Questions and answers about the ballot

Which groups are being balloted for strike action?

The membership groups that we have formally notified employers we will be balloting are all mem­bers employed working in schools, who provide services to the running and operation of the school, and all members working in early years and in waste and recycling services.

Why are only certain groups being balloted for action?

It is important to stress that this campaign is for all local government workers. The decision to only ballot certain groups of workers for strike action is tactical – to ensure we maximise the impact of our action on vital service areas likely to force the employers hand.

What is the deadline for returning my ballot paper?

We must receive your completed ballot paper by 10am on the 26th July 2022 so you need to get it in a post box a couple of days before this to make sure you meet the deadline.

What should I do if I misplace my ballot paper?

Call the ballot helpline on 0800 0 857 857. This Helpline will be open from 8am on 15th June 2022 to 12 noon on the 20th July 2022.

Why can’t I vote online?

Legislation governing industrial action stipulates that a formal industrial action ballot must be con­ducted by post.

Why should I vote for strike action?

• The failure to provide a meaningful increase to the Scottish Local Government Living Wage means that those on the lowest pay would still not reach a £10 per hour rate of pay never mind the £12 per hour called for in our claim.

• This offer is weighted towards those on the highest pay and will further exacerbate the issue of endemic low pay which plagues this sector.

• The offer fails to address many of the other issues outlined in our claim such as the need to allevi­ate the burden of paying professional fees for those on the lowest wages and achieving a no-det­riment reduction in the working week to address issues of work-life balance.

• UNISON would not ask you to take strike action unless it was absolutely necessary. We have ex­hausted all other options in terms of trying to get movement from your employers.

Will I get any financial support if I vote to take strike action?

Yes, all members taking strike action will be financially supported by UNISON. Further details will follow.

I am employed on multiple contracts with my local authority – am I being balloted to take strike action in all my roles?

You are only being balloted on your role as an employee working in a schools, for the purpose of pro­viding services to the running and operation of the school, or your work in early years or in waste and recycling services.

I’m not being balloted for strike action – what can I do to show my support for the campaign?

There are a number of things you can do to show support for the campaign and it is important that you do so colleagues included in the ballot know that you stand with them.

You can: https://join.unison.org.uk

Evidence to Scottish Parliament on LG Funding

The UNISON Local Government Committee gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee on Tuesday on the impact of the provisional budget allocations to local government.  You can view the full session (we present first – from 9.30am – followed by COSLA, SOLACE and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance) here:  https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/local-government-housing-and-planning-committee-january-11-2022

Read the transcript from the session here https://www.parliament.scot/chamber-and-committees/official-report/what-was-said-in-parliament/LGHP-11-01-2022?meeting=13508&iob=122602

Read the coverage in the Scotsman here:https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/no-appetite-from-councillors-in-scotland-to-raise-council-tax-by-more-than-3-per-cent-say-cosla-3522740

Information request – Ventilation in schools 

Please see the letter we have received from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills and Cllr Stephen McCabe.  Please let us know if you have any specific issues re ventilation in schools that you are struggling to get resolved so that we can feed this back

First Minister’s Covid update

Happy new year!

Firstly, we hope you all managed to avoid Covid and get a bit of rest over the festive period.  Here’s hoping the year ahead sees all our members getting the reward and recognition they deserve.

First Minister’s Covid update

We learned a number of things from the First Minister’s Covid update on Wednesday including:

  • 1 in 20 of us now have the virus
  • The number of people in hospital with COVID increased from 679 to 1,223 in the last week. That’s a rise of 80% and is putting significant additional pressure on the NHS.
  • No new protective measures were announced but there were a number of changes the requirements relating to self-isolation and testing (detailed below).
  • For those who have symptoms of COVID, the advice remains to book a PCR test, even if you have a positive lateral flow test.
  • The advice for everyone remains to test regularly with lateral flow devices, especially before meeting up with others.
  • Existing restrictions on large gatherings, the requirement for distancing between groups of people in public indoor places and for table service in hospitality venues serving alcohol on the premises will remain in force for now and, anticipated, until 17th January.
  • While it is not a legal requirement, the general public are strongly advised to limit contact with people in other households as far as possible, and to limit the number of households in any indoor gathering that does take place to a maximum of three.

Further information can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-update-first-ministers-statement-5-january-2022 

Self Isolation and Testing Changes

  • The first change to self isolation applies to those who test positive for COVID.  While the initial advice when someone tests positive will still be to self-isolate for 10 days, there will now be an option to end isolation after seven days as long as you, firstly, have no fever and, secondly, you record two negative lateral flow tests, one no earlier than day six after testing positive and another at least 24 hours after that.
  • The second change applies to close contacts of positive cases – and this includes household contacts – who are either under the age of 18 years, four months, or who are older than that and fully vaccinated.  [Fully vaccinated = those who have had first, second and booster/third doses].  For close contacts in these categories the requirement to self-isolate will end and be replaced by a requirement to take a lateral flow test every day for seven days. Obviously, if one of these tests is positive, self-isolation will then be required.  Anyone identified as a close contact who is over 18 years and four months and not fully vaccinated will still be asked to self-isolate for 10 days and to take a PCR test.
  • From today, if your lateral flow test is positive, and you do not have symptoms, you will no longer be required to take a PCR test to confirm the result.
  • Instead, you must immediately isolate and also report your result online so that Test & Protect can commence the contact tracing process and give you advice as quickly as possible. You will also receive an online form that you must fill in, as would happen with a PCR positive in to ensure your contacts are notified.

Updated Schools Guidance 

The school’s guidance has been updated and can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-reducing-the-risks-in-schools/pages/overview/  

The key changes are:

  • Updates to the self-isolation sections, to reflect the updated policy that will apply across wider society from today. There is also a Q&A attached which has been prepared by Test and Protect to answer any questions that may understandably arise given the changes being introduced. Please note that these changes mean the critical workers exemption policy that was recently introduced no longer applies; and
  • Updates to the vaccination section, to reflect the latest JCVI advice.
  • There is also a minor update to the section on outbreak management, to reflect the ongoing practice by local HPTs of prioritising engagement with higher risk settings where cases are very high (this can in practice sometimes mean, for example, that IMTs are not held for every school outbreak, with alternative handling arrangements agreed between HPTs, LAs and schools).

Note that all secondary school children are being asked to take a lateral flow test on the night before or morning of their first day back, and thereafter to test twice a week and also in advance of mixing socially with people from other households.  And the staff in all educational and early years settings should take a lateral flow test just before starting back at work, and in line with broader advice after that.

Further information on the changes and links to where you can get LFT tests can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/news/self-isolation-and-testing-changes/

Specific Guidance for Social Care Staff

See the updated Policy Framework to the self-isolation guidance for Health and Social Care Staff which apply from today.

We have been advised that the revised policy document sets out the conditions which will enable Health and Social Care staff who are COVID-19 index cases (confirmed as positive cases), or contacts of a positive COVID-19 case to exit isolation early in line with updated guidance for the general population. As their roles provide care and support to individuals who are often more vulnerable and at higher risk of COVID-19 infection, there will continue to be additional safeguards in place for health and social care workers including testing regimes, Infection Prevention and Control and personal protective equipment.

An additional information document for frequently asked questions for health and social care staff will be published next week and updating relevant web pages will ensure information is up to date in response to the Omicron variant. 

Funding allocation for local authorities

Details have now been published of how the Scottish Government funding for 2022/23 will be distributed to local authorities – you can see your local authority’s allocation here: https://www.gov.scot/news/funding-of-gbp-12-5-billion-for-local-councils 

Temporary change to fit note UK requirements

The Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 2021 (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2021/1453/made) came into force on 17 December 2021 and modified the existing regulations. The UK Government guidance about this change explains that “these changes are to give GP’s more time to work on the Coronavirus (Covid-19) booster programme”.

As a result of this modification, employees are not required to provide a fit note for the first 28 days of any spell of incapacity for work. This means self-certification for illness-related time off work (sick leave) has been extended from 7 days to 28 days.

