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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New Year message: Rarely have we needed our union more

Rarely have we needed our union more than now.

The cost of living rises but our pay has plummeted in real terms. The average worker will be almost £2,000 worse off by next year but the top earners will be millions richer. The country is not broke, it is just the money is in the wrong place.

Even the CBI chief has said business needs to provide “better pay and more opportunities” for their workers. It is an unexpected, if welcome, realisation that the economy will not pick up until people are earning money they can spend in their communities and pay taxes that will bolster services.

Amidst the ‘big lie’ about the economy, there is a growing realisation that this is not about what the country can afford, it is about an ideology of planned poverty and a low wage, low skill economy.

So far, the trade unions have been almost the only mainstream voice speaking out against the wasteful and failed policies of austerity. We are backed up by the Nobel Prize winning economists who actually predicted the crash, but all we hear in the media are the economists and politicians who didn’t see it coming and are continuing to push their failed strategies.

Who would have thought we would have seen tens of thousands having to rely on food banks in 2013? More than half of those in poverty are in work. Why do we put up with mounting child poverty when top executives are coining it in through the recession?

The political leaders who praised the legacy of Nelson Mandela in 2013 would do well to heed his words from 2005: “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings”.

And at a time when unions are under attack for speaking out, they might also consider another quote from Nelson Mandela: “You must protect and defend your trade unions. You must make every home, every shack and every mud structure where our people live, a branch of the trade union movement and never surrender”.

Unions didn’t cause the problem. Public services didn’t cause the problem. It was the speculators and the profiteers that caused the problem and they are getting off scot-free while our services, our jobs and our wages are paying for it.

Unions, the biggest democratic voluntary organisations in the country, are standing up against all that and that is why our rights and freedoms are coming under attack. The rich vested interests don’t want anyone speaking up for you. Neither does much of the big-business owned media. But we are still here and we are still speaking up.

In Edinburgh, like everywhere else, UNISON is working hard to defend our members from the results of austerity cuts.

This year we have won free retrospective PVG checks for 9,000 people in Edinburgh. We have won equal pay victories. We have won deals that mean most people who came to the end of pay protection did not lose out. We are fighting on for the others still affected and we’ve commissioned an equality study to look at the whole pay system.

We have struck a learning agreement with the council that will allow staff to access lifelong learning and career development in their working time.

Then there are the hundreds of members getting individual representation along with the members UNISON backed with legal representation at the time when they most needed it and their jobs depended on it.

But pay is the big issue. Members voted by just a whisker not to take action on pay in 2013 and we need to build with each other to find the confidence to campaign again in 2014.

We have a great team of officers, stewards and support staff who give of their time and energies to deliver the best they can for members. They could do the job with a lot more influence and strength if we had even more members.

So let’s all make it a New Year resolution to recruit a new member each by reminding people of all that unions have achieved and what we stand to lose if they are weakened ... the minimum wage, the living wage, safety at work, maternity and paternity rights, sick pay, employment rights (under so much attack now), paid holidays, and much more, especially dignity at work.

A happy and peaceful New Year to you all.

John Stevenson
Branch President

Monday, 16 December 2013

Contempt of court ruling on Edinburgh social workers – UNISON response

UNISON is calling for an urgent legislative review following a contempt case verdict at Edinburgh Sheriff Court today (Monday) which could have wide-ranging implications for workers across Scotland.

Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish Organiser, said: “Our social work members have an overriding duty to ensure the child’s welfare is paramount in all that they do. However, it seems the paramountcy of the welfare of the children is not considered relevant during contempt proceedings. This is quite clearly a conflict of laws.

“Social work staff deal with complex and challenging cases on a daily basis and this decision merely muddies the water and puts those working on the frontline in a very difficult and vulnerable position.

“The fact that individuals, rather than the organisation they work for, have been put in this position has wide-ranging implications for the employer/employee relationship and could have a ripple effect on all frontline workers.

“Today’s decision highlights the need for a legislative review and one that ministers need to address as a matter of urgency.”

