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UNISON response to Cornerstone chief executive’s email

Cornerstone Vote No posterAs promised last week, we have now prepared a full response to chief executive Edel Harris’s email. For ease of reference we have copied Edel’s email and added our response to each part of the email in blue writing. Please take the time to read our response and share with any colleagues who do not have access to it.

And remember – please return your ballot paper, it only takes a minute to have your say!

Email: ‘The Cornerstone annual pay award is on Microsoft Teams for you all to view.
The pay award has been prepared following numerous negotiation meetings with UNISON.’

UNISON response: There were three pay meetings where there was no attempt at negotiation despite the staff side’s best efforts on your behalf.

Email: ‘Disappointingly, despite our best efforts, representatives from the union appear to be trying to disrupt the implementation of Local Cornerstone and to create a divide between what they describe as ‘management’ and ‘workers’. Whilst the reasons for this are not fully clear to us it seems likely that they are unable / unwilling to adapt and accept our new ways of working.’

UNISON response: UNISON represents members at every level in the organisation. It is therefore nonsense to suggest that it is the staff side that is causing this divide. We reject any notion of us not being able to move to new ways of working.

UNISON has been around the country promoting the voluntary LCAST model we negotiated in good faith. 

The staff side have been instrumental in the increase in take up of the new model over the last six months.

Email:  ‘For those of you who have worked for us for a long time know, we are a good employer and we always do our very best to pay our valued colleagues as much as we can afford.’

UNISON response:  Our members at every level are telling us that they no longer feel that the Cornerstone LT is listening to them, leaving them feeling that they are no longer a good and fair employer.

Email:  ‘For over 30 years we enjoyed a good relationship with UNISON and we always worked well together in the interests of Cornerstone colleagues and UNISON members. We aren’t doing anything differently now and are therefore disappointed and frustrated as to why UNISON colleagues are taking what appears to be such an adversarial approach.’

UNISON response: It is fair to say that the staff side have, when we are in agreement with the LT, had a working relationship especially when Nick Baxter who signed the voluntary recognition agreement was in post. Whenever we seek to disagree on behalf of staff or challenge a LT decision we are accused of damaging the relationship. 

We are working in the best interests of all staff who do the most amazing jobs in very difficult circumstances and will continue to do so. 

Email: ‘I am planning to meet with our stewards in the next few weeks to see if we can clear the air and get back to a place where we work constructively together for the benefit of all Cornerstone employees and most importantly the people we support.’

UNISON response: Edel has a long standing invite to attend the UNISON stewards meeting issued earlier in the year.  Due to diary commitments the earliest date agreed some months ago was November.

Email: ‘UNISON has recommended to members that they reject the 2018/19 pay offer. If you are a UNISON member we feel that we need to correct some of the material inaccuracies that are in the UNISON newsletter, to help you make your decision. If you are not a UNISON member we would like to make you aware of the current situation and hear your views.’

‘This offer was made to us in line with the Cornerstone’s Boards instructions and was not open for negotiation.’

‘This is not a true statement. We have held several negotiation meetings with UNISON stewards and representatives about the pay offer and the proposal is the final offer for UNISON members to vote on following that consultation. The Boardmeeting to make the final decision isn’t until 6 November 2018 and is scheduled for after the ballot so that the ballot results can be taken into account. This is the same process we have followed every year since I became CEO.’

UNISON response: We were advised by Lynne Robertson that the offer was the board’s decision and not up for discussion.  We only had three meetings on pay where we were told the position. No negotiations took place.  We attempted to table a number of alternatives for consideration but were ignored.  Secondly, if the Board has still to meet on the 6th November them you have to ask why on earth a full and final offer has been tabled.  With all pay negotiations, the board decision follows the conclusion of detailed negotiations.  The statements here simply don’t make sense.

Email: ‘We feel that this offer does not take staffs views in to account. Staff have been clear, both in staff surveys and in consultation with UNISON that pay is a major issue for them. In our view, this offer addresses none of our members concerns.’

