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Mon 23 January 2012

UNISON members horrified by attack from SNP minister Alex Neil

SNP government minister Alex Neil has caused a storm of anger amongst UNISON members after claiming that North Lanarkshire Council was “not fit for  purpose” in his weekly blog on a newspaper website and further comments in The Herald on Saturday.

In a direct attack on council workers, Neil stated that council departments were “bloated with staff”, accused workers of “badgering” residents, “refusing to help” people and being “overly bureaucratic”.

UNISON North Lanarkshire branch secretary Chris Armstrong said:
“Alex Neil’s comments horrified our members, who provide valuable caring services every day to all of our communities in North Lanarkshire.

“UNISON has no problem with the cut and thrust of political debate ahead of local elections in May but this unprovoked attack on our members from an SNP Minister - who is partly responsible for cuts in jobs and services - is completely unacceptable. Mr Neil should apologise to our members.

“To say we should be more worried about redundancies is offensive. UNISON members work hard to maintain public services in the face of financial pressures which come from his own Scottish government's policies as well as those of the Tory-led coalition in Westminster. His comments clearly imply that staff should be put out of their jobs. Our members are already worried about redundancies and find his views hard to credit.

“That’s why we’ve written to him to ask specifically whether his comments reflect personal opinion - or if they reflect the views of the government he serves.”

North Lanarkshire UNISON branch has written to Mr Neil to express the views of union members. The text of this letter is attached below.


Note for editors:

Text of letter to Alex Neil from North Lanarkshire UNISON branch – 20 January 2012

Dear Mr Neil

I am writing to you on behalf of seven thousand UNISON members who work within North Lanarkshire Council, in response to your article in the Wishaw Press (‘North Lanarkshire Council not fit for purpose’).

You comments in the above article have horrified our members, who provide valuable caring services on a daily basis to all our communities in North Lanarkshire. UNISON would be interested to know, are these view your personal views, the view of the SNP group on North Lanarkshire Council, or indeed the views of the SNP government as a whole?

At a time when local government faces the implementation of draconian budget cuts and many of our members feel vulnerable and insecure, your statements do little for the morale of thousands of low paid, loyal dedicated and hard-working public servants.

UNISON looks forward to receiving your early response.

Yours sincerely

Chris Armstrong
Branch Secretary
UNISON North Lanarkshire

For further information please contact:
Chris Armstrong, North Lanarkshire UNISON, 07801 058800
Stephen Low, Policy Officer 0141 342 2811 / 0795 685 2822
Malcolm Burns, Communications Officer, 0141 342 2877