Index . Briefings Home
. Revitalise Our Services Index
to Revitalise Scotland's Public Services
Quality employment - Recruitment &
In April 2003 UNISON Scotland launched its manifesto for Scotland's
public services, Revitalise our Public Services. The centrepiece
of that manifesto was our principles for public service renewal.
In this series of briefings we expand on these principles setting
out our positive agenda for the revitalisation of Scotland's essential
What is Quality Employment?
There is a vital link between the quality of service and the
quality of employment. PSO's should develop employment policies
that ensure the recruitment and retention of high quality staff.
Where are there specific recruitment and retention difficulties?
It is widely acknowledged that recruitment and retention difficulties
are significant barriers to achieving the Scottish Executive's
commitment to improve public service delivery.
n The issues surrounding nurse recruitment and retention
are well-known. In response the Executive and NHS Scotland have
issued Working for Health, a detailed action plan to tackle workforce
issues in the NHS, which UNISON welcomes.
n Audit Scotland's Performance Audit of Hospital Cleanliness,
published in January 2003, states that rates of staff turnover
and sickness absence continue to be a problem in many hospitals.
Almost half reported difficulties attracting and retaining staff'.
In local government
n Audit Scotland's overview of Trading Standards Services,
published in October 2002, states that a quarter [of councils]
do not have an adequate number of appropriately skilled staff
to undertake investigations of offences.'
n In social work CoSLA has set up a working group to review
the recruitment and retention of social workers because of overwhelming
local experience and anecdotal evidence reinforcing the perception
that there is a crisis in social work'. UNISON believes
that there should be a fundamental review of workforce issues
in social work, like that being undertaken for nurses and midwives
in the NHS, to address issues like pay, training, workforce planning,
flexible routes to qualification and the more effective use of
How to tackle recruitment and retention issues
UNISON advocates the recruitment and retention of high quality
staff through; fair pay and conditions, genuine partnership working
with trade unions, equal opportunities and life-long learning.
Fair pay and conditions
In a recent opinion poll conducted for UNISON, nearly 90% of
respondents agreed that public services cannot be delivered successfully
unless the people providing them are paid a fair wage and are
treated fairly. No amount of job satisfaction is enough to keep
someone in a public sector job where there are other (often private
sector) local employers paying more. In addition, pay differentials
between local public sector employers who employ the same type
of staff need to be addressed. The Audit Scotland Report on Hospital
Cleanliness referred to instances where hospitals reported losing
ancillary staff to local authorities because they paid more. The
recent deal to increase the minimum wage in NHS Scotland to £5.18
per hour is a welcome example of how to start tackling pay inequalities
in the public sector. This now needs to be built on across the
public services, particularly in the light of cross-service working
initiatives such as Joint Future.
We have to reward all members of the public service team, including
support staff, appropriately. Too often, the media and politicians
focus on professional staff, like teachers and nurses, and forget
that they are part of a team that provides the service. For example,
teachers are not the only staff involved in education. A whole
range of staff from cleaners, janitors, caterers and secretaries
to support and ancillary staff ensure that the educational experience
is of the highest quality. Support staff in all parts of the public
sector tend to be the lowest paid and least valued, and many of
them are women.
Partnership working with Trade Unions
The Scottish Executive and the trade unions have worked hard
to forge a constructive working relationship over the first four
years of the Scottish Parliament. The Concordat with the STUC
and the PPP Protocol, which goes some way to removing the two-tier
workforce in public services, are examples of good partnership
working. UNISON is optimistic that this trend will continue, given
the restatement of the commitment to work in partnership with
trade unions in the Partnership Agreement. This spirit of partnership
and inclusion must now be followed through to the local decision-making
Family-friendly employment practices and promoting work-life
balance will help retain staff in the public sector, ensuring
that their skills and experience are not lost when their life
circumstances change. UNISON welcomes the commitment in the Partnership
Agreement to develop more flexible working patterns in the NHS
and empower front-line staff.
In addition, more urgent work needs to be done to address equal
pay issues in the public sector. Thirty years after the Equal
Pay Act, it is not acceptable that women only earn 81p to every
male £1 earned for full-time work. UNISON welcomes the Scottish
Executive's drive to have equal pay audits in all NDPBs but there
are still serious issues regarding equal pay in the major public
sector employers. We are pressing for pay audits and equality-proofed
job evaluation schemes as a more constructive and less expensive
way to address pay inequalities rather then pursuing legal equal
pay claims. However, if we believe progress is not being made
fast enough we will continue to use the Employment Tribunal system.
UNISON welcomes the awards of trade union learning funds to encourage
the take-up of lifelong learning in the public sector and industries,
and the Executive's commitment to continue working with trade
unions on lifelong learning in the Partnership Agreement. However,
there is still much to be done both in ensuring that those who
need such opportunities get them and that there are trainers and
institutions available to provide the necessary resources. Education
and training should be available to staff at all levels across
the public sector to equip them to move into higher skilled jobs
within public services. New learning opportunities should be targeted
to areas with poor records of employment and social inclusion.
Quality employment and training standards rooted in a public
service ethos will assist in ensuring a more committed workforce
providing a consistent and high quality service.
Dave Watson -
@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572