Blog from Mike Kirby,
UNISON Scottish Secretary
UNISON & the General Election
In the third of a series of articles, UNISON Scottish
Secretary Mike Kirby lays out UNISON's plan to get our members'
issues at the centre of the election debates.
Key questions in The Public Services Election
3 April 2015: "This is the Public Services Election.
The outcome will have a huge impact upon UNISON members, their
families, communities and the public services in which we work,
to protect the disadvantaged and provide a better quality of life
The Public Services Election 7 May 2015 -
UNISON Scotland Manifesto April
In Scotland the 2015 general election marks the start of a three
year programme of elections with the Scottish Parliament in 2016
and the Scottish local government elections in 2017.
It is not uncommon for election to be described as “the
most vital in a generation”. However, given the Tory plans
for public spending there can be little doubt that the outcome
of this election will have a huge impact upon UNISON members,
their families, communities and the public services in which we
Last month we published a full scale poll undertaken by Survation,
for UNISON Scotland, that asked Scottish voters to explain their
priorities. They said that public services, welfare, jobs and
pay were the most important issues for them in the coming general
Public services are the number one election issue for the majority
of Scottish voters.
They were also clear about their spending priorities. If the next
government was to raise £2bn by cracking down on tax avoidance,
58% of respondents believe that the money should be spent on improving
public services, compared to 19% who think it should be spent
on reducing public borrowing, and 17% who think that it should
be used on income tax cuts.
People provide the services. Our people and our jobs
are at risk.
The latest workforce statistics for Scotland have been published.
They cover the period up to December 2014.
The headline figure shows a massive 24,000 reduction in public
sector staff last year. However, this is misleading as it includes
a reclassification of mostly bank staff back to the private sector.
The adjusted cut was 1,000 jobs; from 532,000 down to 531,000.
This means a total of 62,000 jobs have been lost from the public
sector in Scotland since the post-crash high point (2009 Q1),
reducing public sector jobs as a proportion of the total workforce
from 24% to 20.5%.
Last year, local government employment fell by a further 600
jobs from 247,100 to 246,500. 40,000 jobs have been lost in Scottish
local government since the post-crash high point (2009 Q1). The
largest percentage cut last year was in South Ayrshire at 6.4%.
Last year, health staff increased by 2,400; from 158,100 to 160,500.While
that’s an increase of 809 jobs since 2009(Q1), it is a drop
of 1091 jobs since the 2010(Q1) highpoint.
FE colleges recovered 300 jobs last year increasing from 13,600
to 13,900. That’s still 3,000 jobs lost since 2009.
Police and fire lost another 700 jobs last year taking the total
cut since the national services were created to 1600.
The other public bodies group gained 600 jobs last year. However,
they have still lost 2,900 jobs since 2009.
Wherever you work, it is vital that you start the conversation
with colleagues, that you challenge candidates of all parties.
Suggested questions for members to ask candidates:
• What will be the consequences for public services of
the Conservatives proposed job cuts?
• If elected as my MP, how will you protect these threatened
• How will you ensure my pay makes up lost ground in the
• How would further cuts to public services help me and
the local economy, exactly?
• Personal debt is rising again, how do you expect low-paid
workers to make ends meet?
• How will you ensure rich individuals and corporations
pay their taxes like the rest of us?
• How will you use further devolved powers to support and
protect Scotland’s public services?
A Monstrous Regiment of (117,000) Women
"We need a million female members speaking up for public services because they care about the services they deliver and the services that they use.
"One million women demanding an alternative can make a difference. One million women demanding change equals hope." Jane Carolan
10 March 2014: The election on 7 May will be one of the most important in UNISON's history, and activists have a key role in talking to members, particularly the 78% of members, or 117,000 women members in UNISON Scotland.
As workers, as carers, women have suffered during the economic crisis and they still struggle for equality in the workplace with male colleagues.
In the coming General Election, the number of women candidates may be on the increase but still sits at 38% across all parties in Scotland. While across the UK the number of women voting has been falling for years, the Referendum in Scotland reversed that trend.
There are just over eight weeks to go to the general election and it is likely to be one of the most important, and quite likely one of the closest, in UNISON's history.
During the election campaign we will strive to keep UNISON policies and objectives fore and centre of the political debate. UNISON priorities are an end to Tory austerity, fair employment and trade union rights, pay and public services.
It's an election where UNISON members' votes could be decisive and it is why we need to be having conversations with our members now and for the coming weeks on the issues and what's at stake.
In Scotland, the union has launched plans to recruit "1,000 influencers" to help in the campaign for public services. Could you be one?
SCOTLAND: Sign up to be one of our 1,000 influencers
Austerity is damaging people's lives and health, hitting low-paid
women hard, causing misery, risking a lost generation of young
people who can't find work, and creating greater levels of income
inequality, which is bad for the economy, for those on the lowest
incomes and for society in general.
85% of tax and benefit 'savings' have been at the expense of
women. The Independent Inquiry Into Women and Jobseeker’s
Allowance reported important findings about how JSA indirectly
discriminates against women.
Overall, they note, “85 per cent of the revenue saved through
changes to the tax and benefit system since 2010 has come from
women (£22 billion), and 15 per cent from men (£4
billion).”They show that lone parents are hit hardest by
far the cuts, losing 15.1 per cent of their disposable income;
women account for 92 per cent of lone parents. What is more, single
mothers lose around 16 per cent of their income compared with
12 per cent lost by single fathers.
