Stress and overwork hit activists, members and services and must be tackled

Scott Donohoe
Scott Donohoe

#ulgc16 “Our members are experiencing intolerable increases in workloads, staffing levels are cut to the bone and morale is at rock bottom”. That was the message from Scott Donohoe, from UNISON Scotland, as he called on conference to recognise the massive impact that stress and overwork has on members and to adopt measures to support members and activists.

Conference backed Scotland’s motion and pledged to secure additional resources to help support branch activists, including additional training and development and campaigning materials and to campaign for robust and effective work demand/workload management schemes.

The union will also publicise the brutal impact of stress and overwork and will lobby the Holyrood and Westminster governments for more funding for local government.

Scott told delegates that the 2014 bi-annual TUC UK Safety activists survey listed stress as the number one issue for activists across all sectors and a UNISON members’ survey in 2013 cited stress and job insecurity as the main problem for members across the UK.

The HSE figures for 2014/15 show 1.2 million workers suffered ill health at work, 488,000 cases of stress, 9.9 million working days lost and a cost to society of over £14 billion. In addition a recent report from Lancaster University on the scourge of ‘Presenteeism’ said that this costs £15.1 billion annually, more than sickness absence.

Scott said, “Voluntary severance schemes see staff leaving the service but not being replaced, creating additional pressure and workloads for our members who remain. Yet very few employers have carried out Stress Risk Assessments for groups of workers who are affected.

“Members are facing increased work demands due to cuts in the local authority workforce across the country. At the same time demands on public services are increasing as a consequence of the economic crisis just as the workforce decreases,” added Scott.

“Our members often come under pressure to adopt new cost-cutting working practices under the guise of ‘modernisation’ , ‘service reform’ or ‘transformation’ which have little or nothing to do with improving services to the Scottish people.

“Many members are coming under increased pressure to carry out paid and unpaid overtime,” warned Scott, calling on us all to step up our efforts and continue to support our members and activists against the austerity agenda.

“We must support our members both collectively and individually to say NO! Enough is enough!”

Local Government Reports by Kate Ramsden, Marie Quigley and John Stevenson

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