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.”

We are one team, we all deserve fair pay

8 June 2018

Education It's ONE Team
Education It’s ONE Team

UNISON members in working in schools in South Lanarkshire are writing to John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, to highlight the vital role they play in delivering high quality education and to press him for fair pay for all those working in Education.

Last year the Scottish Government, as part of the tri-partite negotiations for teachers, agreed a bigger pay increase for teachers than that given to other local authority workers.

UNISON understand this could happen again this year and are sending the message to John Swinney that he cannot deliver on education reform unless he values the contributions of all staff equally.

Whilst the campaign is focused on education at this stage, it is part of UNISON’s wider long-term strategy to achieve fairness for all local government workers in this year’s pay negotiations.

The Joint Trades Unions, representing the local government workforce on the Scottish Joint Council, submitted their pay claim in January. CoSLA, the employers body, put forward a best and final pay offer on 26th March 2018 – the same pay offer was made to all local government bargaining groups.

At the same time as putting forward this offer CoSLA also wrote to Derek Mackay, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution, pressing the principle of parity in the treatment of all four local government bargaining groups.

They were clear in stating that if he was minded to award additional monies to any one group that they would hope he would provide additional funds so they could make similar awards for the other bargaining groups.

The Joint Trades Unions noted this pay offer and also wrote to Derek Mackay, pressing him for additional funding for local government, parity of treatment across the bargaining groups and a meeting to discuss their concerns.

Whilst these discussions continue UNISON believe it is important that John Swinney hears the views of their members working in education and will arrange for the postcards to be delivered to him at the Scottish Parliament before the summer recess.

UNISON’s South Lanarkshire’ Chairperson Margaret Gallacher, herself an education worker, said: “Last year Mr Swinney found more money to give teachers a bigger increase than other local authority workers, despite us all contributing towards the education of Scotland’s children. We don’t think that was fair.”

“Our members – classroom assistants, additional support for learning workers, librarians, clerical and admin staff, early years workers, technicians, janitors, catering and cleaning staff who all contribute to the delivery of high quality education for Scotland’s children and who all deserve fair pay.”

“Education is delivered by one team – Mr Swinney cannot ignore the contribution our members make to children’s education and if he values that he should ensure that everyone who works in education gets a fair pay rise.”

UNISON’s Head of Local Government Bargaining, Johanna Baxter, said, “John Swinney cannot deliver on his education reform agenda without the contribution of our members. When CoSLA, the Joint Trade Unions and the education workforce are all saying there should be parity across the bargaining groups he should sit up and listen. ”

“The arguments for giving Teachers a higher increase apply equally to our school support staff and other local government workers.  We calculate that our members have suffered a real terms loss in pay over the past ten years of some 15%.   Enough is enough.”

Thousands on the streets of Edinburgh call to end the public sector pay cap

Thousands of public sector workers marched through Edinburgh on Saturday 7 October calling for both the UK and Scottish Governments to scrap the public sector pay cap and pay a decent wage now.

Dave Prentis at scrap the cap rally
Dave Prentis at scrap the cap rally

“We are here for the many and not for the few” said Dave Prentis, UNISON’s General Secretary at the Scrap the Cap rally. ” It’s time to rise up and be counted and it’s time to throw  austerity in the bin.”

Gordon Mackay, UNISON’s Senior Vice President asked why would a nurse be going to a foodbank- it’s quite simply because she’s not paid enough. Gordon went on to highlight the real terms cut in wages with many workers having £3,000 less spending power following ten years of frozen wages  or capped increases. That’s a pay cut.



Pay up now! Scrap the public sector pay cap – march in Edinburgh Saturday 7 October

Pay up now!

March to scrap the cap

Saturday 7 October 2017


Assemble from 11am at Johnston Terrace next to Castle. The march will head off at 11.45am

Thousands of folk from across Scotland will be marching in Edinburgh on Saturday 7 October in support of UNISON’s campaign to scrap the pay cap and pay up now.

We  are calling on both the UK and the Scottish government to  end the enforced freezes and pay caps that have been in place for the last decade.

In this time the value of the wages of council workers has fallen over 15% behind inflation. This is in effect a cut in the value of our pay by 15%.

We will march  from the Castle, down the Royal Mile to Holyrood for the rally with UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis.

Watch out for free food, entertainment and activities  too!

