Council staff are worth more! Strike Action to Come Soon

‘Council staff are worth more’ says UNISON as it prepares to ballot members on strike action

UNISON, Scotland’s largest local government union, has informed employers this week that it is to conduct a formal ballot of its members in a dispute over pay.

COSLA, the umbrella body representing council employers, had previously offered staff earning less than £25,000 a flat rate rise of £800. Last week COSLA came back with a revised offer of £850 – working out at approximately 97p per week for the lowest paid staff.

The union says council staff who have kept services and schools running throughout the pandemic deserve a proper pay rise. They say the latest pay offer falls far short of their pay claim and does little to address low pay which has become endemic following a decade of austerity.

The trade union says that councils have suffered a decade of cuts and jobs losses, and that staff have received year-on-year pay cuts. It has meant delivering services has become increasingly stressful for the workforce.

Pressure is mounting on both COSLA leaders and the Scottish Government to find an urgent resolution to this issue. COSLA leaders are meeting again on Friday (August 27).

UNISON intends to take targeted strike action, which means select groups of workers will be balloted. These include members working in school cleaning, school catering, school janitorial as well as those working in waste and recycling services.

Mark Ferguson, chair of UNISON’s local government committee, said:

“The last 18 months have taken an enormous toll on council staff who have been working flat out for no reward. Their courage and sacrifices need to be rewarded, yet the employers are failing to recognise their efforts.

“These workers, mostly women, are amongst the lowest paid in the country and have seen their pay drop substantially in recent years. The pay offer falls far short of their colleagues in the NHS and local government workers are left feeling exhausted and undervalued. Scotland’s council workers deserve fair pay.”

Johanna Baxter, UNISON Scotland head of local government, said:

“We’ve all relied on council staff to keep our communities clean and safe, protect the most vulnerable and to work in our schools throughout successive lockdowns to allow others to work.

“Without these workers going above and beyond to keep services running over the past year their colleagues in the NHS would have been left without childcare, our mortuaries would have been overwhelmed, our children would have been left without an education and our elderly would have been left without care. Yet to date they have received no reward or recognition of their efforts at all. It’s simply not good enough – our council staff are worth more.”

Notes to editors

  • UNISON is Scotland’s largest local government union representing around 80,000 workers throughout local authorities.
  • The ballot will run from 1 – 22 September 2021.

 

Contacts

Johanna Baxter, UNISON Scotland head of local government, on 07817 120 894

Trisha Hamilton, UNISON Communications officer, on 07943 507 307, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / Danny Phillips, UNISON Communications officer, on 07944 664 110, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A reminder about the impact of 2016 Pension and NIC changes for LGPS members

It was much talked about at the time but like lots of Pension details, sadly, soon forgotten.

Until 2016, members of the LGPS (and other employment pensions) enjoyed paying lower National Insurance Contributions (NICs) (referred to as being contracted out) while still being treated as contributing fully to their State Pension.

Then the UK government decide to retrospectively remove that protection leaving many LGPS and other pension scheme members with a shortfall in terms of the new state pension of as much as around £50 of the weekly state pension.

Generally, NICs were adjusted and people began to make up about £5 of that weekly state pension for each further year worked.

This meant most people would recover any losses by the time they retired.

A few people who were close to state retirement age (or unable to work longer for other reasons) would be left with a reduced state pension compared to what they might have expected before the change.

Employers, including DCC, did issue letters/statements about this issue back in 2016 which gave advice on checking your state pension forecast etc.

This was circulated through the Confirm Policies portal in Employee Resources and would presumably have been distributed as hard copy to staff unable to access the portal.

Sadly, management have allowed the document location to be changed breaking the link from the portal. We are seeing if this can be restored.

A number of recent retirees have been caught out by discovering their state pension was lower than expected.

The government provides access to a forecast of your state pension and your history of National Insurance Contributions.

You can access that service here.

If you have concerns, the council's pensions/payroll teams may also be able to offer some advice.

Contact Tayside Pension Fund

Please do check your forecast and make sure you aren't caught out at retirement.

Let's Plug The Gap in Pay - Vote to REJECT the Offer and YES for Action

In what was seen as a failure to stand up for Local Government services and workers, CoSLA made what is a lazy offer of simply regurgitating the Scottish Government Public Sector Pay Policy.

This is a slap in the face to Local Government workers - despite all the rhetoric over the last year.

Even enhanced as it was in the Scottish Budget negotiations, this policy/offer simply does not address the rightful demands of those in Local Government who played pivotal roles in propping up a society in crisis in the face of the COVID Pandemic. See how much you've lost against inflation over the last decade with our updated Pay Loss Calculator Here.

This on the back of over a decade of austerity and real time pay cuts against inflation which the previous award only barely kept up with.

In this election year we need to hold politicians to account over all their easy words on how much they value public services and the workers who provide them.

You can find full details on the Ballot and the Pay Claim here.

