Joint Trade Unions press for First Minister’s intervention on ‘inconsistent’ approach to Covid-19 across Scotland’s local authorities

Scotland’s leading trade unions in local government are calling on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to take urgent action to address the inconsistent approach being taken by local authorities across Scotland, which could risk lives.

UNISON, Unite and GMB collectively represent over 120,000 workers in local authorities across Scotland, many of whom are on the frontline delivering essential services and providing care to vulnerable groups.

The trade unions have been involved in ongoing discussions with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) on their response to this crisis, but are increasingly concerned that the lack of urgency and consistency is now putting service users and workers at risk that it now requires the First Minister’s direct intervention.

In a letter to the First Minister sent today (Wednesday) the trade unions are highlighting a number of key concerns including:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – Ongoing concerns regarding the availability and quality of PPE for workers. There are specific issues regarding the availability of PPE for those working with vulnerable users in home care settings and the need for urgent clarification over the self-isolation for workers who have been in close contact with service users confirmed as having the virus.
  • Testing Workers – There is an urgent need to test frontline workers in accordance with WHO guidance. There appears to be no strategy or consistency currently about when tests will be rolled out and who will be tested.
  • Social Distancing– Serious concerns continue about the ability of workers to observe social distancing measures at work.  There are particular difficulties with workers being told to travel to sites in the same vehicle – in waste and home care services in particular.
  • Key Workers– The need for greater clarity around who meets the definition of a ‘key worker’ because there are many situations where some workers in some authorities are being deemed ‘key workers’ and others are not.
  • Waste Collection– The need for a one nation policy on residential waste collection. 32 local authorities are doing different things – some maintaining a full service, others closing all waste and recycling centres.

The Joint Trade Unions state:  “UNISON, Unite and GMB have been raising a number of key concerns in relation to the inconsistent and potentially dangerous approach to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic with COSLA.

“We believe that local government workers, and those in the third and private sectors, delivering our essential services must be protected in terms of their health both physical and mental. To date this is not being done anywhere near effectively enough.

“We are on the brink of the peak of the pandemic and still there exist major concerns over the availability, and guidance around the use of, personal protective equipment – particularly in the social and residential care sector – testing of frontline staff, the difficulties in workers being able to observe social distancing at work and the definition of who is a key worker.

“The trade unions appreciate that this is an unprecedented time but the lack of national, consistent, guidance in these areas has the potential to put lives at risk.

“We need a national co-ordinated response – the First Minister needs to lead the effort to ensure that national guidance is both clear and consistently applied by local authorities.”


Read the full letter on our website:

For more information contact:

UNISON – Johanna Baxter, Head of Local Government, on 07817 120 894

Unite – Wendy Dunsmore, Unite regional officer, on 07764 655 756

GMB – Drew Duffy, Senior Organiser for Public Services on 07912 560806