As UK law takes precedence over a requirement in a collective agreement, employment contract or employer policy the effect of this is that the relevant provisions in our national agreements cannot be applied for the duration these regulations remain in force.

• In the SJC agreement the relevant paragraph is: 10.1.2 (iii).

• The Chief Officials agreement simply states that statutory notification requirements must be met and so does not contradict the new regulations.

Where terms and conditions, contracts, or policies state that a fit note is required after 7 days of absence the temporary requirement is now after 28 days.

The regulations are due to expire on 26 January 2022. The SJC will continue to monitor this and update national agreements as required.

More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-fit-note-a-guide-for-patients-and-employees

Where’s the righteous anger?

In case you missed it over the holidays you might be interested in this article by Brian Wilson on the state of local government funding:

https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/columnists/nicola-sturgeons-cuts-to-councils-are-like-margaret-thatchers-in-the-1980s-where-is-the-righteous-anger-brian-wilson-3511785

The Relaxation of COVID19 Protections

There is a STUC  webinar on ‘The Relaxation of COVID19 Protections: The impact for workers and unions’, this takes place on 08th September at 4pm, further information including registration details can be found here.

This webinar is FREE and will be very interesting, if you are interested please book.

LG Update 04 August 2021

Further guidance will be provided to businesses to help them adopt measures to mitigate risks, including ensuring good ventilation; maintaining good hand hygiene; practising respiratory hygiene; getting vaccinated; and continuing to engage with Test and Protect. 

Beyond Level 0 

Further detail about measures announced . 

Further guidance will be provided to businesses to help them adopt measures to mitigate risks, including ensuring good ventilation; maintaining good hand hygiene; practising respiratory hygiene; getting vaccinated; and continuing to engage with Test and Protect. 

Some baseline measures will remain in place: 

  • it will continue to be the law, subject to exceptions, that face coverings must be worn in indoor public places and on public transport 
  • Test & Protect will continue to contact-trace positive cases. To assist with this there will be a continued requirement for indoor hospitality and similar venues to collect the contact details of customers. Anyone who is required to self-isolate will, if eligible, continue to have access to support 
  • we will work closely with local incident management teams on appropriate outbreak control measures 
  • we will continue to use travel restrictions, as and when necessary, to restrict the spread of outbreaks and protect against the risk of importation of new variants 
  • for now, we will continue to advise home working where possible, recognising that some staff will start to return to offices in line with staff wellbeing discussions and business need. we will encourage employers to consider for the longer term, as the Scottish Government is doing, a hybrid model of home and office working – which may, of course, have benefits beyond the need to control a virus 
  • we will, for a limited period, keep in place a gateway process through which organisers of outdoors events of more than 5000 and indoor events of more than 2000 will have to apply for permission. This will allow us and local authorities to be assured of the arrangements in place to reduce risk 
  • we will continue to issue appropriate guidance to assist individuals and businesses to reduce the risk of transmission as much as possible, such as rigorous hygiene, including regular hand washing. 


More information can be found here https://www.gov.scot/news/scotland-to-move-beyond-level-0 and here https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-update-first-ministers-statement-3-august-2021-1 

Asymptomatic Testing Programme Update 

Please view a letter that has been sent to local authorities asking that they include communications around on-return asymptomatic at-home testing in their plans for return to schools in the coming weeks.  

An update on the asymptomatic testing programme is also included. 

Revised Schools Guidance

Following the First Minister’s statement today the revised schools guidance can be found here: Coronavirus: reducing risks in schools guidance

To allow time to monitor the impact of a new policy on self-isolation for U18s, and to take account of the unique features of the school environment at the time of return, the guidance advises the continued application of most of the existing mitigations for a period of up to 6 weeks; for example, the position on physical distancing in schools should effectively remain the same, despite the wider changes to these requirements.

As with previous versions, the guidance will be kept under constant review, and if data and evidence suggest that any specific mitigations can be removed at an earlier stage advice will be provided to that effect.