Employment and Corporate Social Responsibility
UNISON Scotland's response to the Scottish Parliament's
European Committee's Inquiry on Employment and Corporate Social
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
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
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
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
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:
CSR should also include the impact actions or products have on:
- Work life balance
- 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,
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
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
- 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
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
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