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Employment and Corporate Social Responsibility

UNISON Scotland's response to the Scottish Parliament's European Committee's Inquiry on Employment and Corporate Social Responsibility

September 2002


UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing over 145,000 members working in the public sector. Our members are employed in local government, the health service, care services, further and higher education, utilities, water authorities, and in the voluntary sector. UNISON welcomes the opportunity to give written evidence to the European Committee's inquiry into employment, Corporate Social Responsibility, and the promotion of dialogue between the social partners in Scotland.

This paper constitutes UNISON Scotland's response to the Scottish Parliament European Committee's call for written evidence on employment and corporate social responsibility.


Public Sector Employment

UNISON Scotland is the largest trade union in Scotland, organising and representing a diverse range of workers within the public sector. Our members include school cleaners, social workers, police civilian staff, and gas and electricity technicians. We are therefore well placed as an organisation to comment on employment in public services in Scotland.

Public sector workers provide a massive range of services, from delivering school meals, and sweeping roads and streets out in the community, to providing nursing and medical care in hospitals and social care and support to the most vulnerable people. All of these services are necessary for a modern and civilised Scotland, and it is clear that public sector workers provide essential services for the community. The NHS is the largest employer in Scotland, clearly illustrating the public sector's contribution to employment in Scotland.

Over the past few years additional demands placed on the public sector have led to the creation of new employment opportunities within the sector. A key driver in the creation of new employment came with the election of the Labour Government at Westminster in 1997, and subsequently the establishment of a Scottish Parliament at Holyrood with a Labour / Liberal Democrat administration.

The priorities of the Labour Government at Westminster of education, child care and health, has meant a growth in employment within these areas. The Government's targets for nursery places for all 3 and 4 year olds whose parents want them, has seen a growth in child care and nursery occupations. In addition the Government policy to support learning in primary schools with the new role of classroom assistant has seen a massive growth in this occupation.

In Scotland the commitment to free personal care for the elderly, along with new provisions in community care, and the Joint Future agenda has meant a greater demand for care workers, home care support workers, and health and social care staff.

New legislative requirements, many emanating from the European Union, are also creating employment opportunities. New European Union Directives on equalities, anti-discrimination and environmental themes are all placing demands on governments and the public sector, and providing new employment opportunities. For example new areas of work are being created because of the Race Relations Amendment Act, as public bodies work to comply with the new duties placed upon them. Environmental and waste disposal rules mean that local authorities have to consider sustainable development, energy and recycling levels, often creating new areas of work, in recycling, energy efficiency, and waste disposal.

UNISON Scotland believes there is great potential to increase employment creation within the public sector. A number of factors are converging to build demand for services in the public sector. People's expectations of public services are constantly rising, advancing technology whilst at times saving labour costs is also creates new demands, and our changing demography of an ageing population adds different and greater demands on local government and the health service.

Employment Best Practice

The public sector can provide many examples of best practice in employment. Trade unions have been able to negotiate good working conditions and pay in Scottish local government. March 2002 saw the minimum level of pay in local government (for the lowest paid staff such as cleaners) rise above £5 an hour. Many local authorities offer flexible working hours to their employees, enabling them to fit family/caring responsibilities and public duties with their employment. Trade unions have negotiated maternity and paternity deals with employers, and many local authorities (eg. Fife Council, Glasgow City Council) now have domestic violence policies in place to support employees who suffer from abuse in the home. UNISON has been involved in negotiating for equal pay in the workplace and is currently working with several employers in Scotland on equal pay audits to ensure that women are not discriminated against in pay systems.

However, UNISON remains concerned that workers in expanding areas of early years education, home care services, and residential care home workers are very often low paid, work long hours, receive limited or no career development, and experience poor terms and conditions. We will continue to negotiate in the workplace and campaign for decent working conditions and fair pay for all of our members.


