Hybrid Working/Return to the office from Home working

As you will be aware Stirling Council put in place Home and Hybrid Working Guidance some time ago to facilitate new ways of working and to enable the return to the workplace post covid. On the back of this, there has been work at a service level to consult with staff regarding what a return to work would look like for staff within services.

To date, TU’s other than having been reassured all staff were being engaged in this consultation has had little regard for feedback from services on what this would look like from service to service and how this will be managed given issues regarding office space, different ways of working from service to service, etc….. We raised this at the Council Tripartite yesterday on the back of rumours that had been circulating that all staff will be expected back in the office on some permanent/fixed basis within 2 weeks. This was confirmed in the meeting yesterday despite TU’s having had no sight of this communication and indeed service to service plans on what this will look like.

We have been advised that we will be sent this information and indeed the comm that has to go to all staff over the next week. Unfortunately at this stage, we cannot confirm what this will look like for individuals or services at this stage which we have to say is regretful.

We recognise that all workers are contracted to work from their place of work, however, we are concerned that expectations will have to be managed and some may not have their preferences met should they prefer hybrid or home working

We ask that if you have individual concerns regarding this that members contact us directly. In the meantime as soon as we have any further information we will update members at the soonest opportunity.

LG Pay Implementation Update

We advised we would keep you up to date on further implementations regarding the LG pay implementation. As advised previously Stirling Council is working towards having the LG pay settlement implemented in Novembers pay including back pay.  We have been advised yesterday that an additional 1-day of annual leave will be paid for term-time workers in January and for those that will receive this an additional day of annual leave when this will be added soon to your annual leave entitlement, however, we were further advised yesterday by the employer that their interpretation and the lack of reference to a leave year in the COSLA circular, to mean this is a decision for individual authorities to make, as COSLA are aware Local Authorities operate different leave years. Recognising the entitlement to the additional day commenced 1st April 2022, they are proposing to pro-rata this according to a leave year, which runs January to December thus meaning that for this year 2022 Stirling council staff will only receive three-quarters of a day’s leave entitlement. Thereafter staff would then see a full day added to their entitlement, ahead of every new leave year. This is not our interpretation of what was agreed with COSLA  and we are now raising/seeking further clarity on this directly with COSLA.

We have attached guidance on universal credit in line with that issued last year – there is, unfortunately, little that can be done by either the employer or ourselves to mitigate the impact of this on universal credit arrangements as those are governed by HMRC rules, however, should this give you significant concern regarding the impact the pay settlement backdated pay may have on your universal credit we would advise that you contact HR/payroll directly to see what support/help can be given to mitigate any potential loss.

I n relation to the payment of SSSC fees backdated to April 2022 whilst we are also awaiting further information on when/how this will be implemented and how this will be paid/backdated to members we have since heard that the SSSC will be managing any backdated refunds and this process going forward. It is extremely frustrating and unacceptable that UNISON has had to hear this secondhand and has had no communication to date from COSLA regarding this. In the meantime, until you hear otherwise if you are due to pay SSSC fees you must pay them.

Once we have further information on any developments we will keep you updated at the soonest opportunity.

National Care Service (Scotland) Bill

report by Abigail Robertson Stirling UNISON Branch

                                                            

The National Care Service (Scotland) Bill, is the Scottish Government’s response to the recommendations within the Feeley Report. This report was commissioned by the Scottish Government to provide an independent review of Adult Social Care Services and to explore the principles of creating a National Care Service. The purpose of the Bill (NCS- Bill) is to provide a framework for the development of a National Care Service, but the result is a Bill that provides a broad-brush framework with a worrying lack of detail and many more questions than answers. This has been described by some as a “pile of blank paper”. Scottish Government aims to add detail to the Bill through the implementation of secondary legislation, and in the absence of detail, we must ask, exactly what are we being signed up to?

UNISON is not against the concept of a National Care Service. There were many elements of the Feeley report which we supported. However the Feeley report not only stopped short on the need for a ‘not for profit’ agenda in care services, it was actively promoting the private sector as part of the overall framework. This Bill falls far short of the positive recommendations within the Report and does nothing to redress the concerns UNISON expressed about Feeley’s Report.

UNISON has consulted widely on the NCS Bill, with our members, internal groups such as SWIG, Social Care Committee, IJB Reps group, the 3rd Sector, Professional Organisations, etc, and is seeking the withdrawal of this Bill. We want further engagement to develop a model of National Care from the grassroots up. We will explore the reasons for this in more depth below.

Biggest Concerns:

There are some big concerns within the Bill that cannot be ignored.

Lack of commitment to Not for Profit: We are all aware that the current care system relies heavily on the procurement of care services from the private sector. Many of these companies make substantial profits via the public purse but, their priorities are banking the money and paying shareholders not improving the quality of care they provide or improving pay and conditions for their staff. UNISON firmly believes that public money spent on care should remain within the public domain and be invested for the benefit of those who access care and staff who work within the care system. 

