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Monday, 31 December 2012

Proud of achievements and ready for challenges of 2013

New Year message from John Stevenson, Branch President: Is it too optimistic to say we began to turn the tide in 2012? Well, maybe you have to be an optimist to be a union activist, but there has been much for the Branch to be proud of in 2012.

It was a year that saw the last of the mass privatisations thrown out following a fantastic UNISON and community campaign. The importance of that victory for Edinburgh and the whole of Scotland cannot be overestimated.

After years of hard work and legal action, UNISON achieved equal pay compensation offers for almost 3,000 workers in Edinburgh. These are still being paid out and will continue to be for some time yet.

We won a Living Wage of £7.50 an hour from 1 January 2013. The new Labour/SNP coalition was as good as its word when it responded to our campaign and the Living Wage will benefit many low paid workers. The next step is to campaign to get the same for contractors' staff and in the community and voluntary sector. Why stop there? We need to take the argument out to encourage all employers in Edinburgh to come on board.

And let’s not forget one-to-one representation. Hundreds of members have been represented by stewards and officers over the year, often in very difficult circumstances and sometimes in the face of media misrepresentation.

We also looked beyond our local issues. The Branch has been honoured to work with our colleagues in the London Borough of Barnet who are facing almost the whole council being sold off. Our international links continue and, for example, Matthew Crighton’s work with the Edinburgh World Justice Festival is highly valued.

Getting involved

With a new outlook from the Council, the branch is re-visiting the partnership policy it set back in 2000 to try to involve workers more, improve services and stave off the worst effects of the cuts facing us.

And at home we need to get involved in Scotland’s constitutional debate. Not on the basis of flags, borders or lists of powers in Edinburgh and London. But on the basis of what politicians intend to do with these powers to protect public services, improve rights at work, build full employment and make Scotland a more equal place. If we miss the opportunity to put those things at the top of the agenda, whether people vote yes or no may make very little difference to building a fairer Scotland.

Working together

The progress in 2012 is all the more encouraging because we have a relatively new officer team in place. Two seasoned leaders and negotiators left in 2012. Agnes Petkevicius took well-earned retirement and Kevin Duguid went on to a well-merited full time job with the union. Irene Heggie left the Recruitment Officer post after putting so much energy and commitment into it.

No branch can lose all that skill and experience without an effect. But those who have stood up to the mark have shown a great talent for organising, for willingness to learn, for bringing skills and knowledge to the task and for real commitment to the union and its members – and most of all for trying to instil a real team culture.

It has been a huge transition for the branch support staff too who, as usual, show year in year out that this is not just a job, it is a cause they are committed to.

Austerity isn’t working – spread the word!

Amidst this progress, times are still hard. After three successive cuts of £90 million over three year periods, the Council does not have its troubles to seek. Austerity measures from Westminster and Holyrood are destroying services and livelihoods but they are not making the economy better. They are making it worse.

It is all the more reason we need to urge the Council to stand up for the essential local services we all rely on - and work with us to ensure there is something there to build on when times get better. The alternative would be services lost to a generation or forever.

UNISON warned that cuts would bring a double dip recession. We were right. We warned that job cuts in the public sector would damage local economies and would not create growth. We were right. The fact is that the country is not less wealthy than it was, the money has just polarised with the gap between rich and poor widening.

We all need to take those arguments into our families and communities to put an end to the myth that public services were the cause of the financial crisis. On the contrary, investing in good public services is a major part of the solution.


We face many challenges in 2013. The living wage is welcome but a 1% offer is not going to make up for years of pay cuts. It will help, but it will not solve the problem of the men and women set to lose out in October when ‘Modernising Pay’ protection runs out. Many of those people are the very ones keeping our services going over the festive holiday.

Officers and stewards are working hard on a ‘Dignity at Work’ initiative among other plans to improve conditions at work. We are also working on ways to better represent the voluntary sector and other bodies.

On the evidence of 2012, Edinburgh UNISON is well placed to meet those challenges. But that will depend on members’ support and on them becoming active in their union – and signing up new members.