‘Cornerstone always listen to colleagues views – this is why we have employee directors (the only third sector care provider in Scotland to do so), an Engagement Forum and a voluntary agreement with a union.’

UNISON response: If the Cornerstone LT is listening why have they concluded the pay talks without negotiation?  The staff has articulated through every channel open to them that pay is an issue. The staff side came to the table in good faith to reach a negotiated settlement that we could recommend to members.  We were denied that chance on your behalf. The Employee Directors and the staff engagement forum members cannot negotiate on pay and so we are unsure of the point being made here

Email: ‘We would love to offer better pay and indeed this is what Local Cornerstone is all about. When we make a success of LC front line colleagues should be paid more than any other care provider is offering. We are already making good progress with this by offering £10 per hour which is more than the majority of other care providers and we are just at the start of our journey.’

UNISON response: UNISON has agreed a reward to retain pilot with another charity to pay frontline care workers £10 with effect from October with no additional responsibility.  UNISON has also negotiated with several unionised large charity employers in Scotland to pay care workers more than the SLW.  Staff across the country have told us and management that £10 per hour is simply not enough to cover the additional duties required in the team member role.  The staff side continue to support the up-skilling of staff but it can’t be done on the cheap.  If Cornerstone doesn’t listen to staff and work with us to find a solution it is very likely that care staff outside Cornerstone will be earning more than us sooner rather than later.  This has the potential to damage and slow down the uptake for the pilot – something we remain keen to avoid.

Email: ‘As you know we rely mainly on settlements from local authorities as this income is critical to our financial position. If you look at our 2018/19budget you will see that we anticipate an operating deficit at year end and it is in this context that we are negotiating the pay award.’

UNISON response: UNISON full time officers agreed at pay talks to contact their Local Government branches to seek assistance with getting funds released earlier so that staff could be paid an hourly rate for sleepovers much earlier in the year.  UNISON is currently in talks with Dundee and North Lanarkshire for instance.

Email: ‘It should be noted that UNISON has accepted pay awards from other comparable organisations that are not as favourable as the Cornerstone offer including some where other charities are not committing to paying the SLW per hour for sleepovers. We plan to pay SLW for sleepovers from 1st October 2018.’

UNISON response: Quarriers and Capability Scotland who work in partnership with UNISON have negotiated to pay sleepovers at the SLW hourly rate from the 1st April 2018.  The staff side want Cornerstone staff to have the same benefit.

Email: ‘UNISON urges our members to remember that:-

• This pay rise is below inflation, hitting those who do not receive the Scottish Living Wage hard’
Sadly all care provider organisations are in the same boat and UNISON has recently accepted pay offers from other care providers that are all below inflation.

• The extra work taken on LCAST members is not reflected in this offer’ –
Last year UNISON agreed to accept a £10 per hour (plus any inflationary uplift) deal for a two year period and we don’t understand why they are not now honouring that deal.’

UNISON response: Only members can agree to the pay deal so it is incorrect to state UNISON agreed to accept £10 per hour.  Our members voted via an all members ballot to accept this last year.  This year our members have been clear that this is no longer acceptable to them and mandated us to seek a pay rise given the extra responsibilities they are being asked to take on in some cases for a very small pay rise.  Your staff side representatives are listening to you – the LT are not.

Email: ‘Feedback we have received from LCAST members is that they are enjoying the role and enjoying having the increase in pay. Currently all those in the team member role have gone into it voluntarily. There is no compulsion for anyone to increase their pay to £10 an hour if they don’t want to.’

‘The aspiration is still for the team member role to be paid at £12 an hour.’

UNISON response: Many UNISON members have volunteered to become part of an LCAST team.  The feedback to us is very positive,  staff are enjoying the challenges and seeing the reward for themselves and the people they support.  The consistent message from the volunteers to the staff side is that £10 (or indeed £12) is simply not an appropriate level of pay for all the additional responsibilities. 

