10th year brings victories and the union's biggest challenges
Equal pay, housing stock transfer, the Pensions campaign and
the Make Poverty History events were just some of the hugely significant
issues marking the 10th year of the Branch.
After five years of trying to get the employers to hold to their
side of the bargain, Equal Pay and Single Status are now fully
on the agenda. This is covered in the Service Conditions Report
but it is worth adding a few comments here about the implications
of delivering the long awaited (and legally required) equal pay
UNISON has a duty to all members. We have a duty to deliver
equal pay for mainly low paid women who have lost out over the
years. But there is no point in equal pay if you are on the dole.
UNISON's strategy has been to deliver equal pay but also to protects
jobs and services. That can only be achieved by a negotiated settlement
that gives people their rights, sets out a scheme that will continue
to ensure equal pay, protects those who may lose out and protects
jobs and services so that people can actually reap the benefit
of equal pay.
The employers have buried their heads in the sand. You only have
to look at the AGMs since 2000 to see how frustrated we as a union
have been about this and how much pressure we have tried to put
on. We now face a position where jobs could be at risk because
of the costs involved.
Equal pay must be delivered and UNISON is still campaigning for
government money to back up their own legislation - they must
deliver on this to make equal pay a reality.
Despite the Council's view (and the Evening News view)
that the ballot on Housing Stock Transfer was just a rubber-stamp
formality, Edinburgh's tenants voted NO, showing they would not
be blackmailed out of their public housing.
The Branch was fully involved in the campaign linking with Edinburgh
Against Stock Transfer and holding meetings with members, sponsoring
a public meeting, working hard on publicity and winning money
from the General Political Fund to produce 20,000 broadsheets
and a series of newspaper adverts. We have now written to the
First Minister urging him to respect the tenants' decision and
write off the debt.
It is ridiculous that this was only available if tenants voted
to give up their council housing. We have also urged the Council
to stop blaming tenants and others for the result. They must do
the tenants the decency of respecting their decision and campaigning
with us for other housing options. They must stop scaremongering
about rent rises.
The tenants' decision must be respected , not punished. It must
be clear that if the Council's £1 million campaign for a Yes vote
could falter against less than £10,000 spent by UNISON's General
Political Fund, there must be something far wrong with the plan
in the first place.
I am aware that some members in Housing were led to believe that
Stock Transfer would benefit their conditions. I can only say
that they should look at the Business Plan cuts in housing support
service and look at the experience in Glasgow.
There was huge support for the proposed strike against cuts in
pension rights. However, the government backed down at the last
minute. The issues are back on the table again and members are
urged to keep raising the matter with their MP and MSP. This is
a moving situation and stewards will be updated with new information
as it comes in. Industrial cation should not be ruled out.
Make Poverty History
July saw the biggest demonstration ever in Edinburgh. Organisers
and police said there were 225,000 there. Old demonstration hands
put it at nearer 300,000. There were certainly lots of us with
the trade union contingent marching off five hours after the first
of the continuous line set off to circle the city centre.
UNISON banners were there from Aberdeen to Hounslow via Edinburgh,
Nottinghamshire and Bristol. UNISON members from across the country
were dotted around the march creating a significant UNISON presence.
This was the political demonstration, as Billy Bragg said. This
was people coming to give a clear unambiguous message, not to
see rock stars. While Live 8 concerts are a welcome addition to
the campaign, it is sad that they took the media eye away from
the hundreds of thousands who came to Edinburgh to make their
voices heard - and who will go on doing so long after the marches
and concerts are finished.
The Branch was out in force and for the events we mounted a special
banner on the branch office.
Aung San Suu Kyi Our work at national level culminated in Auung
San Suu Kyi receiving honoroary life membership of UNISON at the
National Conference in Glasgow in June. Auung San Suu Kyi is the
democratically elected leader of Burma who has never been allowed
to take office and is held under house arrest. We were also guests
at the ceremony for granting Auung San Suu Kyi the freedom of
the City of Edinburgh.
The Branch also hosted an event at the Scottish Parliament with
Sarah Boyack MSP, the Burma Educational Scholarship Trust and
Burma's Prime Minister in exile. Many thanks must go to branch
member Murray Forgie for all the work he has put and continues
to put into this campaign.
On another international front, we have continued our email links
with the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions and made
links again at National Conference and via the Trade Union Friends
Motions from last AGM
Job Evaluation: As instructed, Branch Officers have entered talks
and examined the Capital Job Evaluation Scheme. This was recommended
to the Branch Committee and an all-stewards meeting and accepted
by both. We were moving to a ballot when the Council appeared
to renege on crucial parts of the proposed agreement. The Service
Conditions Report covers this in full.
Stock Transfer: The result of the ballot is now well known,
see above. Pay 2006: We progressed this to Scottish level and
won support for wider consultation and more co-ordination between
all the unions.
Social Work Resource Crisis: We have been very actively
involved in lobbying, along with the British Association of Social
Workers and the Association of Directors of Social Work through
UNISON's Social Work Issues Group (SWIG). There have been meetings
with politicians and we have responded in detail to consultations
on the 21st Century Review. In particular we produced a detailed
(and probably first) paper on Social Work Professional Supervision.
As this report goes to print we are involved in meetings with
SWIGand the Scottish Executive and UNISON's lawyers on how to
protect children who are asylum seekers from 'dawn raids'.
Care Homes: Submissions have been made to the Council
and representations made at council meetings. This issue is complex
and talks are ongoing on the future funding of care homes.
The branch continues to play a full role at Scottish level. I
chair the Communications & Campaigns Committee and edit the Scottish
bulletin and website. Lyn Williams and Kirsten Hey are on the
Social Work Issues group and we have strong representation on
the Black Members and Disabled Members groups. Wattie Weir is
on the Scottish Local Government Committee, Tom McLeod on Health
& Safety and Matthew Creighton on International.
The Branch Office staff, Support Officer Monica Niven and Support
Assistants Nicola Lee, who we welcome back from maternity leave,
Julieanne Finlay and Eileen Thomson have had a busy year with
preparation for the Pensions Action, Make Poverty History and
the Stock Transfer Campaign, not to mention the huge amount of
work generated on the Equal Pay front. Our thanks go to them all
for their work this year. For part of the year the staff were
joined by Moira Paterson who has since moved on to a new job.
The quest for new more accessible premises continues. As we go
to press we have put in a great deal of work with the Scottish
structures and the national union to try to secure a particular
ground floor facility. We hope to be able to report progress to
This has been a difficult year with the Branch Officer Team decimated
at times due to illness and injuries (when is John Mulgrew going
to stop falling off his bike?).
The Branch Office is a hectic place and officers have had their
plates full with the range of issues that have faced us. That
often means they come under more pressure because they cannot
get back to people as quick as they would wish. My thanks goes
to them for the enormous work they put in.
My thanks also to our stewards throughout the branch for their
essential work. We could not operate without them The more we
have, the easier the job gets and we need to encourage many more.
Due to changes at work, I have to take a less active role in
the Branch which is why I am not seeking re-election as Branch
Secretary. It feels like I have done this job forever but it has
been a great honour. I can still remember how proud I was when
I was first asked to stand in about 1985.
George Lee is the sole nominee for Branch Secretary. George has
experience as a Branch Secretary in NUPE and huge service conditions
experience over the years. I thank him for stepping forward and
wish him all the best in what I think is the best union post in