45 years after Equal Pay legislation in the UK, UNISON is still
having to campaign, negotiate and take legal action to pursue
women's rights to fair and equal pay. Women in the UK and Scotland
still lose out from a persisting gender pay gap, but the recession
has made things worse.
In research in August last year, The Fawcett Society found that
nearly a million women have moved into types of employment that
are typically low paid and insecure, with a surge in the number
on zero hours contracts or ''self-employed', yet many would prefer
secure full-time jobs.
There must be fair pay rises across the board, helping to restore living standards and eliminate in work poverty.
We must ensure equal pay is delivered to end this disgraceful discrimination against women, and we should increase the National Minimum Wage in stages to the Living Wage level and extend the Living Wage to all workers on public service contracts, particularly in social care.
We should end zero hours and short hours contracts and abolish tribunal fees, a barrier to justice at work.
We must campaign for an end to attacks on trade union facility time across all sectors. Increase workplace democracy and restore the right of 90 day consultation. Assist fair access to employment through enhanced childcare provision.
These are not “women's issues but central to building a
fairer and more just society. UNISON Scotland's NEC policy committee
chair Jane Carolan added: "We need a million female
members speaking up for public services because they care about
the services they deliver and the services that they use.
"One million women demanding an alternative can make a difference. One million women demanding change equals hope."
(The title is taken from a work by John Knox, published in 1558, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regimen of Women. Knox used the word regimen in a now archaic sense, meaning government or regime, and his book was written against the female sovereigns of his day, particularly Mary I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots.)
Challenging all political parties on what they will do for our people
'During the election campaign we will strive to keep UNISON policies and objectives fore and centre of the political debate. UNISON priorities of an end to Tory austerity, fair employment and trade union rights, pay and public services... by challenging all political parties on what they will do for our people.'
09 January 2014: Four months of potential political campaigning away from a general election in May, UUNISON number one campaigning priority for the first half of the new year must be to ensure a change of government at Westminster.
It is not uncommon for election to be described as “the
most vital in a generation. However, given the Tory plans for
public spending there can be little doubt that the outcome of
this election will have a huge impact upon UNISON members, their
families, communities and the public services in which we work.
In Scotland the 2015 general election marks the start of a three year programme of elections with the Scottish Parliament in 2016 and the Scottish local government elections in 2017.
While there has been a failure of late for politicians of the mainstream political parties to offer a compelling vision for the future, partly a consequence of a convergence to the centre, which makes it harder for voters to distinguish between them, even as they continue to knock lumps out of one another and their records. The Scottish Referendum campaign of 2014 saw a resurgence in political engagement, voter registration and activity which translated into a remarkable turn-out.
During the election campaign we will strive to keep UNISON policies and objectives fore and centre of the political debate. UNISON priorities of an end to Tory austerity, fair employment and trade union rights, pay and public services.
Most public services are devolved with the Scottish Parliament having responsibility for health, education, local government, police, fire & rescue and the community and voluntary sector. However, the decisions taken by the government at Westminster on public spending affect all nations of the UK.
If we needed any reminder of the impact on UNISON members of
another Tory led government, the Autumn Statement made it clear
that they plan to reduce public services to a level not seen since
the 1930's. As the UK government's own Office for Budget Responsibility
(OBR) put it;
"Between 2009-10 and 2019-20, spending on public services, administration and grants by central government is projected to fall from 21.2 per cent to 12.6 per cent of GDP and from £5,650 to £3,880 per head in 2014-15 prices. Around 40 per cent of these cuts would have been delivered during this Parliament, with around 60 per cent to come during the next.”
The precise targets for these cuts have not been identified and therefore it is difficult to work out the Barnett consequentials in any detail. However, even if there is some protection for schools and health spending, the consequences for the already stretched Scottish budget will be hugely negative.
The UNISON Scotland Damage series has brought an important focus
of the impact of austerity on the public services workforce and
the quality of delivery of services to vulnerable communities.
Our UNISON Worth It pay campaign has brought an important focus
on the impact upon members and the wider community of pay restraint,
cuts in the real value of earnings. This has included contrasts
with top pay and the impact of cost of living on members.
The OBR revised down its forecast for earnings growth for this
year and next and the measure of real earnings in or forecast
does not return to its pre-crisis level within the next five years”.
The OBR, while choosing its words carefully, is clearly sceptical
that the Chancellor''s post-election plans for further austerity.
This theme was picked up by the Institute for Fiscal Studies which poured scorn on the Chancellor in its assessment of the Autumn Statement:
“How do we get to this sunlit upland in which we have
a budget surplus? Spending cuts on a colossal scale is how, taking
total government spending to its lowest level as a proportion
of national income since before the last war.it is surely incumbent
on anyone set upon taking the size of the state to its smallest
in many generations to tell us what that means. How will these
cuts be implemented? What will local government, the defence force,
the transport system look like in this world? Is this a fundamental
redesigning of the role of the state?”
The role of the state, or the state's contract with the citizen.
That's what UNISON will continue to strive to protect by challenging
all political parties on what they will do for our people.