Life Long Learning

UNISON Scotland has embraced the Lifelong learning agenda, particularly with its partnership with the Workers Education Association (WEA) on the Learning @ Work initiative which offers a range of courses to UNISON members, both in the workplace and in members' own time. The Employer Partnership Programme is delivering learning opportunities with a number of Local Authorities and Universities in Scotland, and UNISON Scotland has secured two national level agreements funded directly through the Scottish Executive in the Health Department and the Social Work Inspectorate.

Within the Learning @ Work programme is UNISON's Return 2 Learn (R2L) project. This project is open to all our members, and is designed for people returning to study. R2L assists individuals to develop existing skills and acquire new ones, working in a study group supported by a tutor. R2L is free for our members and UNISON pays all expenses including travel, dependent care costs and accommodation where required for residential courses. R2L gives the opportunity for individuals to gain credits for work which can help with access to other courses and workplace training.

Corporate Social Responsibility

UNISON is supportive of the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility. We strongly believe that business and organisations should act in a socially responsible manner, aware of the external impact of their actions, policies and products, and prepared to change their actions, policies or products if they have a detrimental external impact.

UNISON believes the idea of Corporate Social Responsibility should be considered in broad terms to take account of the wide range of effects organisations of all kinds can have.

This should include a wide range of impacts:

  • Social
  • Economic
  • Political
  • Environmental
  • International

CSR should also include the impact actions or products have on:

  • Equality
  • Work life balance
  • Health
  • Fair employment
  • The Developing World

UNISON particularly welcomes the focus on valuing people. Our concept of Corporate Social Responsibility focuses on the value of every human life: valuing people's time, their family and caring responsibilities, their personal ambitions, and aspirations. This means giving employees opportunities, operating decent working hours, fair conditions and pay levels which do not discriminate against women or others. This also means ensuring that employees do not face any form of discrimination at work regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, disability, age, or belief.

Scottish Executive and CSR

UNISON Scotland supports the Scottish Executive's position on Corporate Social Responsibility as set out by the First Minister Jack McConnell on 22 March 2002. We agree that public expectations are rising, and that people expect to see companies and organisations behaving responsibly towards customer, the community, employees and the environment. Pressure to adopt socially and environmentally responsible practices is coming from both customers and employees. We support the Executive in its view that we have to be more responsible about how and what we produce, for resources and waste, and more responsible employers and consumers. However, we would wish to see greater encouragement to business and organisations to act in a socially responsible manner. UNISON also believes that there is more that the Scottish Executive itself can do to act in accordance with CSR values, in policy making, procurement, employment, and in its internal operations.

The Department of Trade and Industry and CSR

The Department of Trade and Industry has said that business needs rather than altruism should be the driving force behind corporate social responsibility projects, and that companies are more likely to practice CSR if they can see organisational benefits. UNISON is concerned with this perspective, and alarmed at the belief that we have to show business what is in it for them before they will take action. However, we do believe that there is a need to demonstrate that a happy and contented workforce is a more productive workforce. UNISON considers that there is a role for government to encourage consumers towards ethical purchasing. Leadership from government on ethical consumerism is important in demonstrating the importance of understanding the wider impact of a purchase.

UK Government Strategy on CSR

UNISON supports the UK Government's strategy on CSR to:

  • Promote activities that bring economic, social and environmental benefits
  • Work in partnership with private sector, public sector, community groups, trade unions, consumers and stakeholders.
  • Encourage innovation and best practice
  • Define decent minimum levels of performance
  • Encourage public awareness - through trust and dialogue

Yet we feel that the Government could be doing much more to define the decent minimum levels of performance, and could do more to encourage public awareness.

Acting with Social Responsibility

UNISON Scotland in recent years has attempted itself to follow CSR principles, as both an organisation which makes policy decisions which have an impact, and as a consumer of goods and services.

At an organisational level this has included our work in:

  • Policy making
  • Equal opportunities
  • Environmental issues
  • Work life balance
  • Training and career development
  • Striving to achieve Investors in People status.

As a consumer of services this has included:

  • Disability access - venues and transport
  • Equal opportunities
  • Ethical products - fair trade products
  • Smoking policies.