This is why we call on members to REJECT the offer and vote YES for action:

  • The offer does not do enough to address the significant and endemic problems of low pay in local government.
  • According to COSLA's own figures 55% of Local Government workers in Scotland earn below £25k per annum.  
  • That's over 100,000 workers, predominantly women, earning significantly below the average wage in Scotland which is currently sitting at £31k per anum.
  • Local Government has not stopped during the pandemic.
  • But for our local government home carers our elderly would have been left without care.  They deserve better.
  • But for our local government cleaners, our classroom assistants and janitors our schools would not have been open to provide childcare that enabled key workers to get to work.  They deserve better.
  • But for our local government workers schools would have closed and our children would have been left without an education.  They deserve better.
  • But for our environmental health officers temporary mortuaries would not have been built and our hospitals would have been overwhelmed. They deserve better.
  • But for our local government registration officers we would not have been able to register the deaths of our loved ones. They deserve better.
  • But for our leisure and culture staff being redeployed test and protect would not have been rolled out. They deserve better.
  • But for our local government workers business support grants would not have been processed.  They deserve better.
  • But for our social workers our most vulnerable would have been left without care.  They deserve better.
  • But for our refuse collectors rubbish would have built up and we would have faced another type of health emergency.  They deserve better.

Pay lost against inflation continues to grow. See how much you've lost in our updated Pay Loss Calculator Here.

Don't be Posted Missing! Get your Contact Details up to date.

Postal Address Needed

Did you receive a ballot paper for UNISON's NEC Election? Members in Dundee have been receiving theirs in the post over the last few days.

If you didn't it may just be a delay but you should check that we have your correct postal address.

This is important not just for the NEC Elections - a vital part of the democratic processes in our Union - but also as the only way we can consult you over formal decisions such as industrial action.

We are in the midst of a pay campaign that could lead to such a ballot, so don't be posted missing.

Please take the time now to check. If you haven't received a paper for the NEC election by 13 May 2021, then you should contact the ballot helpline operated by UNISONdirect, on the following telephone number: 0800 0 857 857.

Lines are open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday. Members with hearing difficulties can use textphone 0800 0 967 968.

Please try to have your membership number to hand when telephoning.

If you have received any formal emails from the branch, you should find your membership number at the bottom of those emails.

An alternative way to update your details is to visit the My UNISON page at https://www.unison.org.uk/my-unison/

Again, you will need your membership number to use this.

If all else fails, contact the branch office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

or call 01382 224948

We Support COVID19 Vaccination Effort

Immunisation

We in Dundee City UNISON support the COVID19 Vaccination effort and encourage our members to do likewise.

While there may be valid concerns over the speed of development of the various vaccines being issued for COVID19, we encourage our members to look positively at the benefits of vaccination and the risks of not being vaccinated against the, for most people, marginal risks or unknowns about the 2 main vaccines (Pfizer and AstraZeneca).

Clearly those who know they can have serious allergic reactions to other medicines etc. should not consider being vaccinated without consulting their doctor on the risks.

Also, simply because no significant testing was done on pregnant women, they are advised not to be vaccinated while pregnant, unless there are other known serious risks of not being vaccinated (e.g. where they may be of significantly higher risk from COVID19) - in which case they should discuss those risks with their doctors. There is no known risk to pregnant women, however, and further research is being done - so maybe that caution can be relaxed in future.

While we share concerns over the possible reduced protection of leaving the second shot for longer than the vaccine developers recommend, we don't see that as being any reason not to get vaccinated in the first place.

It is also clear that the vaccines have been tested for how well they protect infected people from developing COVID19 as a serious illness. There isn't clear evidence of how well the vaccines prevent people from catching or spreading the virus. So we all need to continue to be careful about contact and hygiene for now, even once vaccinated.

There are a number of scaremongering rumours going about that people really should question. We won't repeat any of them here for fear of giving them any oxygen. We will simply say read the official guidance that has been provided.

Here are links to some of those guides:

This is the main hub of public facing information on the vaccine. This will host the new TV advert campaign which was launched Jan 21st. covid19vaccine

This is where you will find all the leaflets online (when you go to each leaflet, it gives you list of leaflets in other languages). The same page takes you to the BSL version and audio and email for requesting other languages and formats not provided already. coronavirus-vaccine-leaflets

Here you will find the toolkits for HCWs, care homes etc – again these provide a bit more detail for specific settings: covid-19-vaccinations

This is the specific leaflet for pregnancy: covid-vaccine-pregnancy-advice

This is the post-vaccination leaflet handed out after people have been vaccinated and talks about the need to follow the FACTS etc: covid-vaccine-what-to-expect

Public Health Scotland (PHS) will push out vaccine messaging on its dedicated twitter channel: https://twitter.com/NHSImmuniseScot

FYI - neither of the covid vaccines contains products of animal origin. PHS are believed to be working on a statement about animal testing.