A Happy and Peaceful New Year to you all – and why not make this year the one when you decide to become a UNISON steward!

See also UNISON Scottish Secretary Mike Kirby’s New Year message at 

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Let us hear your views on the pay offer

PAY OFFER: Negotiators to seek more talks and ballot to follow in January 2013.
Local Government branches met on 30 November and heard that Local Government employers had made an offer of 1% from 1 April 2013. If after the 1% is applied, there are staff who fall below the 'Living Wage', this will be brought up to £7.50 an hour from 1 April 2013. The offer also calls for a 'working party' on pay for 2014/15 and on 'flexible and adaptable' working practices.

While the 'Living Wage' elements is welcome, the offer falls below what is needed to keep pace with inflation. Local Government workers have gone through a pay freeze at a time when inflation averaged 5%, food prices have been going up by 7% a year and energy prices by 15%.

The offer was made outside the normal bargaining procedures and negotiators will seek, along with the other unions, to open proper negotiations and consult members via a ballot in January 2013. They will return to a Recall Conference on 11th Jan to report on progress. Make sure your steward has your views on the offer!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

No charges against Edinburgh Property Conservation staff

The Crown Office has confirmed that: "There will be no criminal charges in respect of allegations of fraud involving the property conservation department of the council". Please ensure colleagues, friends and family are aware of this and show support for our colleagues who are are still being wrongly hounded by the press.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

UNISON to consult on Scottish pay offer

UNISON Scotland is set to consult members on a pay offer for local government workers. Dougie Black, Joint Trade Union Side Secretary, said that today’s offer from COSLA will be discussed initially at a conference in Glasgow next Friday (30 Nov).

Thursday, 8 November 2012

UNISON welcomes Edinburgh Living Wage

Another reason why you should be in your union! UNISON has welcomed Edinburgh council’s intention to pay a minimum ‘living wage’ of £7.50 an hour to its lowest paid council workers from January. The union estimates 2,000 mainly low paid women will benefit.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

UNISON wins Edinburgh equal pay deal

UNISON has won an equal pay deal for thousands of council staff in Edinburgh. The union today agreed a settlement with the City of Edinburgh Council after a long-running battle to secure equal pay claims by up to three thousand workers.

Note for members with claims: As is the nature of legal settlements, we cannot give details publicly and each settlement for each individual will be different based on the difference between the male comparator, the length of time and several other factors. This is a compensation offer that will be put to you by Thompsons and the Council. The branch does not have details of this and any queries need to go to Thompsons Solicitors. Any important updates will be on the website at

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

20 October Glasgow For a Future That Works

#SCOct20 You can now book places for the bus to the STUC Glasgow demo on 20 October. Leaflets and posters on the branch website at

Friday, 24 August 2012

Lets Keep Society’s Safety Net – PUBLIC MEETING

Edinburgh Anti Cuts Alliance is holding a public meeting at 7.30pm Friday 7th September 2012 in Portobello Town Hall

Join us in opposition to the Welfare Reform Act. This Act could lead to 3.5 million disabled people losing over £9.2 billion in benefits. In many cases the wrong decisions have been made regarding people’s urgent social needs. Are we going to stand by while people suffer? Let’s keep society’s safety net!

Speakers; Sasha Callaghan (Disability History), Abby Tindell (Local Resident), Sheila Gilmore MP (Scottish Labour), Councillor Norman Work (SNP)
Download flyer here.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Capital cities join to back public services during festival - 'A Tale of Two Barnets' film comes to Edinburgh

Edinburgh and London UNISON members are bringing an acclaimed film to the city during the festival on 20 August to highlight the dangers of wholesale privatisation of council services.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Fair Pay Android tablet winners

The winners of the Fair Pay Campaign quiz were Noel Jeffery and Ian McAndrew, both at Chesser House. Congratulations and thanks to everyone who entered. Remember to sign the Fair Pay petition at

Friday, 29 June 2012

Police charges not related to Statutory Repair Notices

Following press reports regarding charges brought regarding repairs in the City of Edinburgh Council, UNISON wants to make it clear that these ARE NOT connected to the Statutory Repair Notices scheme operated by the Property Conservation Department. Our information is that no wrongdoing was uncovered by the police.

