Date: Wed 26 November 2014
Mike Kirby, Scottish secretary of UNISON, said “UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union and we welcome the First Minister’s programme for government. There was much in Nicola Sturgeon’s statement to commend.
“We welcome her commitment to protect public services and to increase NHS funding; her commitment to the living wage and to mitigate the problems of welfare reform; and her commitment to put gender equality and women’s rights at the heart of her government; and to increase childcare.”
Review of local government finance
UNISON also welcomed the commission to review local government finance but we are disappointed that the council tax freeze will remain in place until 2016. This freeze hits the most vulnerable people, those who need public services the most.
We need a fundamental reform of how we pay for local services. Local government is experiencing the worst of the cuts. It has lost the bulk of the jobs and it is the only sector to get a real cash cut. We can no longer pretend to get better services for less money. We favour a progressive property tax where we all pay our fair share.
UNISON also welcomes that the living wage will be a central priority of each and every government contract and we welcome her announcement that she will be holding a living wage summit. However UNISON has sound legal advice that there is more she can do and can stipulate payment of the living wage as a condition for performance of each and every contract.
UNISON also welcomes the extra £200,000 going to The Poverty Alliance so they can expand the living wage accreditation scheme. We have agreed to sit down with the Scottish Government and others to take forward an agenda to ensure we have fair employment practices, including the living wage, throughout Scotland. However the real test is whether the First Minister can engage all social partners in this objective, including all employers.
We welcome the commitment to increase childcare but we warn that high visions for childcare cannot continue to be achieved on the back of a poorly paid workforce. A competent, confident, valued workforce must be at the heart of her vision.
Islands Areas Working Group and Islands Bill
UNISON welcomes this initiative. We support the whole principle of devolution of powers to lowest possible level of government. We have consistently argued that constitutional change is not just about Scotland in the UK, but how we extend powers to local communities. UNISON looks forward to making our contribution to this debate and we look forward to reading its recommendations.
UNISON is very concerned that the First Minister is committed to maintaining the arbitrary number of 1,000 extra police officers. This means that £1.1bn cuts which are in the pipeline will fall on police staff. We have built up a balanced modern police force which has reduced crime to its lowest level ever recorded. These cuts will decimate police staff jobs and take policing, and crime levels, back to the 1970s.
• Mike Kirby, UNISON Scotland secretary,07939 143 355
• Danny Phillips, UNISON communications officer; 07944 664110.