UNISON Submission to Finance Committee
of the Scottish Parliament
UNISON is Scotland’s largest public sector
trade union representing 165,000 members across public services.
We are the main trade union representing staff in Scotland’s
health service, local government and a significant number
of Non Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs). UNISON welcomes
this opportunity to detail the problems members are experiencing
with the pay policy process.
UNISON members in Scotland’s councils narrowly
voted to accept a two-year pay deal. The ballot covered
members working for Scotland’s 32 local councils, local
joint valuation boards and fire and rescue staff. It is
UNISON’s view that this was a poor offer, significantly
below the present rate of inflation. UNISON and the employers
now have the opportunity to look at ways of tackling low
pay in local government without the backdrop of a dispute.
This should be the start of constructive and meaningful
discussions on pay for the future not simply the end of
UNISON believes that strike action was made
necessary by CoSLA’s lack of freedom to negotiate a suitable
pay offer. The Scottish Government’s pay ‘guidelines’ are
built into the financial settlement for local authorities
as a planning assumption. This means that councils almost
always argue that even a pay rise that does no more than
maintain the cost of living, comes at the expense of jobs
and services. On top of that there is no provision for exceptional
costs such as equal pay.
In local government the Scottish Government
has indirect control over pay but councils do at least have
some freedom to negotiate. However, if the Scottish Government
sets unrealistic pay assumptions then councils have limited
room to negotiate.
Scottish Water is included here for the purposes
of viewing the complete picture. As a public corporation,
they are not an NDPB and their overall budget is influenced
by Ministerial Direction and the decisions of the economic
Despite this financial structure they are
covered by the pay ‘guidance’ and that has again caused
delays. In the last pay round we reached an agreement with
the Corporation only to have a further lengthy delay whilst
waiting for Ministerial approval. We came very close to
balloting for industrial action against the Minister not
Scottish Water using the relevant provisions of the ERA.
In September 2008 Scottish Water breached
six years of partnership working with its staff in order
to impose a 15 month pay rise of 3% (which equates to an
annual offer of 2.4%). In November 2008 UNISON’s Scottish
Water Branch members voted by 2-1 in a ballot to take strike
action for fair pay along with the other unions. Members
took their first day of action on 27th November
asking the Scottish Government and Scottish Water to come
back to the negotiating table. In this case the Scottish
Government has direct control of the offer and has to approve
the offer, yet plays no role in the bargaining.
Non Departmental Public Bodies
Staff in Non Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs)
are becoming increasing frustrated at the difficulties caused
by the pay guidelines and the way it is administered by
ministers through the Public Sector Pay Unit. The anger
is caused by endless delays and the rigid interpretation
of so called pay ‘guidelines’. Many staff have taken or
have been on the verge of industrial action in order to
progress negotiations for pay deals and pay restructuring.
These conflicts have been running through all negotiations
since the 2005 pay deals and are continuing to cause problems
in the new round of negotiations which should have been
completed and in effect from April this year.
There needs to be immediate action to settle
the current pay claims and to reform this system to avoid
a repeat of these delays.
There are delays in preparing the guidance
Pay guidelines are introduced with minimal
It takes too long for the Public Sector
Pay Unit to respond to NDPB management’s proposals
The pay guidelines are too rigid leaving
no room for negotiation at a local level. This undermines
collective bargaining in each employer and results in
these matters ending up at Ministerial level.
Lack of recognition and assistance of
the short term costs of equal pay
Imposing new pay structures which are
Impact on Public services
The system used to authorise pay offers in
Non Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) played an important
role in creating the existing disputes and is likely to
be the cause of future disputes unless reformed. Currently
management put together an offer they feel is affordable.
This offer then goes to the Public Sector Pay Unit (PSPU)
for approval. The PSPU takes a great deal of time to agree
the offer often sending it back to management on more than
one occasion looking for more information or rejecting the
offer and a demanding a new one. UNISON is not party to
this process and neither management nor the PSPU are willing
to take responsibility overcoming these delays.
The current process is very bureaucratic,
time consuming and the overly rigid interpretation of the
pay guidelines means that there is no scope for any local
bargaining. The process is full of blockages and delays.
Most that pay settlements for 2006 were imposed after almost
two years of delays. Staff are frustrated, angry and out
The following is a brief overview of the
problems in NDPBs
Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration
The dispute over the 2005-7 pay deal was finally
resolved in the summer of 2008. Shortly before the next
pay rise was due in October. The pay deal was imposed rather
than negotiated follow delays and dispute. They key problem
is the pay unit’s insistence that the costs of re-grading
following job evaluation still had to be under the governments
pay guidance limit when these are clearly one off costs.
This year’s attempts at negotiation are also
hitting delays. The pay unit subcommittee meets in November
and January and as the deadline for the November meeting
was missed by management the unit will not look at the remit
until January 09. Even if approved by the pay unit and accepted
by staff the pay award will be five months late.