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Saturday, 30 November 2013

STUC cancels St Andrew's Day march as mark of respect

#clutha As a mark of respect to all those affected by the tragedy at the Clutha Vaults last night and in view of the pressure which has been placed on the resources of Scottish emergency services, STUC has decided to cancel its annual St Andrew's Day anti-racism march. The march which had been due to leave from Glasgow Green at 11am will now NOT take place, but participants are invited to attend a short rally at the Glasgow Film Festival at 12 noon as planned

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Council to pay for PVGs - great success for unions

UNISON and the other public sector trade unions representing City of Edinburgh Council staff have welcomed the council's decision to pay for retrospective 'Protection of Vulnerable Groups' checking.
  The Council's Finance and Resources Committee meeting this morning the elected members agreed to the payment of all retrospective checking for staff and those who have already paid will be funded see page 5 on the following link;


Should UNISON ignore the 1% pay imposition for 2014 and submit a claim anyway - or should the union build for 2015 instead? The branch is seeking members' views after CoSLA imposed a 1% pay rise for this year and next. CoSLA changed deal from a one year offer to two years after the one year deal had been accepted by UNISON members in a ballot. See more details at  and

Support Higher Education workers on pay strike

Join the strike rally at Bristo Square today 12.00. A UNISON, UCU and Unite rally will take place at Bristo Square, Edinburgh today (31 October) from 12.00 - 13.00. Get along and support our colleagues if you can. This will begin a day of action by unions representing all sectors of the higher education workforce It’s not action that’s being taken lightly but following a 13% decrease in the value of pay over the last four years. the workforce serving our students have had enough. Pay should be at a level which attracts and maintains a happy and motivated workforce. Instead staff are being asked to do more and take home less and less to their families year after year. See more at

Saturday, 26 October 2013

UNISON Scotland: Local Govt Pay - CoSLA claim is nonsense

UNISON Scotland: Local Govt Pay - CoSLA claim is nonsense: The real fact is CoSLA imposed a new two year offer after a one year deal had been accepted by UNISON members in a ballot. CoSLA's cr...

Friday, 11 October 2013

UNISON has ‘grave concerns’ over Edinburgh budget cuts

UNISON, the biggest union representing workers at The City of Edinburgh Council, has issued a statement announcing “grave concerns” about service cuts highlighted in the draft budget proposals produced by the council.

“While we have some sympathy for the cuts being forced on the council by Westminster and Holyrood, our members have grave concerns that the proposals would see a scathing reduction in all the essential services the council provides, and as a result will affect every Edinburgh resident”, said Tom Connolly, UNISON City of Edinburgh Branch service conditions officer.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Pensions ballot - come and hear the facts

The branch has set up meetings on 15 and 29 October for members to get the facts about the pensions ballot starting on 16 October. UNISON is recommending you accept the new Local Government Pension Scheme proposals.

Tuesday 15 Oct 5pm - 7pm European Room
Tuesday 29 Oct 6pm - 8pm Business Centre
both at City Chambers, High Street, Edinburgh

Eric MacLennan, branch pensions champion, and senior branch officers will be at the meetings to explain the proposals for the new 2015 scheme and the negotiations that led up to them.

Ballot papers will be sent out to members who are conditioned to the Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme on 16 October. The closing date for the ballot is 10am on 7 November 2013. Any member who has not received a ballot paper should contact UNISON Direct on 0845 355 0845.

Each member will get a ballot paper with a recommendation that they vote to Accept the current proposals. There will also be an explanatory leaflet that outlines the proposals. A copy of the leaflet is on the website at along with the draft Heads of Agreement and other materials.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Edinburgh welcomes Denis Goldberg to the Edinburgh World Justice Festival 2013

Densi Goldberg and John StevensonCome and be inspired by Denis Goldberg and many others during Edinburgh World Justice Festival - a fortnight's programme of events that will inform you, challenge you, encourage you, network you and take you on a walk around scandalous Edinburgh.
     Denis Goldberg, who was sentenced at the same time as Nelson Mandela for his part in the struggle against apartheid, will be the keynote speaker at the opening event 'World Justice and Austerity' on 12th October, from 11am at the Grassmarket Centre, 86 Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh EH1 2QA.
   This will be followed by an exciting programme of events from 12th - 26th October which will introduce you to the ideas and organisations working for a fair and just world. There will be free events on topics as diverse as Burma's transition to democracy, women and war in Iraq and Afghanistan, scandals in global finance, radical voices, the arms trade and people's health.
   For full details to go - you can also find us (and like us!) on facebook and follow on twitter @edworldjustice   See below for more about Denis Goldberg.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

UNISON deplores SDL festival march

UNISON is aghast at the decision of the City of Edinburgh Council to grant permission for a far-right organisation, The Scottish Defence League, to march through the streets of our capital city on Saturday.

It is an absolutely abhorrent decision, the effects of which are amplified by the timing of the march - right in the middle of the Festival. It beggars belief that whilst on one hand we welcome millions of people of different race, colour, sexual orientation and religion to our city whilst on the other hand we allow a far right organisation that prejudices against the very people to which we extend our hospitality.