UNISON has consistently tried to correct misleading reports that inaccurately linked allegations of criminal activity to members in the Statutory Repair Notices scheme.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Fair Pay Day: Do the Quiz and Win an Android Tablet

27 June is Fair Pay Day to publicise our campaign to fight for fair pay in local government. To celebrate this there are two Android tablet computers up for grabs for City of Edinburgh Branch members only. Click here to enter

Thursday, 14 June 2012

UNISON calls for urgent action to boost council street cleansing services

News that many areas in Edinburgh are not meeting cleanliness targets will come as no surprise to many, not least the workers who strive to provide - and incidentially take pride in - this front line service despite the problems they face. John Stevenson on STV website

So what’s the answer? We have to start by acknowledging that nothing is easy when councils are being hit by a failed government policy of austerity bringing unprecedented and unnecessary funding cuts. Cuts that don’t just affect our services but affect the whole local economy. Cuts that have succeeded only in making things worse by bringing the double-dip recession UNISON had warned about since day one.

On top of that, for two years the council's efforts were diverted into a wasteful and costly privatisation exercise instead of concentrating on what really mattered - delivering the service. Millions spent on consultants would have been far better spent on front line services.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Monday, 4 June 2012

Email problem 4 June

The branch email is not working just now as our service provider does some upgrades. We hope it will be back on later today.

Friday, 25 May 2012

March against fascism 12 noon Grassmarket Sat 26 May

A mesage from UAF. The Scottish Defence League (SDL) won their court case, so for the first time these racists will be allowed to march in Scotland. Joint the Unite Against Fascism march starting 12.00 in the Grassmarket Edinburgh on Saturday 26 May.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Deal agreed on Sickness Absence

Following consultation, the Branch Committee has agreed to a new Sickness Absence policy in the City of Edinburgh Council after improvements gained through negotiations. Click here for a detailed briefing from negotiators (pdf) and here for a brief summary of the improvements.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

May Day celebrates City Not For Sale

UNISON urges new council to work together against cuts. For full report on the 2012 May Day Rally see

Speaking at the rally, branch president John Stevenson said, "There is an alternative and we need to keep telling them that. We need to keep telling our members that and we need to keep organising around that. (see full speech here)

Monday, 30 April 2012

See you at Edinburgh May Day Rally Sat 5th

Assemble 11.00 in the Lawnmarket. March to the rally in the Pleasance Theatre via St Mary’s Street. Let's have a great turnout from the Branch! See more at the Edinburgh and Lothians MayDay website

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Support the Palestine silent blockade breakers on Saturday

Edinburgh UNISON member joins Fly-in to Israel to break the 'Silent Blockade' of the occupied territories of the Palestinian West Bank. On Saturday 14th April a group of activists from Scotland - including at least one UNISON Edinburgh member - will leave from Edinburgh by train to join their colleagues in England.

Together they will board flights on Sunday 15th as part of the International 'Fly-in' to Israel which will attempt to break the 'Silent Blockade' of the occupied territories of the Palestinian West Bank. Come and lend us your support. Saturday 14th April at 1pm in Waverley Station. See for more details

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Threat to Edinburgh Library Services


Edinburgh City Libraries are woefully understaffed. In the last five years this service has lost over 50 members of staff who have never been replaced. With such a huge staffing shortfall, the Library Service cannot be expected to adequately and safely staff all library locations and continue to provide high quality services to the people of Edinburgh.  Despite this, Library Management want to extend Saturday opening which will further stretch an already depleted workforce.
This problem is only going to get worse. Several colleagues are going to have their temporary contracts terminated and the 50 vacant posts are due to be deleted from the staffing structure by the start of the next financial year.
The decision to cut these jobs comes as a result of the Service Prioritisation packages designed to make £550,000 savings from the budget. There was a recent £300,000 payment which was hoped would be used to remedy the staffing crisis. This money is being diverted to maintain Sunday opening hours.  We feel this situation is unacceptable and unsustainable.


