Date: Fri 13 July 2007
Mental Health Officers action may bring Highland Tribunals to
Mental Health Officers (MHOs) working for Highland Council plan
to take action from 17th July 2007 in a longstanding dispute over
UNISON, the union for the majority of the MHOs in Highland says
that the issues about the unsatisfactory pay for these specialist
mental health social workers, and coverage of emergency rotas have
been outstanding for twelve years.
The action will involve social workers who are also MHOs ceasing
to carry out MHO duties and MHOs ceasing all overtime. This will
eventually mean that Mental Health Tribunals will cease to function.
Mental Health Officers are social workers who have undergone specific
training in psychiatry. They take additional qualifications and
have particular responsibilities under the Mental Health Legislation.
Munro Ross, UNISON's Highland Convenor said "For years now Highland
Council have consistently failed to address the need of this highly
dedicated and specialised group of workers. Since the introduction
of the new Mental Health Act they have had a range of additional
duties and responsibilities with little or no acknowledgement from
the council about their enhanced role."
The union points out that MHOs in neighbouring authorities are
paid more for this responsibility. They also want recognition of
the almost permanent 'on-call' cover many have to provide in remote
areas - as other Highland council staff receive.
Tommy Campbell, T & G Organiser said "This dispute has been forced
on staff by the consistent under-funding of mental health services
in Highland for years. Poor rates of pay, in many cases the lack
of any payment whatsoever, has a significant impact on recruitment
and retention of MHOs here. This increasingly affects the ability
of psychiatric services in the Highlands to deliver an acceptable
standard of care. Our members don't want to damage support for mental
health patients, their carers and the wider community by industrial
action, but more harm will be done to psychiatric services in the
Highlands if we don't challenge local authority under-funding. Many
colleagues have been on almost permanent call in the outlying areas
of Highland with no availability or standby payment or recognition
of this fact, and they are deeply frustrated by management's inability
to resolve this issue despite many requests over the years."
Notes for Editors: There are 37 members in the group taking
action. While most are members of UNISON, some are members of the
T&GWU who are also taking this action
For Further Information Please Contact: Munro Ross (Highland
Branch Convenor and Secretary of Highland Council Joint Trade Unions)
07802 422 243 (m) Tommy Campbell (T&G Organiser) 07810 157 920(m)