Universal Free School Meals in Scotland.

The STUC Women’s Committee is calling for the expansion of Universal Free School Meals in Scotland.

The Scottish Government has said that education and tackling the poverty-related attainment gap are their top priorities: we ask the Scottish Government to take stronger action in support of these priorities by introducing Universal Free School Meals for all.

Our children and young people’s life chances cannot be put on hold – immediate policy action is required now

Why is this important?

Poverty and inequality were already at an unacceptably high level in Scotland well before the Coronavirus pandemic struck, and we have grave concerns that such socio-economic disadvantage has only intensified, especially for children and women.

The Scottish Government’s commitment to significantly reduce Child Poverty by 2030, with a view to ultimately eradicating it, and the creation of the new Scottish Child Payment Benefit is welcomed by the STUC Women’s Committee. Similarly, we welcome the Deputy First Minister’s pledge to expand free school meals provision to all Primary school pupils if the SNP retain power at the 2021 Scottish Parliament Elections.

However, we strongly believe that further urgent action to mitigate child poverty is required immediately. The Scottish Government have the power and resources to go further in introducing progressive policies that can more strongly mitigate poverty and inequality and make life-changing differences to children and families now. Firm and decisive action on child poverty in Scotland cannot be further delayed.

That is why the STUC Women’s Committee is calling on the Scottish Government to expand Universal Free School Meals to all children and young people, including those of Secondary school and Nursery age, with immediate effect. Moreover, we are calling on the Scottish Government to combat holiday hunger by ensuring that there are programmes and provisions in place in all of Scotland’s local authorities so that all children and young people have access to sufficient food during the school holidays.

Our most vulnerable children, young people’s right and access to a nutritious meal should not be determined by chance of the local authority they live in or based on the goodwill of community volunteers.

We know that the roots of the poverty-related attainment gap stretch well beyond the school gates, but the significant role our educational institutions play in tackling poverty, challenging inequality, and helping to build a healthier, more inclusive society cannot be underestimated.

We strongly believe that the introduction of Universal Free School Meals will not only help to combat hunger and poverty but will shatter the stigma and shame associated with the provision of meals on a means tested basis and will fuel young people’s ability to learn in the classroom. Neither empty tummies nor low self-esteem make for full days of learning in school. Furthermore, this progressive policy sends a clear and positive message to the rest of the devolved nations and beyond that we are serious about ending poverty in Scotland, and that we are genuinely committed to educational equity and to the wellbeing of our young people.

Sign the petition today and email the First Minister showing your support.

Pay 2021


Please see below update for Local Authority and SJC Conditioned (red book) members:

Pay 2021
 
Yesterday the SJC joint trade unions received a response to our pay claim for 2021/22.  The offer put forward was to apply the public sector pay policy (as revised last week). The letter outlining the offer is attached for your information. 
 
The SJC Steering Group (COSLA) met, as scheduled, to discuss pay.  The employer outlined their offer. 
 
We expressed our disappointment that the offer fell short of our claim and did not even mention many of the elements of our claim.  We also outlined a number of questions we had about the offer that had been put forward.   
 
We have sent our response to the offer outlining a number of points and questions in writing and this is also attached for your information. 
 
We made the point to COSLA that negotiations need to continue at pace now given how long they have taken to respond to our claim and the impending implementation date of 1st April 2021.  A number of further negotiation meetings have therefore been scheduled to progress discussions and we will of course let you know as soon as there are any developments. 

Please see UNISON Scotland’s press release:

COSLA pay offer is a ‘slap in the face’ to Scotland’s local government workers, says UNISON – UNISON Scotland (unison-scotland.org)
 
£500 COVID reward

UNISON understands that guidance has now been issued to local authorities regarding the implementation of the £500 COVID bonus payment for those employees in scope.

UNISON is in the process of arranging meetings with the relevant employers to establish who is in scope – COSLA have indicated to the Scottish Government that this payment should be available to all local authority employees (UNISON is also making representations to the Scottish Government and COSLA on this matter).
 
We have a number of concerns about this and know that our members will have many questions on it.  We are seeking clarification on a number of issues including eligibility and consistency with regards the application of the criteria it contains.  UNISON is seeking legal advice on whether there could be any equal pay issues arising from it.  We will come back to you with more information in due course.
 
