Friday, 30 April 2010

Party leaders must come clean on local government pay

UNISON, Unite and GMB are demanding that party leaders and Local Government Association bosses 'RSVP' to an invitation before the election - to come clean on whether they will back local government workers in overturning the pay freeze, or leave them out in the cold.

The Trade Union Side Secretaries to the National Joint Council for Local Government Services - a body set up to negotiate on behalf of 1.5 million local government workers - are calling for the leaders to respond with their stance on supporting a pay award in light of rising inflation, which has seen staff taking a pay cut.


The unions are also demanding a response on whether the leaders would back negotiations though ACAS and their views on the fact that highly-paid public sector staff are still receiving generous pay awards, while low paid workers bear the brunt of the recession. The Local Government Employers wants a pay freeze for 2010/11 and has made no attempts to negotiate with the unions, or provide a formal response to unions' claim for 2.5%, or a £250 flat rate, whichever is higher.

In the Conservatives' 'Invitation to Public Sector Workers' manifesto, Cameron sets out a £18,000 pay freeze limit for workers, yet the Employers organisation - governed by the Conservative-led Local Government Association (LGA) - demands a widespread freeze.


Heather Wakefield, UNISON Head of Local Government, said:

"We are demanding that all parties come clean to our members in local government and say what they really have planned for local government workers, before the election. The Tory-led Local Government Employers want a widespread pay freeze, while the Tory leader says this will only be for those earning more than £18,000 – which one is it Cameron?

More than 60 per cent of our members working for councils earn less than the £18,000 lower threshold for a pay freeze proposed by the party, so it is crucial to voters that the Conservative's respond to our invite to comment. Local government workers want to know which party will support negotiations for a fair pay award, to recognise the hike in inflation, which has left them with a pay cut. Or whether they believe that it is right that public sector bosses enjoy generous awards, while low paid workers bear the brunt.

Local government staff have a vital role to play in helping local communities ride out the recession and may be struggling to pay their bills and keep a roof over their heads. The party that comes into power should be backing these workers and the public who rely on these vital services, not imposing a freeze that leaves workers, such as school assistants, dinner ladies, care workers, out in the cold."


Thursday, 29 April 2010

UNISON sends voters sharp reminder about "axe-wielding" Tories

UNISON is warning that the Tories would wield an axe to public services, with the launch of a hard-hitting, two-week pre-election poster campaign. The advertising campaign, funded by the union's General Political Fund, urges the public to "Look What's in the Tories' First Budget". The posters will appear in key marginal constituencies and are designed to send a sharp reminder that cuts planned by the Conservatives would crush vital services, that local people rely on.

Dave Prentis, UNISON's General Secretary, said:

"The poster's graphic image will give voters a sharp reminder of Tory plans to take an axe to vital public services. Public spending and the threat of job cuts are high on the election agenda. 

Tory councils have already wiped out thousands of jobs across the UK and local people are paying the price. We are seeing vital services such as meals on wheels, nurseries, day centres, home care and libraries disappear – and if the Tories get into power they have said that thousands more jobs will go. 

Our message is a simple one – use your vote and stop the threat to your public services."


Lincs County UNISON quiz parliamentary candidates

Candidates for Lincolnshire constituencies in next week's general election are being asked for their views on the County Council's plans to close the last eight homes for older people provided directly by the authority.

Staff at the homes and members of UNISON are writing to parliamentary candidates asking what they think of the plans, which have been out to consultation for the last six months. An analysis of consultation responses was commissioned by the authority, and showed minimal support for any of the closures. Because the Council didn't get the result it wanted, it is spending more public money on further consultation, and will make a decision on its plans after the general election.

"This is an important issue for everyone in Lincolnshire constituencies," said Branch Secretary John Sharman. "All of us have an interest in maintaining the specialist and highly regarded services provided by these homes – we never know when they could be needed for our families or indeed ourselves. So it's right that we should ask the people seeking to represent our county in the House of Commons what they think about the closure proposals.

"We all know that care is a huge challenge for the future, and we all support developing services. But shutting the excellent homes that the Council provides now, and replacing them with private sector provision that's run to make a profit, is not the answer. For decades the County Council has justified privatisation by referring to 'the mixed economy of care'. If these proposals go ahead there will be no mixed economy of care, just a private sector monopoly. The choice of public care will be a thing of the past."

There will be a demo against the sell off on Saturday 1 May. The demo has been organised by Lincoln and District Trades Council.

Assemble: 11am, Castle Square, Lincoln
Rally: 12noon, Cornhill, Lincoln


Over 400 angry UNISON members attend demo

This lunchtime, well over 400 Nottingham City UNISON members attended a lunchtime protest against the council's unjustified attack on terms and conditions. This fantastic turnout is a reflection of the widespread anger that is felt.

Several UNISON members got up and spoke out against the cuts and said the council was dishonest in sneaking in the cuts under the guise of Single Status.

Members of the public came to ask what the demo was about and once it was explained to them most were in support. One person commented it was unfair of the council to attack staff when the council has spent well over £1m paying off three Chief Executives. We can't argue with that.

The demo showed the strength of feeling and the council will surely now have to listen and reverse their proposals. If they don't, they can expect the branch to step up the campaign, which will include industrial action if necessary.

UNSION General Secretary, Dave Prentis has today written to all members of the council's Cabinet to express his anger at the proposals. Dave has said "it is wholly unacceptable to bully staff" and that if the council do not reverse the proposals he will ensure UNISON will "fight these cuts by any means necessary."