Free food

  • Cheese Burger & Chips Or Veggie Option
  • Plus Hot or Cold Drink


  • Tickets to Dynamic Earth
  • Face Painters
  • East Lothian Bouncy Castles
  • Giant Event Slide
  • Large Bouncy Castle
  • Surf Simulator
  • Sumo Wrestling set
  • Bungee Run
  • Kids Fun Fair Ride

Join us to get our voices heard and have a great day out too!

Another fantastic family fun day

Another fantastic family fun day at New Lanark was held last Sunday 27 August. It was jam packed with fun activities for the kids.

There was a great variety of music from the Easkilbusbies, Mhairi, the Carmunnock Covers and Palmeros. At top of the bill we had the very talented Alastair McDonald, and Carol Laula accompanying her suceessful students from her song writing session Kay Mullen and Pam Fetters.

Scrap the Cap was the serious message from Gordon Mackay, UNISON’s senior vice president, highlighting the union’s promise to smash the public sector pay cap in the coming year… we are worth it and they can afford it.

Gordon Mackay at New Lanark Family Fun Day
Gordon Mackay at New Lanark Family Fun Day


Mhairi at New Lanark Family Fun Day
Mhairi at New Lanark Family Fun Day


Palmeros at New Lanark Family Fun Day
Palmeros at New Lanark Family Fun Day


Carmunnock Covers at Family Fun Day
Carmunnock Covers at New Lanark Family Fun Day


Alastair McDonald at New Lanark Family Fun Day
Alastair McDonald at New Lanark Family Fun Day


Carol Laula at New Lanark Family Fun Day
Carol Laula at New Lanark Family Fun Day


Family Fun Day at New Lanark Sunday 27 August

Don’t miss a fantastic free family fun day at New Lanark World Heritage site on Sunday 27 August. All members, their families and friends welcome.

There’s  music from Scottish folk singer Alastair McDonald, ukulele and guitar duo Fiona and John,   the Carmunnock Covers, the Easkilbusbies,  and some light original jazz from Mhairi.

Learn to write songs with well known Scottish singer songwriter Carol Laula… and a chance to perform them (only if you want to!)

Plenty to do for the kids too with a bouncy castle, smoothie cycle, balloon modelling, face painting and story telling.

Free buses from EK, Hamilton and Glasgow Contact the South Lanarkshire UNISON Branch Office  to book your places.

UNISON There for You: School Uniform Grant 2017

School Uniform Grants 2017
School Uniform Grants 2017

If you have children in full time education, you may be eligible to receive a school uniform grant from UNISON’s charity There for You.  To be considered, you must either be:

  • In receipt of Housing Benefit; or
  • Your net annual income is £18,000 or below [Note: We ignore the following income Child benefit, any childcare element included as part of your working tax credits, Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment].

Also, you will need to have paid a minimum 4 weeks membership subscriptions before 22nd May 2017.

Get your application form and more information here

Please note the closing date is 21st July.

You deserve fair pay. Vote Now!

UNISON urge council staff to vote in landmark industrial ballot

South Lanarkshire Council UNISON members are being balloted along with their local government colleagues across Scotland in what is seen as the first big test of the new Trade Union Act 2016.

This tory government legislation means that unless 50% of eligible members take part in the ballot, UNISON cannot call industrial action. There have been localised disputes, but this is the first large scale UK ballot under the new legislation.

UNISON local government members across Scotland are being balloted for industrial action, including strike action, because they had already voted overwhelmingly to reject the pay offer that was put forward earlier this year.

Years of pay restraint and inflation means local government pay is worth far less now than ten years ago. Standards of living have been squeezed as the price of food, gas and electricity, travel and childcare continue to rise.

Mike Kirby, UNISON Scotland secretary said, “This UNISON Scotland ballot affects every trade unionist. It is important that we show the UK government that we will not be bullied by the Trade Union Act 2016. Local government staff have seen big cuts in pay and they have the right to decide how they negotiate with their employers. We urge all UNISON members to return their ballot paper before the 30 May deadline.

UNISON members are clear that what is on the table is derisory considering the cuts that council workers have had to endure. The votes of our 70,000 members could affect the future earnings of nearly four times as many workers – so its crucial we make our voice heard. UNISON has fought hard for fair pay and to end pay restraint and we are recommending further industrial action. But above all we are urging UNISON members to vote.”

