Branch secretary, Inez Kirk, and branch member, Kate Ramsden, who is also a member of UNISON’s National Executive Council (NEC) were both at the podium speaking up for UNISON Scotland members at STUC Congress from 17-19 April in Dundee.
A full report of the debates that UNISON was involved in can be found here
Against the National Care Service Bill
Congress delivered a stinging condemnation of the Scottish Government’s National Care Service Bill. With a call from UNISON that the Bill should be scrapped and discussions started about a real National Care Service.
The National Care Service (Scotland) Bill puts the future of up to 75,000 council workers and an unknown number of NHS workers into question; jeopardises future pension provision for staff who transfer out of local government or the NHS to whoever the proposed Care Boards issue contracts to, and risks damaging the pension funds of staff who remain in local government.
Moving, UNISON’s Kate Ramsden told Congress: “The NCS bill is an outsourcers’ charter. The way it will be set up, with Care Boards commissioning services, paves the way for massive outsourcing and privatisation.
“Just at the time when we are seeing the huge folly of outsourcing in social care services”
Kate finished her speech by making the call for the Scottish Government to scrap a plan so poorly drawn up, they have already been forced to delay it twice.
“This bill needs to be withdrawn and a proper process of engagement begun including with service users, communities, councils and unions, to create the kind of NCS we all want to see.”
Supporting our right to know
Congress supported a call to update Scotland’s Freedom of information legislation by backing the proposal being put to Holyrood by Katy Clark MSP.
The motion, moved by the National Union of Journalists, also outlined how the Scottish Government is failing to meet obligations under the current Act.
Speaking for UNISON in the debate Inez Kirk outlined where current legislation is failing to deliver and outlined a different approach.
She said: “What we have is a double standard – what we need is a single principle. The principle that with public money comes public accountability. Our right to know should not be dependent on the name of the organisation or its corporate structure.
“If you are spending public money, then you should be accountable for what you are doing – regardless of what sort of organisation you are or whether your purpose is public good or private profit. ”
This is the basis of a Members Bill Katy Clark MSP is seeking to put before the Scottish Parliament a move of which UNISON has been highly supportive.
“Transparency matters” Inez told Congress, and congress agreed.
Justice doesn’t come cheap
Congress backed calls for improved resourcing for the criminal justice system.
This came in the form of a motion highlighting the unsustainable pressures facing the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. These have been worsened by the resulting backlog of court cases built up during the Covid Pandemic remained high and may not be cleared until 2026.
Speaking on behalf of UNISON, Kate Ramsden started reminded congress that UNISON represented members in justice social work, a key part of the criminal justice team.
Highlighting the pressures faced by our members Kate stated that “The cuts, the lack of investment, the unsustainable pressures also impact on justice social workers. They have told us how cuts have affected them – as well as their colleagues across the justice system.”
“If justice social workers are given the time and the resources to support these clients, they can help them make positive changes, supporting them to have a better future, reducing recidivism and protecting communities. They play a critical role in the criminal justice system.”
Supporting the call for a substantial increase in funding for criminal justice budgets across the board Kate also welcomed the PCS initiative in commissioning a report into all aspects of Scotland’s justice system. She stated that such work was urgently required but ought to include the voices of UNISON members working in justice social work.