It's great to know UNISON members have the support at the very highest level of the union.

To keep up to date on what is happening go to the branch's website here.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Quiz your parliamentary candidates

As part of UNISONs Million Voices for Public Services campaign there is now an interactive facility for the public to quiz their candidates before the general election.

All you need to do is enter your postcode and then you can send an email to all of the candidates standing in your constituency.

Click here to go to the website. Make sure you find out their views on public services before you cast your vote it only takes a minute.

Chesterfield fight privatisation plans

The Chesterfield UNISON branch are fighting plans to privatise back office functions at the council. Whilst its not unexpected that UNISON would be opposed to these proposals what is shocking is that the council are planning to proceed with the privatisation despite two out of the three bidders pulling out.

How can it be value for money for the tax payer if there is only one company bidding for the contract?

The picture shows a poster used by the branch in bus shelter ads in Chesterfield. The poster design was as a result of a competition in the branch. The costs of the ads came from the union's General Political Fund.

Demo against council cuts in Leicester

Theres a backlog of stories to update the blog. The first story is about a demo in Leicester on Saturday 12 April.

Council workers took to the streets to protest on Sat 12 April against impending job losses and budget cuts. Leicester City and Leicestershire County UNISON branches are angry at plans cut hundreds of jobs as part of the city and county council spending cuts and they worked together to organise this joint demo.

The Labour-run city council will cut 7% off its £280m budget over three years – while cutting around 300 posts. In the county, the ruling Tory group will cut £66m or 20% from its budget and lose 650 posts over four years.

On Saturday, workers met in Humberstone Gate to vent their anger and raise public awareness of the proposals and their effects.

Keith Libetta, Regional Organiser said: The rally was about highlighting the savage cuts and asking the public to support us and the services they rely on by calling on all election candidates for their support for proper public funding. The cuts that are being proposed will affect all sectors of public services including museums, libraries, care for the elderly, services for people with learning, mental or physical disabilities – a whole range of dedicated services. Nobody will remain unaffected."

The event in Leicester city centre was one of four events taking place nationally, the others were held in Sheffield, Glasgow and London.

In London, groups ranging from the TUC and National Pensioners' Convention to the Disability Alliance and British Medical Association gathered to voice their concerns.

Disgraceful attack on terms and conditions by Nottingham City Council

Nottingham City Council have disgracefully used Single Status as a smokescreen to mount an attack on terms and conditions, including cutting nationally agreed sick pay and mileage rates.

The local UNISON branch has arranged a series of workplace meetings to discuss the matter with members.
There will be a lunchtime demo at 12:30 on Thursday 29 April outside the Council House. If you work for the council make sure that you attend to protest against these unjustified cuts.

There will be more posts about this issue in the next few days.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Who should run our schools?

Education will be a key battleground area at the next general election. Each of the main political parties wants to show that they have the right balance of policies which will appeal to the electorate and contribute to improving the nation’s schools.

UNISON, along with teaching union NASUWT recently asked Ipsos-Mori to conduct a public opinion survey on the state of the nations schools. If you want to see the full results of the poll click here, the headline results are below.

  • Most of the public want state-funded schools to be kept public and run by government.

  • Parents and the public generally believe that today’s state-funded schools are of good quality.

  • The public want state-funded schools to be run by local councils/local authorities in preference to any other type of provider, including universities, groups of parents, charities or private companies.

  • Just 4% of the public prefer proposals that would allow state-funded schools to be run by private sector companies.

  • Only 5% of the public prefer the policy proposal advanced by some political parties to establish Free Schools (i.e. state-funded schools run by groups of parents).

  • There is significant opposition to alcohol companies, drugs companies, fast food outlets, tobacco companies and adult entertainment/pornography companies running schools.

  • By 3 to 1 the public oppose allowing state-funded schools to charge parents additional fees to supplement their funding.

  • Parents and the public reject by a ratio of 9 to 1 any increase in autonomy for head teachers. The public want the work of head teachers to be checked and regulated by inspectors, governing bodies, local councils and the Government.
Dave Prentis General Secretary of UNISON the largest public service union said

This survey blows a great big hole in the Tories education policy. Only 5% thought parents should run state funded schools.

Perhaps instead of looking to Sweden, or the USA, for inspiration, or listening to a mainly London-centric middle class complaining about their local schools, politicians should start listening to the vast majority of parents who want a good local school run by the public sector.

All the political parties need to rethink their policies and place a commitment to democratically run state education at the heart of it.

This survey shows the extent of public support for maintaining a school system that is democratically accountable and where local education authorities continue to play the lead role. Parents, young people and the general public are not persuaded by the concept of ‘independent state schools’, especially if this involves them being run directly by private companies.

Lets hope the politician’s listen.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Spoofing Notts County Council

Weve blogged before about the £28m of cuts of cuts at Notts County Council. In our letter to the Chief Executive outlining where the council could find over £28m, one saving we identified was not to appoint to the Service Director Communications (akaspin doctor) post.

It seems the council are stillspinning away. They have now set their e-mail system up so that every email has a picture with a council logo and the commentsproud of our past, ambitious for our future at the end of it.

As the mydavidcameron site showed this sort of spin is ripe for spoofing. Some wag hasamended the councils graphic and sent it in to us. The amended version is at the start of this blog post.
We think the spoofed image tells the real truth about the council much better than the original.