City of Edinburgh Council claim you were. They state that their decision was made as a result of one of the biggest public consultations in their history. 10,000 respondents is an impressive figure but it pales into insignificance when you consider that there are 180,000 registered library users in Edinburgh.  Only 5.5% of library users were consulted. That's 170,000 people who did not have a say in their library service – enough to simultaneously fill both Easter Road and Tynecastle Stadia 4.5 times over. This cannot be described as proper consultation.

BookBug/Books for Babies/Rhymetimes
These awarding winning programmes which are set up, run and led by frontline staff have been proven to help in the mental and physical development of babies and toddlers. It has been shown to improve literacy levels, the ability to interact with others in a positive manner and also assists new mothers in developing their parenting skills. These are extremely valuable programmes yet, last year, two designated BookBug workers were lost to cuts.

Homework Clubs
These after-school workshops were set up to advise and assist young people in their education and are also run by frontline staff. Evidence shows that the Homework Clubs increases the potential for increased academic achievement amongst participants and it cannot be doubted that this increases their future employment prospects.

Adult literacy/Computer classes
These are other valuable services run and led by frontline staff. The positive outcomes are immediately noticeable. People become more confident as a direct result of these classes and are more prepared to interact with others.  Participants are also more prepared to pursue further self improvement and, as a result, their employment prospects rise.

Library Link
Library Link is yet another service provided by frontline staff.  It provides a regular opportunity for the elderly and infirm to visit their local library on a weekly basis. As well as being able to access the library services whilst having a cup of tea, in many cases this service is the only chance many of these people get the chance to leave their homes, meet friends or new people and generally interact.

Housebound Runs
There are some who, through no fault of their own, are unable to visit their local library. As a result staff deliver library services to them. Each customer has their own designated member of staff who forms a relationship with them and develops a working knowledge of their reading preferences.  Staff can tailor the service specifically to that individual customer. This ensures that the most vulnerable people are not denied the services that you and I enjoy from our library service.


These services, along with many others, will disappear. Staff numbers are being decimated and the working week for the remaining staff is getting longer.  The quality and provision of the service will suffer irrecoverably. We cannot allow this to happen. 

In these tough economic times we need a strong, healthy and viable library service to help support vulnerable service users.  One quarter of the population of Scotland have difficulty with reading and writing – and this percentage increases in areas of our communities that suffer from deprivation.   We need librarians to help break the cycle of low literacy levels which are linked to poverty. When individuals do well, so do their families, communities and employers, present and future. 
UNISON are due to make a delegation to the meeting of the Full Council on Thursday 15 March to put forward our concerns.  
We will continue to make the case and fight for our Library service but we NEED your help!


You know the facts - now contact your councillor. Raise your concerns directly with them and insist that Libraries need adequate staffing levels to continue to provide an excellent service to you, your family and the people of Edinburgh.
You can also join the library. To value this service we've got to use it. All you need is photo ID and you're up and running. There's a world of knowledge just waiting for you in your local library.


Thursday, 8 March 2012

Backing Barnet's fight against privatisation

The Branch was proud to be asked to Barnet UNISON's AGM to speak on the 'Our City's Not For Sale' campaign last week. Barnet is facing a huge drive to privatisation without even an in-house option and has been mounting an imaginative campaign of research publicity and industrial action. See local press coverage of the visit in the Barnet and Potters Bar Press (p5 and 6) at and video coverage at

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Equal Pay deadline 5 March

A deadline of 5 March 2012 is set for historic APT&C equal pay claims. Letters sent to all members working for the City of Edinburgh Council. See more details at

AGM backs more time for talks on Sickness Absence

The Branch AGM on 22 February backed an emergency motion gving more time for negotiations after progress was made in talks with the City of Edinburgh Council on the Absence Management Policy. Motions calling for a boycott and a consultative ballot were remitted to the Branch Committee to be dealt with if negotiations fail.
See full details at

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Sickness absence update

A Working Group (Managing Attendance Procedure - Implementation Team) is being set up and all of the trade unions will be involved. We are currently trying to agree the terms of reference. See  for more details.

