care should be available and provided by competent, confident, trained and valued staff. Recent legislation (DDA 05) fails to understand and address the position in society of people with disabilities. UNISON's "Beyond the Barriers" campaign must be developed. With tenants expressing opposition and at best minimal support for the all or nothing investment and council housing presented by the government's externalisation proposals, motions 21 and 22 tell us that there is another way.

Voter engagement: Whatever our criticisms of government on these issues we all fail if voters stay away or use interim elections to kick the government. UNISON must adopt a positively public agenda to engage the electorate (27)


As we write we're still in dispute over plans to reduce our works pension entitlements, which we pay for, and the government has just announced that in order to secure a state pension linked to earnings, the safest way of preserving value, we'll have to wait and work longer for our state pensions. Not surprisingly, the issue again attracts the biggest number of motions (35, 36, 39, 41, 43)

However, as the statement/agreement, which suspended the industrial action, gave until June to conclude talks on the LGSS, it's likely that a further statement to conference will overtake these motions.


The continuing scourge of racism was evident in the May local government elections in England. In Scotland we cannot be complacent. We've witnessed racist attacks on our members at work and in the community. It's a trade union issue. Motion 45 calls for vigilance and action in union activity at work and in the communities.

Motion 49 from Scottish branches will seek to build upon excellent work done with the communities and Scottish Executive in protecting the rights of asylum seekers, particularly children, and ensuring a proper caring role for social care/work employees in their professional engagement.


While government has a duty to protect all residents, the (proposed) introduction of certain measures, ill-considered at best, are at worst abuse of power and human rights (51-53) Attention should be focussed on developing positive rights for young people (54) and protection of women (55 and 56) rather than divisive and discriminatory legislation and racist practice which feeds off ignorance and prejudice.


Support the London Olympics (66) ……. And the Glasgow Commonwealth Games?…. Let's support, but also support the campaign which seeks to prevent exploitation of cheaply produced foreign equipment and style goods.


Recent research commissioned by UNISON Scotland, and similar work for the Audit Commission in England, shows that child care and child care/education workers are undervalued. Affordable childcare, by confident, competent and rewarded workers should be universal.


The March budget and its November pre-report showed a growth in public expenditure and aspects of social care. But at a price of private sector rates of investment, which mean future cost.


While focussing on the worst excesses of Blair's New Labourism and its impact upon education in England, we know that Treasury models can impact upon more progressive social policy in devolved areas.


While the Government talks of commissioning a patient led NHS, its policies favour market based reform. Again, Scotland has resisted the worst excesses, and reclaimed staff and conditions but must be wary of Treasury impact upon Scotland's economy and budget. We have powerful trade union campaigns to run without being sucked into the activities of other political groups. In doing so we must protect civil rights (92).


Individual rights at work have been advanced to some extent since the change of government. However, these can only be advanced through greater collective rights (95). Scotland and the Women's Committee assert a particular trade union responsibility to protect migrant workers, particularly women, particularly in health and social care (98/99)


Having safe, secure, enduring and affordable power supplies are addressed in 101-104. But while the government has set up a debate on the future of energy supply, a Tony Blair speech in mid-May sought to predetermine many of the issues offered for debate in those motions. Protecting business before he goes? Don't be cynical. Might even lead one to support the view of disengagement with politics. But of course nuclear power production/fuel should not be linked to arms production and proliferation (111) ….unless of course you're Iranian and looking for similar economic opportunities to the West.

116-117 EQUALITY

YES …. Leads us to the subject of promoting equal opportunities at home, and whether public bodies have a duty to set and lead (116/117) 119-120 EUROPE Europe for business … exploiting the need for public services, or a Social Europe? A "no-brainer" for the biggest public service trade union in Europe, but we need to work at it, particularly with our own members.

121, 123, 125, 166 INTERNATIONAL

International solidarity by trade unions can best be expressed by international solidarity with our sister trade unions. Listening to them…assisting them equals UNISON International Development Fund (121) This fund is assisting many projects especially in Palestine. As we welcomed guests from Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions and the Israeli Federation Histradut to the STUC in April, we should similarly welcome their representatives to UNISON conference.

We work for a free, independent, viable Palestine, alongside a secure Israel. (126) We remember the words of Nawaaf Masalla the Chairperson of the International Committee of Histradut at the STUC, "I am against the humiliation of Palestinians, I support a Palestinian state”. He also called for, "Israel and Palestine to be together as workers... We are more than neighbours”

(123) Campaign for aid and assistance, not linked to conditions set by "developed countries". While recognising the rights of migrant workers and the benefits they bring, we must be wary of the adverse effect of their migration upon their indigenous countries (125).

129/130/131 VENEZUELA

The new government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and its importance for emergent politics of other states in the Andean Continent are addressed in motions from Wales and others including Edinburgh. However, our solidarity should be raised through broad-based organisations campaigning within UNISON's criteria for affiliations.

145 BRANCH FUNDING and finally …

It wouldn't be conference …… it wouldn't be a Scottish briefing without mentioning money. If you manage your branch membership records at the branch, you'll see the merit in Glasgow's amendment. It's not profligate (… ask John Stevenson…) but it will give you the resources to pay for the organisational duties which have passed to your Branch, so says Mike Kirby, Chair Glasgow City Branch AKA Scottish Convenor.