Branch Secretary’s Report to AGM’s 2016
I would like to thank you for attending today it’s important to us as officers that members have an opportunity to hear from us the work that we’ve been involved in over the past 12 months, I would also like to thank the office staff who provide the front line support for our members, activists, Branch Officers and stewards and are the first point of contact for our members when the contact the branch, as well as dealing with all the administration of our busy office our office staff also play the role of agony aunt when members call up with a problem and need to share it with someone, also to our stewards and branch officers who deal daily with members issues, the issues they deal with are spread across all services and cover all aspects of employment, from grievances at work to disciplinary hearings.
The branch faced unprecedented challenges in 2015, if the biggest cuts the council has ever seen wasn’t enough, the Scottish Government piled on a further £17 Million of cuts onto Fife. The Scottish Government rightly set up a task force after 300 jobs were lost at Tata Steel, but it has done nothing about the 4,000 jobs lost at Fife Council and 40,000 lost since 2010 across all Scottish councils.
The branch has rightly called this the ‘Tories Decimation of Council Services’, make no mistake that without the protection of the Union we would be facing more job losses, huge cuts in terms & conditions and the creeping in of privatisation of public services, in 2016 that protection is now under threat, a healthy and democratic trade union movement is essential to any society but the Government is pushing through an Anti-union Bill that will take away your rights as a union member and affect your ability to defend yourself at work.
The Government plans to restrict union ballots so that we would need not just a majority to take action but at least 40% of all members eligible to vote, if that applied to MPs, only a tiny minority of them would have been elected, they know that people don’t tend to post things these days and the turnout in a postal ballot will always be low but, alongside this restriction, they intend to keep the law that stops unions using the same online voting that the Tory party used to elect its London mayoral candidate, they also plan to take away your right to pay union subs through your wages and to restrict the rights of union reps’ time off to represent you, it is an unashamed attack on basic trade union rights in a democracy, it is an unashamed attack on Trade Unions and it is an unashamed attack on you, the members, we have to stand firm, stand united with all our other trade union brothers & sisters and oppose this draconian bill at every opportunity.
Last week elected members approved the budget for the next 3 years, with a deficit of £94 million to be saved there will be some difficult decisions to make. UNISON Fife wrote to all elected members ahead of the budget setting process requesting that they reject austerity, whilst recognising that they have a duty to return a balanced budget they supported our position. As a branch we will be looking to campaign with our elected officials with a view to securing additional funding for Local Government this will be done in conjunction with our regional and national organisation, On the 3rd of February Unison was well represented at the Demo outside the Scottish Parliament.
If ever people needed to be in a union this is the time. With at least 15,000 council jobs still to go in Scotland and an unprecedented level of cuts our Unison branch faces its most serious challenge to date. As people leave those remaining will face increasing workloads and if we are faced with compulsory redundancies we must be prepared to ballot our members on industrial action, last year Homelessness Case Workers in Glasgow successfully struck for fair pay and regrading, hospital porters in Dundee did the same, If Junior doctors can stand up for themselves and take industrial action so can we! Like them we must make it clear to the public and the media that we are defending services as well as our own jobs, so we must reach out to service users of all our public services and their families to build a Fife wide campaign that says enough is enough.
Many of you will be aware of the Reshaping Support Services Program, which most of us will know as 3S this has been a difficult process for those members involved and is in the final stages now.
The Health and Social Care Agenda in Fife has seen a greater linkage between Local Government and NHS colleagues in the services we provide, Unison have a seat on the staffing board where we are represented by Eleanor Haggett, Assistant Branch Secretary who works actively to make sure that the services our members undertake are recognised and protected as a result of this integration, in addition I represent the joint trade unions on the Shadow Board of the Health and Social care Partnership.
Whilst the previous year saw restructuring of directorates this resulted in an unprecedented 11 Managing Change Exercises starting at the same time in the autumn of last year putting a considerable strain on Service Condition Officers time over the last six months.
As the caseload coming through the branch increases, we’ve had contact from over 1200 members seeking advice/assistance in the last 12 months this equated to over 500 cases escalating to formal support and representation being provided by our Branch Officers plus our service stewards are now picking up a considerable amount of issues they are able to deal with and without them we would find it difficult to function so I would particularly like to thank them for all their efforts and ask if anyone wishes to join our activist group please see me at the end of the meeting.
I would like to close by thanking our members for their continued support and hope to see you out supporting our campaign to protect our Council Services, Council services are about people, people provide them and people rely upon them, the promoters of austerity don’t see the young, the old, the needy and the infirm reliant upon our services, they see only cost, this is why we, united under the banner of UNISON will stand up for our public services, 2016 will be a challenge for us all but I would say to you, this will be met head on by your union, the protection of public services in Fife is our goal and this can be achieved if we all stand together this coming year, come to our marches & lobbies and if your workplace has no stewards then stand or help elect one, we need each other, we belong together as a union because we are united by more than what separates us, if you stand with us, we will stand with you, we are Unison.