Plug The Gap campaign 

The current pay negotiations underline the need for us to engage with members about our ‘Plug The Gap’ campaign and start mobilising activity on the ground.  We now need to shift the emphasis from ‘Plug The Gap in LG finances’ to ‘Plug the Gap in Pay’.

COVID Workforce Issues Update March 2021

Changes to level 4 restrictions were outlined yesterday.  Updated guidance and regulations will be published on Friday 12 March to reflect these changes.  In the meantime you can read more here: https://www.gov.scot/news/changes-to-level-4-restrictions 


Schools 

The revised guidance on arrangements for the phased reopening of schools in March 2021 has been published.  You can read that here: 

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-schools-reopening

The Health and Safety Executive’s bulletin on education and schools is also here: 

Education and schools eBulletin: March 2021 | Hse.gov.uk (newslettercollector.com) 

Elections 

A joint statement has been issued by the Scottish, UK and Welsh governments regarding the elections due to take place in May.  You can read that here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/elections-2021-joint-statement-scottish-government-uk-government-welsh-government  

The UNISON Stirling branch are requesting that the risk assessments associated with all polling stations, polling places and counting places.be shared with them and indeed that they receive a report/update on how a safe election in Stirling will be facilitated.

Library Guidance Updated 

The Covid guidance on public libraries has been updated and can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-public-libraries-guidance

EIG Campaign Feb Briefing

Clean Schools, Safer Schools – COVID Champions!


Background

School cleaning has been identified as one of the campaign targets of the UNISON Scotland Education Issues Group (EIG). Education workers are at the coalface in dealing with COVID 19 being required to ensure that education workplaces are COVID safe day to day as well as to be on hand to deep clean when necessary. It is fair to state that the COVID cases within education establishments mean that our members are constantly in use and are key to Clean Schools being Safer Schools.

“Clean Schools, Safer Schools – School Cleaners – Covid Champions!” would form part 1 – the first cog in the education wheel – of the education staff’s campaign. This campaign can then be replicated across other workgroups e.g. Clean Schools, Safer Schools – EYP’s Covid Champions! etc…

Education members are employed across Scotland in all local authorities. Many Local Authorities have employed temporary cleaners during the pandemic and some local authorities have required to utilise agency cleaners having been unable to recruit temporary workers. The Scottish Government has made extra funding available to employ more cleaners, however, only some LA’s have taken up the extra funding and UNISON’s own cleaning members telling us that they do not have the resources available to them to keep our schools as clean as they would want them to be.

The UNISON RMS (membership system) identifies where each member is based (or was based at the time of joining); some further mapping is required to provide this detail. There is no current mapped detail of where education support staff are members of other trade unions.

Total members working in an educational setting (schools nurseries and FE) across Scotland  22328

It is relevant to note that traditionally many school cleaners will join Unite or the GMB.

Aims

  • To grow UNISON strength and membership across all education Scottish establishments, starting with cleaners and moving on to other education workgroups.
  • To recruit members and organise education activists across Scotland
  • To establish UNISON as the union for all school staff

Process

This campaign follows the same model as many recent campaigns (please see full campaign plan attached). The EIG are asking regional staff to work with their LG branches to identify education staff (cleaners in the first instance), make contact, have an initial conversation (scripts and recording sheets attached) and encourage them to become active by attending a UNISON H&S webinar (either Risk

Assessments or Workplace Inspections). This allows us to use already established and known formats of training to engage with existing members.

Courses can be run locally at a branch level, or regionally (by the EIG Organising team) and will tie in with existing structures for recording of training with Activist Education.

We are also asking you to use the graphics provided on your social media outlets to promote the campaign and to follow and promote to your members the EIG Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/409180023494350)

This campaign can be replicated for any workgroup within education services, although it is planned to commence with cleaning staff.

Branches (or individual members) are then able to nominate Covid Champions at the conclusion of each of the campaign. EIG will select a winner and present award with photo opportunity for media release in conjunction with the B&C team.

Timeline

There is a timeline noted in the campaign plan, but this is indicative only. As given school closures and staggered start backs this has already slipped somewhat. However, this campaign does need to be run during the ongoing pandemic, so some recognition of this needs to be taken by both staff and branches. 