Impact on Local Government/ Local Democracy: The current Bill is a threat to our Local Authorities. The removal of 75,000 Social Care and associated staff from our local authorities in Scotland will not only reduce the size of our Councils, it will significantly reduce the funding, and maybe only the beginning. To illustrate this, currently, Social Care makes up 33% of overall council budgets and Education makes up 47%, once Social Care is removed from the Councils into a NCS, Education funding will make up 80% of Council Budgets. This appears to be the beginning of an agenda to dismantle local government.

Local democracy will be affected because there will be no local political oversight or local democratic accountability for decisions made affecting local communities and individuals. The reduction in the size of Local Authorities means they are disempowered when it comes to representing local communities, and the NCS will be a vastly centralised system under one Scottish Government Minister.

Impact on Local Services: Currently our Social Care Services work closely with Council Colleagues in other LA services, particularly Housing and Legal Services. However, with the removal of Social Care services close liaison and valuable working partnerships with these services will be impacted.

Additionally, local issues for communities and individuals will be easier to overlook and less easy to challenge, in a ‘one size fits all’ National Care framework, consisting of a rigid system of Care market codes and procurement for ‘qualifying organisations’.

Spending costs of the proposals: Estimates from the Scottish Government are that they have set aside funding for the set-up costs for the NCS of £250m, and £500m each year. This may be a serious underestimation of the costs, as remember, this is an untested model, based on incomplete legislation. We don’t even know how many IJB’s there will be or how they will function as this is to be a matter for the Scottish Government Minister in charge to establish. Effectively, this means that much of the work and substantial cost is already undertaken to set up IJB’s, establish integrated services, etc may be money and time down the drain.

There has been a lot of chatter around the Bill improving conditions for the workforce and only purchasing care from reputable companies but let’s be clear, none of this has been written into the Bill at this stage. There has been a failure to embody the principles of the Fair Work Convention or the Ethical Care Charter, despite the Scottish Government’s previous endorsement of these campaigns.

Impact on staff/ TUPE/Professional Ethics: Not everyone currently working in Social Care will be working within the NCS going forward. The Bill specifically allows for staff outsourcing to anywhere within the services they procure. This is a significant risk, particularly for frontline care staff who may very well find themselves TUPE’d over to the 3rd Sector or Private sector employers.

Interestingly, it appears that the NCS will be able to ‘poach’ services from the NHS, such as Addiction services, Geriatrics, and MH services into the NCS, but the reverse won’t be true for Social Work or Social Care staff in terms of migration to the NHS. However, NHS staff are currently legally protected from being moved out of the NHS so this is a clear contradiction and illustrates how much work still needs to be done to make the Bill fit for practice.

Impact on UNISON LG Branches: We must also be aware of the huge impact on our current UNISON Branch and National structures of members from our biggest workforce being removed from Local Government Branches. This is certainly not a reason to reject good reform in itself, after all, UNISON would have to adapt our own structures to accommodate this change and as already mentioned UNISON is not against the concept of a National Care Service. However, it should be a real concern to Branches that a significant portion of our Branch members may be forced to change employers in such precarious circumstances.

It is also worth noting that TU representation on the new care Boards has not been specifically guaranteed, and we don’t know what this will look like. The Government Minister at the top of the structure will decide how many care Boards there will be going forward, they will also have the power to decide who sits on the boards as well as remove any representatives they choose from the Boards.

It is essential that we are all aware of the NCS Bill, and its broad impact of the Bill, be ready to share our concerns with the broader membership and be willing to show solidarity with the Social Care workforce in whatever is ahead.

What our Social Care members are saying:

Social Care Members are expressing concerns on a number of levels. They are of course concerned about their own jobs, terms and conditions, pensions, and who their employer will actually be. However, broader than that many Social Workers are concerned about the potential impact on their professional role and function because of the lack of detail about the role of Social Workers within the Bill. This indicates that the Scottish Government has failed to understand the SW role, training, or their concerns as a workforce. This is not an unusual situation, as legislation relating to SW practice has failed to utilise the skills and training of Social Workers, has constrained the role of the profession for the last 30 years, and allowed the most rewarding elements of practice to be carved up and taken on by other professionals. This has led to a demoralised, exhausted, and diminishing workforce. There has been little attempt to consult frontline Social Workers and there is little in the Bill to alleviate the concerns of this professional group. It is a huge missed opportunity.

Social Care staff are similarly concerned about their terms and conditions, who they will be employed by, and what will happen to their LG pensions. Given that these staff work closely within local communities, there are concerns that this may be negatively affected.

There is a national shortage of Social Care staff and Social Workers. Given the demographic of this workforce (predominantly women, many of whom are part time workers, and over the age of 45) there is a very real risk that the NCS will struggle to retain valuable experienced staff, who may choose other work options going forward.

What Now?

UNISON has been working with SWIG, Social Care Committee, IJB Reps group, and other relevant internal groups to gather the concerns and perspective of our members, and a variety of responses to the NCS Bill have been prepared. UNISON has also held online seminars and has been developing videos to get the message across to our members and the public. UNISON has also been working closely with the 3rd Sector, Social Work Scotland, Commonweal, and many others to campaign against the NCS Bill in its current format. It is fair to say that not all stakeholders share exactly the same concerns, but they do all have concerns about this Bill lacking the detail required to make such a massive structural change.

I am asking our Branch reps and members, to familiarise yourselves with the NCS Bill, and the concerns we have, share those concerns widely, and show solidarity with Social Care Staff because this is a Bill that will affect us all.

Waste services will undertake industrial action

This week our colleagues in Waste services will undertake industrial action, this action is on behalf of every Local Government worker to let the employer know that a derisory pay offer is not acceptable.

UNISON is the largest Trade Union representing Local Government workers and has already served notice of strike action in eight local authorities.

The notices of action were served to Aberdeenshire, Clackmannanshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire, Stirling and South Lanarkshire councils for the first wave of strike action to take place on the following dates:

26th, 27th, 28th and 29th August and the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th September

UNISON has also sent notices to nine councils across Scotland today the 23/08/2022 that school and early years staff will be on strike on the 6th, 7th and 8th of September, after a lack of progress in talks with COSLA over council pay.

The Branch Executive are very proud that our members have stepped up to take on this fight and we will be doing everything we can to promote this campaign and force the employers back to the negotiating table to reach a fair settlement.

No worker wants to take strike action, but the reality is if we don’t get an approved offer many of our members will be pushed into poverty due to the obscene price increases and blatant profiteering of the big energy and fuel companies.

Disaggregated Action – What is it?

UNISON, on this occasion, have balloted selected services for industrial action. This is called Disaggregated Action.

Rather than calling for a full strike of all workers in the council, selecting smaller groups of workers for industrial action will cause disruption within the employers.

Our branch has successfully balloted members in Schools, Nurseries, Waste and Recycling for strike action.

It’s important to highlight again that these colleagues will be taking this action on behalf of all workers in the Council. We are asking all members to support our strikers and even if you are not being asked to take industrial action there is a vital part you can play to secure better pay for all local government staff. Together We Rise In UNISON

  • Pin badges will be available for you to wear to show your support for the strike.
  • Attend the STUC “Scotland Demands a Pay Rise” Demonstration. More info on transport for those that need it will follow.

Thursday 8th September

Assemble 10:30am:
Johnson Terrace,
Edinburgh

EH1 2PW

March off: 11am

  • Our colleagues in waste services will picket from 6am till 1pm – Drop by and give them hello or give them a wave or a toot of the horn if you’re driving past the waste and recycling sites.
  • Be sure to look out for posts on our branch Facebook and ensure you, your family and your friends share them. It’s important for the public to know how dire the situation in local government has become. Show us your support in the comments.

Keep up to date on the pay campaign including our UNISON Pay FAQs at https://unison-scotland.org/local-government-pay-2022/

LG Pay Update

First set of strike dates confirmed

UNISON have this morning served notice on 8 local authorities of strike dates for waste and recycling members. These dates align with the dates also notified to authorities this morning by the GMB.  It is unfortunate that they do not align with the dates Unite have already notified but that was not for the want of trying to achieve an agreed approach.


Please see press release on link below

Strike dates for schools/early years will be confirmed in due course.

We are holding an online general meeting on Thursday 18th August at 6p.m and all members are required to attend. Please see the following brief agenda below for the meeting. If members able to attend please contact the branch on the following e-mail address thomsonl34s@stirling.gov.uk and a link will be forwarded to you prior to the meeting.

Agenda

  • Pay update
  • Motion to transfer monies to IA account

The UNISON Scotland LG leads will be meeting branches with a strike mandate on Monday to discuss preparation for action.

We are also working on supporting materials/advice to members taking action and resources for those who are not so they can demonstrate their support for those Workers taking action on their behalf. 

Further information on all of that will follow asap – you will appreciate that things are moving at pace at the moment but we will, as always we will communicate any developments as soon as we have more detail.

Council strikes to go ahead after UNISON rejects derisory 3.5% pay offer

UNISON, the largest union in local government, met today to discuss COSLA’s latest 3.5% pay offer. The union unanimously agreed to reject this revised offer outright and voted overwhelmingly to continue with their strike plans in councils across Scotland.

UNISON rejected the offer as it has not sufficiently improved, falls far short of the Joint Trade Union’s claim (submitted in January) and falls far short of the current rate of inflation, which continues to rise.

The union also made the point that the offer falls far short of the offer made to council workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who have been offered a £1925 flat rate uplift, which equates to a 10.5% increase for those on the lowest wages.

Johanna Baxter, UNISON head of local government said: “This is another derisory pay offer. We are in a ridiculous position of both our employers and the Scottish Government agree this 3.5% pay offer is not nearly enough, but both are at loggerheads about who should pay for it.

Meanwhile council workers – over half earn less than £25k per year – are worrying about paying the bills. Inflation is predicted to rise to 13.5% and our members are offered a real-terms pay cut which will plunge more of them into debt.

We have written to COSLA to tell them the strike continues in waste and recycling and we will confirm dates for strike action in schools and early years in the coming days.”