Corporate Social Responsibility and PFI

Whilst the Scottish Executive and the UK Government declare they are committed to the principles of CSR, they are at the same time promoting the Private Finance Initiative as the way forward for public services in Scotland and the UK. UNISON believes that these two positions - supporting CSR and PFI - are incompatible.

UNISON is very clear on the impact of PFI on public sector workers, services and the tax payer. PFI projects result in a two tier workforce, with cuts to pay, conditions, and pensions, with low paid women workers very often the worst affected. This is clearly contrary to the principles of CSR that emphasise fairness, decent minimum standards and equality of opportunity. PFI is not delivering the services and facilities it set out to do. UNISON has given long lists of PFI failures - from the problems with Hairmyres Hospital, Glasgow schools PFI, and the trunk road maintenance contract. The failure to deliver for the community, and the increased costs of PFI on the local taxpayer seem far from the positive ethos of Corporate Social Responsibility.

The Executive's and the UK Government's commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility should not just be about considering developing nations and environmental objectives, although clearly these are crucial. Real Corporate Social Responsibility should include the impact of actions on workers in the UK too.

CSR: UNISON & Scottish Power

UNISON Scotland is involved in partnership working with Scottish Power (see partnership details below). This partnership has been addressing the mainstreaming of Corporate Social Responsibility and developing Scottish Power's community work in society at large. Scottish Power has developed transatlantic programmes that span four areas - employability, the environment, the economy and partnership. Within these four strands Scottish Power has developed a number of projects which give opportunities for the company to "respond positively to social challenges or add value for communities while achieving business benefits" (Community Report 2001/02, Scottish Power). In the UK this work has included:

  • offering 299 places through the New Deal,
  • delivering employability assessment workshops to young people,
  • filling Skillseeker positions
  • providing home efficiency surveys to over 35,000 homes
  • provided 1,813 free cold alarms
  • supported fuel advice worker
  • funding community environmental and renewable energy projects
  • become leading wind farm operators
  • funding to support NCH, national fostering.
  • Supported Age Concern's Keep "Warm, Keep Well" programme.
  • Launched RNIB Access to Opportunity Programme.

UNISON's partnership working with Scottish Power has enables us to have some influence over payroll giving. This has allowed us to have some say in the charities and good causes supported by Scottish Power.

Much of Scottish Power's work within the CSR agenda has focused on learning and skills. Indeed, Scottish Power's commitment to lifelong learning was demonstrated when it established Scottish Power Learning in the UK in 1996 in partnership with the Trade Unions - including UNISON as the major union within the company. Scottish Power Learning was an extension of the company's Open Learning programme, which offers employees and their families access to around 1,000 learning programmes. For the last six years Scottish Power Learning has used its skills and resources to create learning opportunities for people in the communities it serves, particularly in areas of economic deprivation. Through its range of community programmes, Scottish Power Learning has helped to train almost 5,000 young people.

Social Partnership

UNISON Scotland believes social partnership can be an effective model for modern industrial relations, which can benefit both employers and employees. However, to achieve a worthwhile partnership requires time, effort, commitment and resources from employer, unions and workers.

UNISON Scotland is currently involved in a number of partnership projects which are achieving some positive results:

The NHS in Scotland

The NHS in Scotland has embarked on partnership working with government, management, staff and trade unions. The style of partnership adopted allows employees to be fully involved in and influence changes to service delivery, in return allowing for reform in service delivery in Scotland.

Staff are consulted at the earliest possible stage to develop consensus around change to service delivery and to develop modern working practices. The partnership has a policy on organisational change which commits to no compulsory redundancy and protection of certain pay levels /conditions, so there is the element of job security for health workers. All partners are round the table at the policy formulation stage, moving to consultation, then implementation, all on a partnership basis. There is a joint evaluation of decisions, leading to joint formulation of new or revised policies. It is accepted that some issues still need to be negotiated - for example those impacting on terms and conditions of service. These issues go into a separate process of negotiation with the recognised unions in existing negotiating machinery.