Resources

  • Social Media Graphics – done for many workgroups, if you want them for any other groups please let us know.
  • Script for calling members
  • Recording sheet for members calls
  • Link to EIG Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/groups/409180023494350

Make sure you get your vote on May 6

Don’t lose your vote, vote safely, sign up for a postal vote.

UNISON Scotland

Life is busy and uncertain. Things can go wrong on the day and sometimes we miss the chance to have our say.

This is even more likely as the pandemic persists. You may be ill or have to self-isolate on polling day. You may be worried about going to a busy polling booth due to the virus. So don’t take the risk of losing your voice. Sign up for a postal vote and vote at your leisure from home.

Scottish Parliament decisions impact on those who use public services and those who deliver them, so it’s vital UNISON members have their say. You can use your vote on May 6 to save our NHS, help our schools, protect our communities and make a real difference to the people you care about.

There’s not long to go till election day so it’s important you make sure you’re registered to vote.

Registering is easy and can be done online . The deadline for registering and getting a vote in the election is midnight on April 19.

There are three ways to vote: in person, by post and by proxy. You can find out more about how you can vote here.

Anyone can get a postal vote as long as they apply by 5pm on April 6. Registering for a postal vote is easy and can be done online.

Make sure you register to vote and on May 6 use your vote for public services, and those who deliver them.

Pay and COVID Workforce Issues Update March 2021

Local Government (LG) Pay 

Please see above a copy of a letter we have received from COSLA following our representations about the lack of any offer at this time.  It’s clear there is no movement until after the Scottish Government’s budget has been finalised.   

We understand that a special meeting of COSLA leaders is being convened, after the third reading of the Scottish Government budget, on 12th March with a meeting of the SJC Steering Group to be convened for the following week.  We will as always keep you abreast of any developments. 

LG Finance/Plug The Gap Campaign 

  • As we enter the final weeks of budget negotiations we would ask that all members please do try to make another push on getting members to contact their MSPs about our campaign to PlugTheGap

Education 

  • The ‘Big Blether’ for support staff took place on Friday and was, we hope, really helpful for all who participated.  The session was recorded for those who were not able to attend the session and it can be viewed here.
  • The FM announced this week that, subject to continued progress on suppressing the virus, all remaining primary school children are set to return to school full-time from 15 March, with all secondary pupils returning on a part-time basis from that date.  Regulated childcare, including breakfast and after-school clubs, for primary pupils will also re-start on 15 March as part of the Phase 2 return.   Updated schools safety guidance to support the phased return will be published next week though an advisory note from the Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues providing advice on school transport, outdoor learning, community transmission, the impact of school closures and staff safety and well-being was published today – you can read that here .

WIG Update 

  • Long Covid – a special meeting is being set up to look in detail at how this should be treated for the purpose of attendance management procedures.  We continue to argue that the principals in the Fair Work statement re no-detriment for Covid related absence should apply.  
  • We raised again the issue of the £500 bonus payment and asked when H&SC staff employed by LG might expect to get it paid.  Following receipt of legal advice and a ‘letter of comfort’ from the Scottish Government underwriting any legal liabilities COSLA Leaders have now apparently agreed to make the payment.  COSLA are now finalising the guidance that will be issued with this and we have requested sight of it in advance.  It is likely payments will be made in April but we’ll confirm as soon as we know. 
  • Homeworking allowance – the JTUs had quite a heated exchange with COSLA on this issue.  It followed rejection of a collective grievance in Glasgow where the council argued, amongst other things, that the payment of the HMRC £6pw allowance was a matter for national negotiation with COSLA and COSLA again seeking to argue that it was a matter for individual authorities. 


Confidential mental health support for Health and social care staff 
Health and social care professionals will have access to a new specialist service offering confidential mental health assessment and treatment. 

The Workforce Specialist Service will be delivered by experts with experience in treating a range of issues such as stress, anxiety, depression or addiction, with a focus on the impact this may have on a person’s work. 

A multidisciplinary team will support anyone who belongs to one of the regulated professions within health and social care.  

It is the latest part of a package of resources available to these workers, including the National Wellbeing Hub, the National Wellbeing Helpline and specific psychological services provided by health boards at a local level.  More information here.