Aberdeenshire UNISON

Aberdeenshire Branch AGM 2007

Busy year for branch as progress made

Single status
Equal pay
Voluntary sector

Support for asylum seeker children
Branch business

Members attending the branch AGM were the first to hear, hot off the press, that all three trade unions have now accepted the council's single status proposals. This was the major issue at an AGM on 21st February that reflected the hugely busy year for branch officers and activists with complex negotiations and campaigning on single status, equal pay and pensions.

"It has been a long process and the negotiations have been fraught at times, as UNISON has fought to get the best possible deal for our members," Bob Revie, Branch Secretary told the AGM. "We know that not everyone is happy with the outcome and we will continue to support and advise members who wish to appeal their mappings. However, we believe the scheme is fit for purpose in terms of pay equality and the best we could achieve through negotiation."

Few losers
The AGM heard from Emma Philips, Regional Organiser, that the branch has achieved a scheme which has relatively few losers. "This compares favourably with other schemes such as the Shetland scheme where around 50% of the workforce face a cut in wages," she added.

A lively question and answer session followed as members checked out how the appeals process will work and the support they can expect from the union. "We are hoping that many more of our members will come forward as stewards and workplace contacts and will do the training on appeals, so that they can support their colleagues," said Emma. She added that this need not be a lot of work and that time to do this work will be arranged.

The motion on single status calling on the Branch Committee to keep up the good work, to keep members informed and to encourage member involvement was carried overwhelmingly.
Click here for regular updates on single status.


Branch wins equal pay claims
Almost half the equal pay grievances lodged by the branch have been resolved to the satisfaction of the members, Inez Teece, Assistant Secretary (Service Conditions) told the AGM. "Many of our members accepted the compensation offers made by the council back in May last year, but the branch has supported many members to take grievances against the council," she said. "Others, including the equal pay claim by classroom assistants, have been lodged at Employment Tribunal."

Support pledged for voluntary sector
The plight of the voluntary sector was highlighted by members attending the AGM who are employed by voluntary organisations. They spoke of the problems caused by the funding squeeze both for staff and for the service users. "Because of these cuts, our service users no longer get the quality of service they used to. We feel this is discriminatory," said one member.

Bob pledged UNISON's support at both local and national level, to campaign for improved pay and conditions. He acknowledged that the squeeze is a result of the voluntary sector being at the end of the funding chain. "It is all to do with local authority funding," he said, "and we will continue to raise the funding issues and the wider practice issues both locally and nationally."
Click here for more information.

"Cautious optimism" for new pensions scheme
There was some good news for members on the pensions front, and the AGM heard about the talks underway to design a new look pension scheme which will be distinctively Scottish.
"We were very disappointed that the magnificent day of action last March did not save the Rule of 85," said Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair. "However there are some grounds for "cautious optimism" that the new scheme will give improved benefits for members, many of whom are relatively low paid," she added, citing the average wage of pension scheme members as 16,000.

Ian McDonald, Branch Treasurer added that the scheme is likely to remain a final salary scheme and looks set to include improved partner benefits and death benefits and a better basis for ill-health retiral as well as a flexible retirement scheme. "Once the scheme is finalised there will be a full consultation and a ballot of all members," he told the meeting.
Click here for more pensions news.


Branch calls for action on asylum families
The branch is to keep up the pressure for the humane treatment of asylum seeker families and their children. The AGM voted overwhelmingly to submit another motion to UNISON's Annual Delegate Conference, calling on the union to campaign at a UK level for an end to dawn raids and the detention of children, and an amnesty for asylum families who have lived in the country for more than a year.

Proposing the motion, Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair, outlined the progress already made in Scotland since the branch put a motion to UNISON's Scottish Council last year. She pointed to the guide for members working with asylum seeker children; the talks with the Scottish Executive about their proposed protocol to ensure the needs of these children are assessed; and the links built with other like minded organisations. However, she warned there is no room for complacency.

"Dawn raids and locking up children are still happening," she told the meeting. "We need to get this issue onto the national stage and get UNISON nationally to join forces with others to put pressure on the Westminster government to end these appalling practices."
Click here for more information.

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. For the new list of branch officers and stewards click here.

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 once again to all the branch activists, branch officers and full-time staff who have worked so hard over the past year.