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Local Government Service Group Conference 15-16 June 2008

Pay and shared services dominate Conference

Stephanie Herd
Stephanie Herd, Scottish Local Government Chair

(Click on highlighted areas for more information and see also UNISON UK Service Group Reports - more reports to follow on UNISON Scotland site in the next few days)

The pay ballots across the UK dominated Conference but issues like privatisation, shared services, Housing and Social Care all took centre stage too with an Emergency Motion from Aberdeenshire (among others) demanding action on mileage rates to reflect the huge increase in costs for essential staff.

Kate Ramsden
Kate Ramsden

"It is a disgrace that this has not been increased since 2002. Running a car for work now eats into our members' incomes and is fast becoming a pay cut," said Aberdeenshire's Kate Ramsden, adding that this hits low paid members the hardest.

After over 30 years as a leading lay activist, Local Government Chair Jean Geldart retired. In one of her last speeches, referring to the pay ballots 'we must win', she said, ""Our members are facing real privation from rising food prices, rising fuel prices... we must break the government's stupid pay policy and secure a decent pay rise for our members."

Jean Geldart
Jean Geldart

"We are up against hard times as we have been so many times before, but we have always succeeded. And if we work hard and work together, if we keep campaigning, we will defeat the government's marketisation and pay policies; we will continue to succeed."

Frustration at drawn out pay negotiations led delegates to vote for a plan to have any industrial action on pay in place by April of the year concerned.

Carol Ball
Carol Ball
Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith

School meals: Scotland's Carol Ball spoke on the effects of staff due to school meals changes. "We all know there's no such thing as a free lunch", said Carol. "In order to take this policy forward it needs to be properly considered and resourced."

Housing: Conference has pledged to continue to defend council housing, and to carry on fighting for decent housing for all. Delegates welcomed the government's commitment to building new houses, but determined to make sure they were council-owned - because "housing belongs in local authorities," a point supported by Edinburgh's Duncan Smith.The union will lobby for,

  • the widest possible measures that enable councils to build new homes to meet local housing needs;
  • the right of ALMOs to return to local authorities;
  • a level playing field between different providers in the housing sector;
  • a well trained and well paid workforce, with fair pay and conditions throughout the sector.

Social Care: Conference tackled the issue of Home Care privatisation and the possible hiving off of Looked After Children services in England.

John Stevenson
Carol Ball
Denise McClaffery
Denise McLaffery
Sandra Kennie
Sandra Kennie

Asylum children: Building on a motion from Scotland last year, Conference agreed to keep up the campaign children to be seen as "children first with their immigration status second", in the wrods of John Stevenson. The law intended all children's interests to be 'paramaount' and UNISON will continue to campaign for that and support members trying to work within that principle.

Scotland led opposition to a plan to split Local Government Conference from National Conference and won a surprise victory. Contributions here from John Stevenson, Denise McLaffery, Kate Ramsden and Sandra Kennie. Click here for more details.

More news to follow.........