Email: ‘There is always money for a pay rise for Senior Management’
‘This is not a true statement and UNISON has never asked us to explain the leadership team pay arrangements. The CEO and members of the senior leadership team haven’t received any inflationary increase since they were appointed to their new posts in 2016.’

UNISON response: For clarity the salaries are a matter of public record and the voluntary recognition agreement does not cover bargaining rights for the LT so we are unable to table questions as our focus has to be on the staff we represent.

Email: ‘In a previous UNISON newsletter the union stated that Branch Leaders and Coaches have had thousands of pounds in a pay increase. Since appointed into their roles they have had NO pay increase.’

UNISON response: At negotiations the staff side agreed following job evaluation what the salaries should be for the Branch Leaders and Coaches.  After it was agreed the LT came back to advise us that the salaries were being increased by £5000 for each post.  We were happy to see these staff members appropriately rewarded for the important roles they were about to undertake.  All we seek now is parity for the rest of the staff.  Everyone is working hard to make Local Cornerstone a success, but sadly not achieving the promised pay rewards being delivered to early senior roles.

Email: ‘•Your sick pay is one of the worst across unionised employers in the Charity Sector’
‘Our sickness payment policy was negotiated and agreed with UNISON nearly 11 years ago and is comparable to other organisations of our type.’

UNISON response: Where we have UNISON recognition and the charity has signed up to Fair Work UNISON has negotiated sick pay in line with the UNISON staff side pay claim.  Part of being a Fair Work employer is about having good terms and conditions.  Sick pay is funded so you need to ask why it’s not being paid?  This was an easy one for Cornerstone LT to grant yet they stated from the outset that they would not be amending sick pay.  Is this the behaviour of a good and fair employer?

Email: ‘I am very sorry to be sending this email but we have faced this unprofessional and sometimes defamatory behaviour from UNISON for long enough, doing all we can to repair the relationship. There has been lots of inaccurate and false statements in their recent social media posts which we have ignored but when they publicise untruths which may impact on a decision that is taken on something as important as pay, I felt it important to speak up and correct the position.’

UNISON response: We as stewards have taken these comments very personally.  We are staff volunteers who enjoy our job, work as hard as you do to ensure the people we support get the very best from us every day.  We have never and would never seek to share false information. What possible reason would we have to do so? 

We are elected to represent you and as you can see we are being ignored, attacked and falsely accused of being unprofessional just for advocating on behalf of you our colleagues.  Remember the LT have walked away from the table not the staff side.  They continue to refused to engage with us in an open and transparent manner.

For clarity we support Local Cornerstone because that’s what our members tell us they want.   We want staff to be paid a decent wage and to be up-skilled and valued.  This process has to be done with staff not to them.

Email:It is important that we hear the voices of all our colleagues across the organisation, the majority of whom are not UNISON members.

‘Please speak to me, someone else from the leadership team, Engagement Forum member or a HR colleague if you require any further clarity.

‘There is huge interest across the UK and beyond in what we are trying to achieve with Local Cornerstone. We have the support of our regulators, local authorities and the Scottish Government. The reason we have this support is because instead of just talking about improving working conditions for those in the care sector we are actually doing something about it.’

UNISON response: Where is the evidence of improved working conditions for frontline staff, Service Managers, Team Leaders and staff in Central Services?  Why do they have to wait until the pilot concludes in March 2020 to get answers?   

Email: ‘Local Cornerstone will only be a success when we can demonstrate that we have an up-skilled, better paid, trusted and happy workforce. I hope you can see the efforts we are making and I hope you continue to be proud, as I am, to work for such a highly regarded and pioneering charity.’

UNISON response: All staff are jointly responsible for the exemplary reputation that Cornerstone has we just want to be heard and valued.  We would ask that the LT reflect on recent events and get back to working with the staff representatives to ensure the success of Cornerstone now and into the future.  The people we support deserve better.

Email:  ‘I hope you are assured by this email.
Edel Harris
Chief Executive’


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