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14 Jan 2003

Government must back staff to deliver better public services

UNISON, Scotland's public service union, today welcomed the First Minister's commitment to drive up standards in the public services, but said the Government will need to provide fair pay and proper backing to staff to allow this to happen.

In a response to Jack McConnell's speech today, Matt Smith, UNISON's Scottish Secretary said "We agree with the First Minister that we want to see better public services for all our people. Indeed we have been campaigning for this, and are pleased with the level of support UNISON's principals have won. We also welcome his commitment 'to drive up standards in public services - but not to abolish them in favour of privatisation.'

"When the First Minister attacks 'vested interests', if he is referring to those that seek to profit from our services he has our full support. If he is referring to the to the old, failed theory of a consumer-versus-producer split, then he does not address what is needed to revitalise Scotland's public services.

"UNISON wants Scotland's services to be renewed, but in order to do so we need a lot more than simple sound-bites. It requires investment, changes and improvements to pay. UNISON will shortly be launching a list of proposals that we need to adopt to deliver new and revitalised public services. We will ensure that this is a major election issue, and that our members are clear about the real needs of public services."

The union, which represents over 140,000 public service workers in Scotland, points to large staff shortages across the public services in Scotland, as evidence that low pay needs to be addressed if services are to be reformed.

Matt Smith said "The Scottish Executive itself has recently spent thousands of pounds on an advertising campaign to try to plug gaps in the social work service. Nursing and other health professions are short staffed. Gaps in front-line staff are appearing across the public services. We need to properly pay and support staff to deliver the revitalised service we all want, not get into futile arguments over artificial divides."

The union says there can be no case for low pay in our public services and they also point out that so-called producers are also consumers of public services, and that a buoyant public sector means money being spent in the private sector - especially on small businesses.


For Further Information Please Contact: Matt Smith (Scottish Secretary) 0845 355 0845(w) 07771 548 997(m) Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser P&I) 0845 355 0845(w) 07787 558 410(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)