As with all partnership agreements there have been real challenges and stumbling blocks for all parties. One of the most notable disappointments for UNISON has been the failure to agree over the conditions of service of new starts under PFI and PPP schemes. Another area of fundamental disagreement between unions and employers has been the false dichotomy of the producer / consumer divide. However the NHS Scottish Partnership is still developing and the health service structures changing, and UNISON Scotland does see the partnership working as the way forward for the NHS in Scotland.

Scottish Power Partnership

For a number of years UNISON has been party to partnership working arrangements with Scottish Power Generation. Although not perfect, there have been improvements to the working relationships and benefits for UNISON members in the company.

The purpose of the partnership is that of recognising that employees have a stake in a thriving and successful business.

The principles of the partnership are established in the Partnership Agreement. They are:

  • Success of the business
  • Good levels of pay and benefits, and fair treatment of staff
  • The highest achievable level of employment security - along with a framework to handle situations of reductions in employment
  • Continuous improvement, flexibility, efficiency
  • Opportunities for personal development and investment in the training needs of individuals as well as the company.
  • Sharing financial rewards
  • Safety and health
  • The spirit of the agreement recognises all staff are entitled to be held in equal esteem.

The important feature for UNISON is that trade unions are given a legitimate role in the development of the enterprise. A Partnership Council drives work forward, and comprises of management reps and TU reps. Partnerships have been developed at a local level, to ensure that everyone is included and there is communication and transparency at all levels.

The key benefit of the partnership for UNISON is the access to information element. The Partnership Council has access to company details, relevant financial data, and so on. This is invaluable to us, as it enables us to have a greater understanding of the financial position of the company and to appreciate and be involved in decision making at this level.

The problems we have experienced have not been so much with "partnership" - but with some of the age old industrial relations issues. For example we have still suffered substantial job losses within Scottish Power. However, the Partnership agreement has meant that the company and unions have achieved the losses without compulsory redundancies, using redeployment, retraining, and voluntary severance packages.

STUC - Scottish Executive's Social Partnership

As a leading affiliate of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, UNISON has been a key player in the new partnership between the STUC and the Scottish Executive. The initiative, unveiled in April 2002 aims to achieve better working relationships between the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

The memorandum of understanding commits both parties to work in partnership across a wide range of public policy issues. First Minister Jack McConnell explained that the memorandum "provides a framework for developing genuine partnerships, building on arrangements that already exist".

It is the first formal agreement between the Executive and the unions and marks an important development in our relationship and clearly demonstrates the importance both sides place on working closely together.

The Memorandum is a response to devolution, and the advent of Scottish Parliament - which has brought new roles for trade unions in Scotland. The STUC has good working relations with the Scottish Executive at Ministerial and Official level, and over the past few years the frequency of exchanges has increased. Both parties share a commitment to partnership working on strategic issues and in areas of common interest. Both the Executive and STUC acknowledged that whilst these arrangements are working well it would be helpful if a more formal framework was in place.

The partnership formalises the STUC Scottish Executive relationship and establishes principles and processes of engagement. Shared priorities are identified along with agreed outcomes for effective co-operation.

The partnership sets out roles and responsibilities for both signatories, with the mutual recognition and respect of the distinctive values and roles of each party:

UNISON and the STUC are optimistic that this new partnership will bring significant benefits, both for the Scottish Executive, and for the STUC - and working people in Scotland. The partnership should extend opportunities for the STUC to contribute their experience and ideas to the development and implementation of public policy. As in industrial based partnership where workers can add value to the business - in this "social partnership" at the level of government and national organisation, the Executive and its policy-making processes can gain from the range of expertise and ideas within the trade union movement.

For the STUC a key benefit is that we will gain a greater awareness of the procedures and practices of policy development within the Executive's departments and agencies. This gives the STUC the opportunity to influence these procedures and make them aware of the aspirations and needs of Scotland's trade unionists and working families.

The Executive and the STUC will identify shared priorities and work towards the achievement of agreed outcomes.


For Further Information Please Contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary

14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0141-332 0006 Fax 0141 342 2835

e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk

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