Community News

UNISON responds to Cornerstone Chief Executive – important read!

UNISON Cornerstone - standing up for membersAs Cornerstone members will know, the Cornerstone Chief Executive issued 2 communications on 12/11/18 in relation to the pay offer and the general relationship with UNISON. As promised we have provided a full response to those communications below. Our comments are in bold for ease of reference.

Hopefully you find this clarification helpful, and we would ask that you share this with your colleagues and encourage them to join UNISON.

UNISON Cornerstone Stewards

Communication 1 – Sent by Chief Executive at 13.31 on 12/11/18

I am emailing to let you know that at a recent Cornerstone Board meeting the Cornerstone Board has decided to review our relationship with UNISON, following deterioration in the relationship over the last 2 years.

  • UNISON stewards do not understand the reference to “deterioration in the relationship over the last 2 years”. UNISON and Cornerstone has successfully worked on a number of projects including the Fair Work Framework, the Violence at Work Charter, the Self Organised Team pilot, etc. UNISON will be publishing examples of these in separate communications.
  • In our view, the relationship has deteriorated since the Cornerstone Leadership Team walked away from talks with UNISON on a number of issues. This seemed to tie in with UNISON raising an issue with the Leadership Team over inaccurate comments made in the Local Cornerstone Year 1 Report.

Cornerstone entered into a voluntary recognition agreement with UNISON in December 1994.  The aim was to facilitate good working arrangements, recognising both parties’ common interest in furthering Cornerstone’s purpose.  Both parties declared a common objective to maintain good industrial relations.

We have become increasingly concerned and frustrated that UNISON’s approach has made the relationship with Cornerstone increasingly fractious and unproductive.

UNISON’s misinformation and hostile and uncooperative tone have caused alarm and disquiet amongst our staff and some of the people we support and their families.

  • UNISON rejects this accusation completely. UNISON, as always, has only sought to communicate issues that our members have raised with us, or attempted to hold Cornerstone to its own policies and procedures to prevent detriment to our members. In our view, this is the trade union steward’s role.
  • Other employers understand the role of trade union stewards and work with them when issues are raised. This is how UNISON improves pay and conditions at work for our members.

UNISON’s approach has adversely affected Cornerstone’s ability to achieve its strategic and operational objectives, which is precisely the opposite of the jointly agreed purpose of the original union agreement.

  • Again, UNISON stewards reject this accusation. UNISON stewards have always been clear that we are supportive of Local Cornerstone, because this was our member’s position. Raising issues and asking to work together with Cornerstone to resolve them does not adversely affect the project. The refusal to recognise issues raised by staff and not finding a way to resolve them does however affect the ability to deliver the project.
  • UNISON stewards do not have the power to arrange for full and proper IT support for LCAST teams, to seek funding to pay LCAST team members appropriately, to demonstrate the savings that LCAST pilots are making, or to identify the need for the new management roles that are being introduced. To suggest that UNISON is somehow affecting these things is baffling. Only the Leadership Team can be responsible for these things.
  • However, following these comments, the UNISON team now has concerns that the LCAST project is indeed failing. Cornerstone has not approached the UNISON stewards to raise this with a view to how it can be delivered professionally which clearly breaches the Terms of Reference that were agreed on 27/09/17.

We believe that an on-going relationship with a trade union is dependent on a reciprocal and participative approach being displayed by the union. Despite our efforts to promote a positive and professional working relationship, this has not been reciprocated by UNISON.

  • It is our view that a positive and professional working relationship can only be achieved through true engagement and commitment from both parties. Cornerstone walking away from discussions, refusing to address outstanding issues, and removing the Leadership Team from all talks with the UNISON stewards does not demonstrate a positive and professional working relationship. For clarity your UNISON team has never walked away from negotiations.

However, in a final attempt to rebuild the relationship, the Board agreed to offer to engage with UNISON under the auspices of ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service).

During the ACAS discussions we will need to be reassured of UNISON’s ability and genuine commitment to improve and sustain a positive relationship with Cornerstone.  Should this not be attained, the Board will have no other option but to withdraw from the relationship.

  • As you will know, UNISON invited Cornerstone to ACAS conciliation on 31/10/18. These talks are to deal with a formal dispute in relation to the rejection of the pay offer and other matters. The letter can be found on Facebook, the UNISON Aberdeenshire website, Twitter, etc.
  • UNISON stewards are confused by Cornerstone’s position as outlined in these 2 paragraphs. In order to move to ACAS conciliation, you must be in a formal dispute. No dispute has been lodged by Cornerstone on the relationship.
  • Whilst your UNISON stewards would be happy to engage with Cornerstone and ACAS if a formal dispute is lodged, it would be an extraordinary and unprecedented move for an employer to take its own staff stewards to ACAS to discuss their commitment to the organisation. We will of course advise you of any developments in this regard.

If we have to withdraw from the voluntary agreement this in no way affects your rights to be a member of a trade union nor your right to have a trade union official or steward to support you on any individual matter concerning you at work.

If you get asked any questions from concerned people whom we support or families we have prepared a statement that can be shared with them.  Contact the ASC team on 0300 131 3333 for a copy.

We will be trying to host as many face to face meetings with you all as we can but if you have any questions or concerns on reading this please talk to your Branch Leader, one of the Coaches, an HR Adviser or a Cornerstone Central Lead.  Alternatively phone or email me directly and I will be happy to talk to you.

  • UNISON stewards have been contacted by concerned members and we hope that this response helps to ease any concerns that you have in the meantime. UNISON will soon be embarking on further members meetings, where we hope to see as many of you as possible. Please look out for further information in the coming weeks.

We will also be providing a Frequently Asked Questions document which will be posted on Microsoft Teams.

  • For the avoidance of doubt, UNISON stewards will be reviewing the FAQ’s and providing factual comments as necessary.

There will be a separate communication about the pay award for 2018/19.

Edel Harris


Communication 2 – Sent by Chief Executive at 13.33 on 12/11/18

At the Cornerstone Board meeting held last week the Board of Directors discussed the pay award for 2018/19 taking into account the feedback we have received from the engagement forum and from UNISON.

You will probably know by now that of those UNISON members who voted in the ballot 92% rejected the pay offer.  We don’t know how many employees the 92% represents because despite asking UNISON for the numbers they have refused to tell us.

  • For clarity, whilst UNISON is obliged to release full ballot information when running statutory ballots, there are no such obligations when running consultative ballots of our membership. As such UNISON Scotland’s standing policy across all employers is not to reveal anything other than the basic result.

 We feel that we put forward a fair and generous offer and one that is affordable in the current climate.

  • This has not been demonstrated to UNISON stewards. As we previously advised, direct questions over affordability were not answered during the 3rd (and final) meeting on pay.
  • Additionally, funding is being provided by Scottish Government (through Local Authorities) to have sleepovers paid at the SLW rate of £8.75. UNISON is assisting a number of employers, including Cornerstone, by ensuring that Local Authorities have passed this funding on to them. Why Cornerstone will not commit to backdating to 01/04/18, even at a later point, was never fully explained.

Because we still have a voluntary agreement with UNISON we are bound by the collective bargaining process and this means that any pay increases due to you are on hold until the negotiating process concludes.

We are sorry but this means there will be no backdated payments in your November pay packet.  I know many of you would find this useful at Christmas time.

If you have any questions about this correspondence please ask your Branch Leader, a Coach, an HR Adviser or a member of the leadership team or email me directly.

  • Remember that you can contact any one of your 13 UNISON stewards about any of the issues in this email.

Edel Harris