Category Archives: Health and Safety

Need for mental health action plans as cuts bring pressures

Local Government Conference

UNISON called for a strategy to combat mental health issues in the workplace arising as a result of increasing workloads and other workplace pressures faced as a consequence of UK Government austerity cuts and the brutal financial cuts to local government.This strategy will call for local government employers to ensure effective workload management schemes, suitable stress risk assessments, mental health action plans and policies are in place in consultation with branches.

At the same time, UNISON will continue to fight austerity, and to campaign, pressurise and lobby both Scottish and Westminster governments for more funding in local government, to help support the mental health and wellbeing of the workforce.

Scott Donohoe, Scottish Regional Representative, moving Composite B, Mental Health and Workloads, slammed the intolerable increase in workloads, and pointed out that staffing levels are cut to the bone and morale is rock bottom.

Scott explained, “The HSE figures for 2016/17 show 1.3 million workers suffered ill health at work, 526,000 cases of stress, anxiety or mental health, and 9.9 million

working days lost and a cost to society of over £14billion. A recent report from Lancaster University on the scourge of Presenteeism [attending work whilst sick]costs £15.1billion annually, so more than sickness absence.”

He underlined some of the cuts in local government in Scotland, announcements of £133 million over two years with another round of job cuts for Glasgow , and £160 million over four years  for Edinburgh and moreover East Dunbartonshire’s 90% plus vote for strike action in response to another brutal attack on terms and conditions and trade union facility time.

Scott continued, “The decimation of our members’ jobs across Scotland is an absolute scandal and must be resisted with all means at our disposal. Members are facing increased work demands due to cuts in the local authority workforce across the country. The demands on public services are also increasing due to the consequence of the economic crisis just as the workforce decreases.”

“ In addition our members often come under pressure to adopt new cost-cutting working practices under the guise of modernisation, service reform, or transformation, which have little or nothing to do with improving services to the Scottish people. Many members are coming under pressure to carry out paid and unpaid overtime.”

Scott highlighted Glasgow City’s NO to Overwork campaign that has been challenging excessive workloads for a number of years. He also recognised the great work branches were doing across the UK. “We must step up our efforts and continue to support our members and activis against the austerity agenda. Supporting our members and actvists both collectively and individually to say “No! Enough is enough”

Tony Slaven, South Lanarkshire Branch, seconding the Composite, “ How about this for a simple message? Years of austerity and cuts in

council budgets means cuts in staffing levels, increase in workloads, attacks on terms and conditions, constant restructures. It’s dead simple. All increase poor mental health. Such as anxiety, stress, and depression for our members.”

“As reps, we are seeing and dealing with more grievances, absences, and capability procedures. There are local authorities that recognise the growing problem of poor mental health in the workplace only to find austerity and the cuts are relentless.”

Tony applauded branches that have managed to negotiate and establish mental health and well-being policies in the workplace, however, he cautioned, “These policies may look good sitting unopened in the Director’s office – but that is not where they belong – they need to be working for all of us on the front line – where they must actually be applied.”

“My local authority produced a document on Mental Health where they failed to mention workload – when challenged they said they didn’t think that this was an issue –this is what we are fighting against.”

Remember the dead, fight for the living

Workers Memorial DAyy
Workers Memorial Day

South Lanarkshire Trade Unions commemorated Workers’ Memorial Day on Tuesday April 28, by laying a wreath at the Beckford Street Memorial.

Andy Murphy, chair of the South Lanarkshire Joint Trades Union Council, introduced the event, highlighting the achievements in improving workers’ safety over the years, whilst warning against complacency. There were still 133 people in the UK in 2013 to 2014 who went out to their work and never came home.

Margaret Gallacher, Chair of South Lanarkshire  UNISON Branch, reminded us that it was almost two years to the day since the collapse of the garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka that took more than 400 lives, the worst industrial disaster since Bhopal.

Dave Moxham, Depute General Secretary of STUC, was proud to speak at the event. He  explained that he is from South London but the majority of his family were from South Wales. He remembers going back to visit the family in the 70s  –  but the older members of the family were all women because all the men had either fallen in the war or were involved in the mining industry and died young. However,  it’s not just people in heavy industry who are injured and die at work.  He gave the example of teachers and their spouses suffering from the devastating effects of asbestos.

Dave reminded us that health and safety culture is currently being attacked across the UK and we need to do something about this. We need to redouble our efforts to make our workplaces safer and fit places for our men and women to work in.

Bhopal, 30 years on and no justice

South Lanarkshire Trades Unions laid a wreath at the Beckford Street Memorial in Hamilton on Wednesday 3 December to mark 30 years since the Bhopal disaster and held a minute’s silence for those who have died and those who are still suffering.

Margaret Gallacher, South Lanarkshire UNISON Branch Chair, described the events of December 2nd, 1984, where a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, leaked a lethal gas methyl isocyanate. That night a few thousand people died, but to date 25,000 people have died since as a result of their exposure and over 120,000 people still suffer effects from the incident. None of the six safety systems designed to contain such a leak were operational.  It should never have happened.

Victims and their families are still fighting for justice. But 30 years on and there is none.

You can make a donation to the Bhopal Medical Appeal at http://bhopal.org/donate/