Edinburgh Budget: Services and living wage best way to help local economy

UNISON has called on today’s Edinburgh Council meeting to protect services and pay a living wage to help boost the local economy out of recession.

The union has also called on Holyrood and Westminster to stop starving local authorities of funding and take positive action to invest in services and jobs.

“We don’t doubt that the Council faces difficult challenges from huge cuts in central government funding in the next three years. But it is now time to take a different approach and abandon costly consultants and privatisations and get on with engaging their own workers in protecting everyone’s local services”, said John Stevenson, Edinburgh UNISON President.

“There is an alternative to the slash and burn that is getting the whole economy deeper and deeper into trouble”, said Mr Stevenson, calling on national government to fund local councils properly and “abandon the failed policies of austerity which are creating more unemployment, more poverty and fatally undermining the services we all rely on.”

“The best way to deal with the deficit is to create employment, not cut it. Rebuilding public services benefits both the public sector and the private sector. The more people there are in work, the more there is in taxes to deal with the deficit and the more there is to put back into the economy.

“One way to do that in Edinburgh would be to pay a living wage of at least £7.20 an hour and encourage other employers to do the same. Unlike the very rich, low paid public service workers spend most of what they earn in the local economy.That money would go into Edinburgh businesses at a time when they need it most.

“Overall, the best way to use the undoubted wealth that exists in the UK is to put it to work for everyone rather than being hoarded by the few.”

Support for Barnet privatisation fight

The Branch has sent a message of support to UNISON members on strike in Barnet today against massive privatisation plans which would transfer the majority of the staff out of the Conservative led Council. The text of the message is below.....

Monday, 6 February 2012

Sickness absence policy put back to 15 March

The full Edinburgh Council meeting on 2 February 2012 agreed to postpone the imposition of the new sickness absence policy until 15 March 2012 to try to reach a negotiated settlement with the trade unions. We'll post more details when available. Make sure you attend the Branch AGM on Wed 22 February at 6pm in the Queens Hall, Clerk Street, Edinburgh for more details. See

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

UNISON wins more time to put case against sickness absence policy

UNISON has won more time to put the union's case against Edinburgh council's proposed new sickness absence policy. At today's Policy and Strategy Committee, UNISON set out the union's concerns about the 'draconian' policy and its reasons for opposing it.

Lib Dem and SNP councillors agreed to ask that a sentence be added to the policy to allow managers to apply discretion. Labour councillors asked for a continuation to next month's committee to allow for meeting with Administration and Chief Executive to take place.

The Lib Dem/SNP motion was carried so Labour asked that it be referred to Full Council in February and this was carried.

The issue will now go before the full Council on Thursday 2 February and in the meantime, UNISON Branch Secertary Agnes Petkevicius has asked for a meeting with the Administration to outline the union's opposition.

Sunday, 22 January 2012


There is a drive within the council to reduce absence levels across the council and the current target is 4%. As a way of achieving this, there was a proposal to introduce a new Absence Management Procedure.

Only 3 meetings were held to discuss draft and after some minor changes the Council served a 4 month notice to withdraw from the present procedure, and impose the new procedure. The date for imposition is the 30 January, 2012.

Some changes have been made e.g. no need to provide a GP note from day one. However, after discussion with stewards and Branch Service & Conditions officers, it was decided that an Avoidance of Dispute should be raised against the new procedure and also the FirstCare pilot scheme. This was sent beginning of December.

Since that date we have had 2 further meetings with Philip Barr, but they have resulted in no change. We are still in Dispute over this matter.


Thursday, 19 January 2012

Edinburgh Council dumps privatisation

UNISON Scotland has welcomed the decision by Edinburgh City Council to support in-house bids for vital city services instead of privatising them.

The full council voted today for a joint Labour-SNP amendment with Green Party backing which overturned a proposal by the ruling Lib Dem led coalition to award a contract for Integrated Facilities Management to private bidder Mitie.

