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UNISON welcomes South Lanarkshire Living Wage uprating 10/02/2013

South Lanarkshire equal pay progress - 21 June 2012

Why I will be striking on Wednesday -  27/11/2011

Union members urged to vote to strike against great pension robbery 07/10/11

UNISON welcomes South Lanarkshire Living Wage uprating – but more to do

UNISON have welcomed the announcement that South Lanarkshire Council will uprate the Living Wage for their employees to £7.56 and that they will also ensure that all workers paid below £21,000 (for a 37 hour week) will receive an above the national pay award pay rise in April.

South Lanarkshire Branch Secretary, Stephen Smellie, said “The Council, and Council Leader Eddie McAvoy, are to be congratulated on this decision to recognise the need to protect and improve the pay of their low paid staff. These workers, who are mostly women, include cleaners, school catering staff, home carers, school crossing patrollers, care assistants and clerical staff, all of whom deliver crucial services to local communities and who have been hit hard by low wages and high prices.”

This is the third year running that the Council have made efforts to protect the lowest paid. In 2011 they introduced the Living Wage and gave a pay rise of £250 to the low paid when there was a national pay freeze. In 2012 the Living Wage increased to £7.20 and again the low paid received £250 whilst the pay freeze continued. Now in 2013 the Living wage is increasing to £7.56 they are consolidating the £250 into salaries and intending to pay the national pay award of 1%.

Stephen Smellie said, “A few years ago we decided to campaign locally for the Living Wage and to highlight how the lowest paid were suffering most due to years of below inflation pay awards and the pending pay freeze. We lobbied all Councillors and argued our case. In 2011 we negotiated the introduction of the Living Wage and the £250 for the low paid. Having won that case we have continued to work with the Council to maintain and develop this policy.

The benefit to the low paid workers is obvious but it also has a benefit to the wider community. It is well known that better paid staff leads to better and more reliable services. It also provides a boost to the local economy as the additional money is mostly spent locally. The final benefit is that some of these workers now come off benefits saving the tax payer money.”

There are thousands of workers in Lanarkshire who do not benefit from the Living Wage in the private and voluntary sector where the National Minimum Wage of £6.19 for over 21 year olds is the going rate. This includes companies who are contracted by the Council to deliver services on their behalf. UNISON recently highlighted this in a letter to South Lanarkshire Council’s Leader and Chief Executive.

 Stephen Smellie said, “The Council recently invited tenders to deliver home care services. The companies who currently do this pay their staff just above the poverty rate of the National Minimum Wage and most of them do so whilst offering only zero-hour contracts. So these staff not only get very poor wages when they work but they have no guaranteed number of hours that they will be asked to work. This is a Council funded scandal. We wrote to the Council asking that they ensure that companies who they will contract to deliver services are required to pay at least the Living Wage. Unfortunately they replied that they are unable to do so as, according to advice from the Scottish Government that to do this would be in breach of European law.”

UNISON believes that Councils are able to ensure their contractors pay the higher rates of pay and have sought their own legal advice.

Stephen Smellie continued, “We are working with a number of trade union and community groups locally to organise a campaign to take up this issue of extending the Living Wage beyond the Councils and NHS. We would appeal to workers in the private home care companies to contact us to discuss how we can build a moral campaign in Lanarkshire for economic justice.”


South Lanarkshire equal pay progress

UNISON members made further progress in the campaign for equal pay today with an important victory in South Lanarkshire.

Although South Lanarkshire was the first council in Scotland to bring women and men together under a “single status” pay system, the Glasgow Employment Tribunal has ruled that the 2004 South Lanarkshire scheme does not comply fully with subsequent advances in equality law.

Although this preliminary ruling does not award compensation to any individual worker, it does enable any council employee to compare their pay with colleagues employed in work of equal value and the council must now explain all pay differences on an individual basis.