Scottish Environmental Protection Agency
The previous pay negotiations at SEPA finally
led to dispute ending in the imposition of a pay deal. Staff
were sacked and rehired under new contracts at the beginning
of this year. This was for a pay deal that should have been
in place from April 06. The delay was caused by the time
it took management and the pay unit to agree an offer.
The next pay deal was due in April 2008. However,
as this was before the new guidelines came into force in
May the Pay Unit insist that the claim must be made under
the old guidelines. The lack of flexibility to allow management
to make an acceptable offer and the ongoing bad feeling
from the way the previous claim was settled means that there
may be a further dispute.
Scottish Commission for the Regulation
of Care: (SCRC)
Again the 2006 pay claim was resolved just
before the next round of negotiations was due to start.
The pay unit rejecting submissions unless the costs of both
the new grading structure and pay rise are within guidelines.
Management have indicated that they submitted
their pay remit to the pay unit in October 08. This was
due to be implemented in April 08. The benchmarking of comparators
is still unresolved. UNISON has no access to the job evaluation
scheme used and has been unable to equality proof the scheme.
Management are still waiting for a response to their pay
remit from the pay unit and until then can make no formal
offer to staff. This means that there is a minimum of eight
months delay on this year’s pay claim
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National
The 2006 process at the national park took
18 months from opening of negotiations linked to new pay
and grading system to an offer being made to staff.
This year’s process between the LLTNPA and
the pay unit was scheduled to start in April 2008. Since
then the pay unit has rejected submission from the management
of the LLTNPA on numerous occasions, requiring adjustment
on issues not previously notified to the Unions. The Pay
Unit issued an instruction stopping any LLTNPA staff receiving
their incremental pay increase (due in April 2008). This
is contrary to previous custom and practice.
The resulting timescales put considerable
pressure on local negotiations and further delay will result
if the pay package is not acceptable to UNISON members.
The pay unit’s lengthy process continues to work against
the concept of local negotiations.
Careers Scotland/Skills Development Scotland
The pay process for careers’ staff was considerably
hampered by Scottish Enterprises refusal to participate
in any pay process as they felt that this was the responsibility
of which ever new body was to take over the staff. This
meant that staff had to wait almost two years for anyone
to even take responsibility to draw up a pay offer. The
Government created Skills Development Scotland (SDS)
in April 2008
SDS offered firstly to harmonise pay settlement
dates to 1st October annually with subsequent compensation
for date changes. In order to facilitate this move SDS offered
a single arrangement for this year of a payment made to
each person within SDS of £100 for each month that the new
pay review date is later than the current review date. Members
were balloted and accepted the offer.
There are currently approximately 500 equal
pay claims within the previous Careers Scotland lodged at
Tribunal. SDS have proposed a formal offer as part of the
first stage of a pay equalisation exercise .The formal offer
is currently awaiting approval from the Scottish Government
Pay Unit. There is also no offer for this years pay claim
due last October.
Impact On staff
Staff in NDPBs are becoming increasingly frustrated
at the difficulties caused by the processes adopted by ministers
and administered by the Public Sector Pay Unit. Staff across
the public sector are expressing real anger about the role
of the government in public sector pay negotiations. The
government cannot state that pay deals are not their business
and then insist on rigid ‘guidelines’ for pay deals.
It is essential that action is taking to settle
these pay claims as soon as possible and to develop a better
system to avoid a repeat in the next pay round. In addition
the government’s simplification programme will create a
range of new pay problems through the need to harmonise
pay and conditions. UNISON suggests the following measures
to move past the current problems:
Greater flexibility for each NDPB to
reach local agreements within their overall budget without
over prescriptive interventions from ministers and the
Public Sector Pay Unit
Allow NDPBs to utilise savings to address
pay and grading issues
Some assistance and recognition of the
short term costs of meeting equal pay requirements as
has been provided for other sectors
Pay guidance to be broader with general
discussion at Ministerial level with the relevant trade
unions before they are issued. On this point we welcomed
the Cabinet Secretary’s commitment to ensure this happens
before future pay guidance is issued.
Radically reduce the bureaucracy and
delays in the approvals process
Leave room for genuine local bargaining
or establish a Scottish wide bargaining framework for
In this submission we have highlighted the
quite exceptional problems the current processes for dealing
with NDPB pay cause for a significant group of our members.
Without reform it is inevitable that morale will continue
to decline with a consequential impact on the services our
What is required is a reform of the process
that ensures that meaningful collective bargaining takes
place within a coherent framework that respects the agreed
pay settlement dates. This should reduce the level of industrial
disputes in the sector and improve staff confidence in the
competence of management and the Scottish Government.
3 December 2008
For Further information please contact Dave