UNISON branch President John Stevenson said: "This is the best outcome we could have got - following the victory in November for keeping Environmental Services public, and the recent abandonment of the ruling group's plans to privatise Corporate and Transactional Services. John Stevenson told the full Council meeting this morning:

"UNISON has been campaigning to keep these services in-house for three reasons. Firstly because we think it is the right thing to do. We think it is right that quality public services are delivered by a public service team directly accountable to the people of Edinburgh through their elected councillors. We think it is right that our taxes should go directly to services, to the people who deliver them and the people who rely on them, rather than to profits and shareholders.

"Secondly because we believe that the public sector comparators - the in-house options - have risen to the challenge and will deliver not only best value but a continuing commitment to public services in Edinburgh.

"And thirdly because we believe that it is right that the Council should show trust, confidence and respect in its own workforce."

John Stevenson said: "At the beginning of the process, the Council made it clear that there would have to be a compelling case for privatisation. We clearly believe that a compelling case has NOT been made for privatisation and we believe we have consistently provided compelling and credible analysis and evidence to show that.

"The unions and Council employees have put enormous work into this process. We have shown in detail that the in-house options have been realistic, fair and efficient - but most of all workable - especially if we have a level playing field and like is compared with like."

UNISON's Peter Hunter added; "This is the the death of Scotland's largest council privatisation proposal ever which, given the NHS position, begs the question whether the door is permanently closed on future privatisation plans across the public sector as a whole?"

Decision day for privatisation

Reports suggest Edinburgh Council will vote against two huge privatisation plans today. We will wait for the actual vote before celebrating but this could be great news on top of the decision to keep the environment contract in house last November.

 UNISON's John Stevenson will tell the Council this morning: 'UNISON is clearly hoping for a positive outcome this morning and we hope that the Council will vote to keep the Corporate and Transactional and the Facilities functions in house. We have been campaigning for that for three reasons:

Firstly because we think it is the right thing to do.

We think it is right that quality public services are delivered by a public service team directly accountable to the people of Edinburgh through their elected councillors. We think it is right that our taxes should go directly to services, to the people who deliver them and the people who rely on them, rather than to profits and shareholders.

Secondly because we believe that the public sector comparators – the in house options – have risen to the challenge and will deliver not only best value but a continuing commitment to public services in Edinburgh. 

And thirdly because we believe that it is right that the Council should show trust, confidence and respect in its own workforce.

At the beginning of this process, the Council made it clear that there would have to be a compelling case for privatisation. We clearly believe that a compelling case has NOT been made for privatisation and we believe we have consistently provided compelling and credible analysis and evidence to show that. The unions and your employees have put enormous work into this process.

We have shown in detail that the in house options have been realistic, fair and efficient – but most of all workable – especially if we have a level playing field and like is compared with like. We have exposed doubtful comparisons and we have been honest about what our members have done and will have to do to deliver.

Some of our members, especially in the environment stream, have had to swallow bitter pills to get here. But they have been prepared to do that because of a commitment to the service and a belief that, with change, their voices will begin to be heard.

 UNISON has said for years that the people who know best how to improve services are those actually delivering them on the front line. They need to be heard and that has not always happened through this process. But there are high hopes from our members that it will happen and continue to happen into the future. Because that is the way to get fairness, quality and efficiency.

 If you decide to today, as we hope you will, to back your workforce rather than privatise, we and they know it will not be the end of the story and many challenges lie ahead. That will require a climate of partnership and involvement. We have no illusions that that will be easy all the time but our members have said they are up for it and we hope you’ll support them.'

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

UNISON Scotland: UNISON members give green light to pensions negoti...

UNISON Scotland: UNISON members give green light to pensions negoti...: Date: 10 January 2012 At meetings today in London, UNISON’s elected lay representatives voted overwhelmingly to sanction ...

Council abandons equal pay appeal

The path to justice and compensation has been cleared for hundreds of UNISON members today as Edinburgh City Council abandoned its defence of long running equal pay claims for ex APT&C staff.

The Council has abandoned its plans to appeal against the right of ex APT&C staff to make equal pay claims. Through Thompson's solicitors, UNISON is representing over 1,000 affected people. They are consulting those involved members will hear more details very soon.