Commenting on the 247 page judgement from the tribunal Mike Kirby, UNISON Scottish Secretary, said:

“There is a lesson here for all employers. It is not enough to unify pay systems for the mutual benefit of woman and men. True pay equality requires a culture of continuous improvement under which the pay gap between workers is recorded, monitored and, ultimately, closed. Pay systems must also be transparent – every worker has the right to look at the salary scale and understand how they are paid and why. And every worker has the right to know how comparable workers are paid and why.

“South Lanarkshire received credit for being an early implementer of single status but changes to case law and regulation have raised the bar since 2004. It is clear from the tribunal ruling that the council has some work to do if it is to deliver equality in a transparent manner. UNISON looks forward to delivering those changes in partnership where possible while negotiating compensation for any member underpaid in the past.”

Peter Hunter, UNISON Regional Organiser, said:

“While we recognise this is just a preliminary hearing on the design of the pay system and not an outright victory for individual workers, we call on the council to abandon its adversarial posture. Further litigation will only entrench past positions and delay transparency, equality and justice for workers. It would be a tragedy if further progress on equality was thwarted by years of expensive appeals and individual litigation.” 

Why I will be striking on Wednesday - Stephen Smellie

When I started working for Council in 1984 I joined the Superannuation Scheme – the Pension. I had no choice. In those days it was compulsory. You could opt out if you chose but I didn’t. I recognised that a reasonable pension when you retire was important.

So I entered into a contract with my employer and the Government that I would pay 6% of my salary to my pension and my employer would make a contribution also. This was, in a way, me deferring my wages till a later day, when I retired. The plan was I would work till I was 65 and I wouldn’t have to claim and rely on state benefits to keep me out of poverty.

I am striking on Wednesday because the Government has decided to renege on that contract. They are insisting that I work longer and that I should get a poorer pension when I retire. They are not willing to negotiate on these issues – only on how much poorer a pension it would be.

They also want me to increase by 50% what I pay every month towards it. Fortunately for me, being a Council worker, the Scottish Government were persuaded not to pass that on to me but I suspect the Tories and Liberals will come back with that plan if they get away with forcing it onto everyone else in the public sector!

I don’t want to strike but when faced with a Government that won’t negotiate and is now trying to bully us, by threatening to remove even some of the concessions they have made and to change the law to make it even more difficult for union members to take strike action, I don’t think I have any other choice.

I will be on the picket line and I hope thousands of others will join me.

Union members urged to vote to strike against great pension robbery 07/10/11

UNISON members working for local Councils, the NHS, South Lanarkshire College, the University of the West of Scotland, Skills Development Scotland and many other public services are being urged to vote for strike action. Members will be receiving ballot papers this week in the biggest strike action ballot in UK history with 1.1 million people involved.

Stephen Smellie, Branch Secretary of UNISON South Lanarkshire said, "The UK Government have insisted that all public service workers will need to work longer before they can get their occupational pension and that the pension schemes will be changed so that we get poorer pensions. This is on top of the change made earlier this year to reduce the annual inflation linked increase in pensions is a calculated attack on our pensions."

Mary Samson, UNISON Lanarkshire NHS Secretary pointed out that for NHS workers there is another immediate issue. She said, "NHS workers have been told that in addition to the changes the government are insisting on they also want us to pay 50% more in contributions. This is a straight forward tax on NHS staff to help pay the Government's deficit. Not a penny of this additional money they want us to pay will go towards our pensions. Instead it goes to the Government who continue to bail out bankers to ensure they get their bonuses while we get pay freezes and job losses."

All UNISON's 17,000 members in Lanarkshire are being balloted for strike action. If members vote Yes the first day of strike action will be on 30th November. Lanarkshire NHS member and UNISON's Scottish Convenor, Lilian Macer said, "We have sought to resolve this through negotiations with both the UK and the Scottish Government. The UK Government are intent on robbing millions off loyal nurses, home carers and classroom assistants whilst the Scottish Government say they have no choice but to pass on the attacks. Strike action is a last resort but UNISON is determined to protect our members' pensions and I am sure our members will support the strike call and vote YES."


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