Editor’s notes

In the recent consultative ballot UNISON members overwhelmingly rejected the employers’ pay offer for 2017/18 – by 78% to 22%. The employers’ offer was: £350 flat rate for those earning up to £35,000; 1% for those earning over £35,001; Scottish local government living wage to be the minimum pay for all pay and allowances including additional hours, contractual overtime and other allowances. It will be pensionble.

Let’s make sure we all get a vote

Register to vote by 22 May
Register to vote by 22 May

Remind your friends to check that they’re registered ‎to vote in this General Election. It’s vital for our public services.

You’d be surprised how many young people are missing from the UK’s electoral register and less than half of 18 to 24-year olds turn out to vote. You might find that some of your friends are not registered to vote, so let them know how to do it. It only takes two minutes, and you and any of your friends and family can register here:‎

Everyone has the right to be involved in the democratic process, let’s make sure no one is denied a voice in the election come 8 June‎.

We have until 22 May to do this.

Mental Health – a guide to Tailored Adjustments

Mental Health is often incorrectly referred to as a “hidden” disability although it’s important to recognise that where a condition affects day to day activities and is predicted to last longer than 12 months this can trigger protections under the legal definitions of the Equality Act 2010 including a right to request reasonable adjustments. This also covers those receiving treatment for a mental health condition under the “deduced affect” definition.

We all have Mental Health and in the workplace during times of rapid change can find ourselves somewhere on the pressure- stress- mental health spectrum. The trigger point from movement to a more severe condition such as Depression or Personality Disorders can be caused by a myriad of factors including influences outside of work and is very much an individual experience.

One in four of us will experience a mental health issue our lifetime. While not all will develop a severe condition, it’s impossible to predict who in the workplace will be affected and this therefore increases the importance of mental health awareness training and an open and honest dialogue on the subject. The Branch is advocating a cross stakeholder approach to creating a culture that encourages understanding and compassion for those affected by these conditions.

As this is very much an individual experience it’s important to put the person at the centre of the discussion on possible workplace adjustments. While GP, Occupational Health and Human Resource advisers all have a role here, ultimately it requires agreement and commitment of all parties to be effective and it’s important at set intervals to review adjustments in place and if they remain fit for purpose.

The Tailored Adjustment plan is a useful tool for recording these agreements and is the living document that provides base line information on adjustments that are required to address an individual’s needs. This can be a valuable asset for future discussions or planning staff support needs if further changes occur such as relocation. There are a number of good practice elements for a Tailored Adjustment Plan to work including:

  • An open and honest dialogue on how their mental health condition impacts in the Workplace and what adjustments might help
  • Focus on what the person can do – not what they can’t
  • Take into account Professional Advice
  • Flexibility to cover mental health condition that can be episodic
  • Identify a mentor or buddy if possible to help in time of crisis
  • Contingency to help local staff accommodate agreed changes – awareness training , make the link clear and transparent to existing policies and procedures ( Equalities, Flexible Working, Health & Safety etc)

Each person’s experience and coping mechanisms for a condition are unique. So what might be an effective workplace change for one person may not be as beneficial for another. Adjustments need to be tailored to the individual although experiences in other workplaces suggest the following checklist may give some useful starting ideas:

Job Modifications

  • Adjust Duties and Responsibilities to prevent trigger points
  • Re- assign elements of current duties within the team – take on some tasks and drop others
  • Alter supervision arrangements
  • Redeployment to a more suitable role

Hours& Breaks

  • Change Shift schedules to accommodate medication and recovery
  • Reduce Hours
  • Allowing workers to use paid or unpaid leave for appointments related to their health condition
  • Alter break times
  • Explore the option of home working

Environmental Adjustments

  • Create a safe personal space to share health concerns
  • Seating arrangements within offices
  • Adjust signage used within the office and methods of sharing work instructions
  • A trusted co-worker or personnel staff member given the role of buddy or job coach
  • Link to in-house resources such as Counselling, Therapeutic support or CBT
  • Reduce noise and distractions through room divers or soundproofing
  • Access to Work Funding

Policy supports and Levers

  • Tailored Adjustment Policy
  • Equalities Policy covering paid leave during Hospitalisation or treatment linked to the condition
  • Flexible Working
  • Option of a Phased Return to Work
  • Health & Safety Duty of Care
  • Disability Leave

Management & Supervision Methods

  • Modify the way instructions and feedback are given
  • Extra Training, Mentoring and Support
  • Performance deadlines and task completion timescales adjusted to reflect agreed adjustments
  • Change of Supervisor

Useful Information Sources