The SDL would have us believe that they march for improved rights for our squaddies. A noble calling that would, if that were the only reason for the march, would attract the support of many. In fact, UNISON represents many men and women in their day jobs who give their services to the armed forces territorial and reserves. The reality of the situation, however, is much darker and a lot less savoury.

The SDL, through many of their far-right blogs and social media space, have said that their march intends to "highlight islamic problems" such as terrorism and child grooming. I need only draw attention to Anders Brevik, the IRA, UVF and ETA to show that any insinuation of terrorism being an "islamic" problem is nonsense. For child grooming, I would draw attention to the recent cases of Jimmy Saville, Stuart Hall and also to the horrific case of Ian Huntly.

It is unacceptable that any vile message of hate towards any section of society is allowed to take place on our streets. It is especially abhorrent in the middle of an international and multicultural festival.

UNISON would therefore urge any person wishes to oppose this disgraceful march to attend a counter demonstration that starts at 12pm on the 17th August in Chambers Street.

We can only hope that such a catastrophic failure in common sense does not take place in the future.

UNISON members reflect the wide diversity of cultures in our society. As such our banner will be proudly at the counter-demonstration.  We hope to see you there.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

UNISON statement on Edinburgh Chief Exec's second job

UNISON trusts that the decision to allow its Chief Executive Sue Bruce to take up a second job with an energy company will herald a new approach by the council to all of its staff.

In particular, we look forward to a more sympathetic approach to time off for staff doing unpaid trade union duties, and to staff on low pay who have no choice except to take a second job just to make ends meet.

When front line staff are pushed to the limit covering for staff shortages, it is not a good message that the Chief Executive has enough time to take on a second job.

Justifications that this will help bring lessons from the private sector will not wash with UNISON members. They see how privatised services up and down the country cut costs by cutting wages and quality of service. That is efficient for shareholders but not for those who rely on the services.

Public services have little to learn from the private sector but a lot to learn from their own employees who deliver the services. That is where the Chief Executive's energies should be channeled.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Labour party and trade union link

From Dave Prentis' Blog: UNISON has always given its members the choice of opting in to its affiliated political fund, that gives them a say in the democratic processes of the Labour Party, or of opting in to the General Political Fund, independent of any political party. Our processes are democratic and transparent. UNISON has never operated the arrangement whereby we pay Labour Party membership fees for new members.

Trade unions are a vital and intrinsic part of the Labour Party and, together, we have helped ordinary working men and women have a say in the democratic processes of this country and a say in Labour Party policy.

However, UNISON believes that the current debate about the relationship between Labour and the unions, played out so publicly in the media, is an unforgiveable diversion from the real issues that this country faces.

There are 2.5 million people out of work, young people without a future, families having to rely on food banks and payday loan sharks to make ends meet, and massive cuts to our public services. And our members have seen the value of their pay cut by up to 16% as a result of years of pay freezes.

Those are the issues that matter to people. UNISON will continue to fight to protect and defend its members from attack and to help the most vulnerable in our society. We expect the Labour Party to do the same.

See also

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Sunday, 12 May 2013

See The Happy Lands this week

@thehappylands The Happy Lands film is showing at the Cameo in Edinburgh on Wed 15 May. Details for the Cameo Edinburgh are here. See the Happy Lands facebook page here.
  The people of Fife capture the true drama of the 1926 General Strike - the struggles, the hardship, and ultimately the triumph - in this epic feature film. A definitive moment in national history, the film tells the real personal stories of their forebears: the struggles, the hardship, and ultimately the triumph of the indomitable human spirit.
@thehappylands See more at

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Remember the dead. Fight for the living

#IWMD13 Edinburgh Workers Memorial Day: In the month that saw hundreds of workers killed and thousands injured in Dhaka and 14 killed and hundreds injured in Texas, trade unionists, families and councillors gathered on IWMD to remember those who have died due to injury or ill health caused by work, and to refresh our resolve to fight for safe and healthy working conditions in Scotland and throughout the world.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

AGM Tonight!

Remember the UNISON AGM tonight, 6pm Assembly Rooms 54 George St Edinburgh. See you there!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

AGM 26 Feb Supplementary Agenda

A reminder that the Branch AGM is on Tuesday 26 February at 6pm in the Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street Edinburgh. Full details are on the website at - The Supplementary Agenda with election candidates' statements can be viewed or downloaded at

UNISON Edinburgh website back online

UNISON Edinburgh is back online at  Sorry for the down time.

Saturday, 23 February 2013