Aberdeenshire UNISON

AGM 2008 Report

Lots of business at AGM

AGM 2008

In a busy and interesting AGM, held on 20th Feb 2008, members set Branch policy on a range of key issues.

The meeting considered a record seven motions which looked at members' terms & conditions and the services they provide, as well as wider, citizenship issues such as housing & child poverty.

It also considered the annual report, which outlines the work of the branch over the past year. This shows how busy the branch has been kept on a range of issues from single status and equal pay to the voluntary sector and the work done to keep members up to date with developments.

The AGM heard that the new Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) will deliver benefits for all its members, and especially for the lower paid, and UNISON is calling for a YES vote when it goes to ballot in March.

Dave Watson, Scottish OrganiserDave Watson UNISON's Scottish Organiser and a key negotiator for the Trade Union side in the pension negotiations, told the meeting that the action taken by UNISON members in 2006, in defence of our pensions, had laid down a clear marker for the employers and the Government.

"Although it was the worst possible time to negotiate on pensions - with attacks on other schemes in the public and private sector - we have been able to get a scheme where everyone's pension will rise and contributions will be fairer, with 60% of our lower paid staff paying less," he told the meeting.
"We have also kept a final salary scheme and we have got a number of other improvements, including increased death in service benefits and extended partners' pensions.
"There will also be more choice for those retiring with an option to take up to 25% of your annual pension as a lump sum. Every 1 of your pension that you give up will become 12 as a lump sum.
"This gives members greater flexibility, but will also mean savings for the pension fund, as experience shows that large numbers of members will opt for a lump sum and a smaller pension," said Dave.

There followed a lively question and answer session when Branch members were able to get very helpful clarification on some of the more complex issues in the scheme.

Thanking Dave on behalf of the meeting, Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair paid tribute to the work of UNISON's negotiators in getting a scheme which was both fairer and also offered benefits and protections for all its members. She called on the meeting to vote YES in the ballot and to encourage colleagues to do the same.

UNISON members conditioned to the LGPS will be balloted on the scheme between 3rd and 21st March. Click here for further information or to return to the pensions update page.


AGM Challenges Criteria for shift allowances
Branch negotiators have been sent to negotiate changes to the criteria for shift allowances, implemented following single status.

Lesley Ogston"The current system is complex, divisive and just doesn't work, "Lesley Ogston, Residential Care sector told the AGM. "Relief staff, who make up a large proportion of the workforce in residential services for the elderly, often work full-time, but do not meet the criteria. It's the same with staff who work split shifts, one of the most demanding types of shift work", she added.

Bob Revie, Branch Secretary pledged support from the Branch Committee to take these proposals back to the negotiating table.

Click here to see motion


Like for like funding call
The Branch will call on UNISON Scotland to build on their joint campaign to secure proper funding for the Community & Voluntary Sector.

Bob Revie"For too long our voluntary sector members have been hit by a lack of funding. We are calling for their pay & conditions to be the same as their colleagues in Local Government and for proper funding to ensure high quality services to their users," said Bob Revie.

Jean Montgomery, Cornerstone steward told the meeting that their pay award of 1.5% was well below even the paltry Local Government award. "However, even worse than that is that Cornerstone is having to close down services to vulnerable adults because they can't afford to maintain them," she added.

These concerns about service closures were echoed by members from Inspire who also described unacceptable working conditions - 10 hours without a break. They pledged their willingness to work with the UNISON stewards in Inspire to campaign against the erosion of their terms & conditions, and for improved funding for the voluntary sector.

Click here to see motion


Better recognition for school support staff.
The AGM supported the work of the Branch and at Scottish level to protect the interests of our members who support the education of our children in schools, and called on UNISON through the STUC, to seek the support of the teaching unions in getting proper recognition, pay and status for the work of these staff.

Inez Teece"These staff are essential to the education of our children, and this has been clearly shown through research such as 'Valuable Assets', a report by the Equal Opportunities Commission on classroom assistants. Yet they are still seen as second class citizens in schools," said Inez Teece, Assistant Secretary.

She also told the AGM that UNISON has set up an Education Issues Group at Scottish level to take forward the concerns of our members in education.

Click here to see motion


Branch calls for affordable homes
The Branch is to affiliate to Shelter and support its campaign for 30,000 affordable rented homes to be built.

Steve Gray, Planning & Environmental Services told the AGM that the relationship between house prices and earnings has broken down, as the supply of affordable housing has become limited over the last 20 years, with the number of council homes sold exceeding the number of new affordable homes being built on an annual basis.

In Aberdeenshire at the end of 2007 homeless applications were 1,636, up from 1,467 in 2006. There are about 7,000 people on the Aberdeenshire Council Housing Waiting List.

"The lack of affordable housing is going to impact more upon UNISON members as some members struggle to find a home of their own and others face requests to help to fund their children's first home by re-mortgaging their own home," said Steve. "Shelter Scotland has campaigned to raise awareness of the developing crisis in affordable housing and to look for solutions to it," Steve added calling on the AGM to support the motion.

Click here to see motion


Branch action leads to significant improvements for asylum seeker children
Kate RamsdenThe AGM pledged its continuing support to the campaign which started in 2006 to challenge the inhumane treatment of asylum seeker children and to support UNISON members who work with these children to practice ethically and put their interests first.

Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair, spoke of the significant achievements since the Branch first raised its concerns.

"UNISON has influenced a huge change in the political culture in Scotland and many more protections have now been put in place for these children. UNISON members in Scotland have welcomed the guide we issued and guidance is now being produced for members across the U.K. The campaigning work has brought great credit on the Branch and the union in Scotland," she said.

Click here to see motion


Call to End Child Poverty
The Branch will urge UNISON Scotland to join with the campaign to end child poverty in Scotland to press for a clear strategy to improve educational outcomes for children living in poverty and to support our members to advocate for improved services for these children.

"Our members in community learning, education and social work are key to supporting these children to achieve their potential, but they are an easy target for cuts. If the Government is serious about reducing child poverty, this needs to change," said Kate Ramsden, Housing & Social Work, calling for proper investment in these services.

Supporting the motion, Gordon Thomson, Planning & Environmental Services told the AGM that 30 years ago before the Thatcher Government only one in ten children lived in poverty. "At its worst it was one in three children, but one in four is still a national disgrace and action is needed to address the inequalities which lead to this."

Click here to see motion


More stewards please!
Once again there were no elections for officers' or stewards' posts and the business of the branch was quickly dealt with. There was the annual plea for more stewards and workplace contacts to come forward. The branch is busy but members can take on as much or as little as they feel they can manage in these posts and there will be lots of support and training available to those interested. Click here for a list of stewards and branch officers.

Ian McDonaldIan McDonald, Branch Treasurer reported that once again, branch finances are healthy and the AGM approved the accounts and the honoraria paid to key branch officers for their services to the branch.

The AGM recorded a vote of thanks to all the branch activists, branch officers and full-time staff who have worked so hard over the past year.


Prize draw
Jean Montgomery gets prize from Kate RamsdenIn a new development the meal for two was won by, Jean Mongomery, Cornerstone, pictured here receiving her prize from Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair.