Thursday, 20 December 2012


Below we re-produce the text of a letter received by UNISON's Scottish Health Committee regarding PVG payments. We are please that the new Scottish Health Minister, Alex Neil has listened to the concerns that UNISON and others organisations have had around the financial impact of passing on PVG payments to already hard pressed NHS staff and came to a sensible conclusion.

Mr Tom Waterson and
Mr Willie Duffy
Chair and Secretary of
Uhison Scotland Health Committee
Unison House
14 West Campbell Street
G2 6RX

Your ref: SHC/JG/WD/WK
Our ref: 2012/0036638

December 2012

The Scottish
Thank you for your letter of 5 November about payment of the fee for membership of the
new Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme.

I am aware that the issue of whether staff or employers will be responsible for payment of
this fee has been a particularly difficult one for STAC to resolve and that my predecessor,
Nicola Sturgeon, was approached for a view on the matter at the end of 2011. She
acknowledged that registration belongs to the individual and is transferrable and can
therefore be seen as analogous to a professional registration fee, for which a staff member
· would be liable themselves. However, she was also conscious of the need to protect the
lower paid and asked STAC to progress discussions on the basis that only those earning
over £21 ,000 would pay their own registration fee.

This led to further discussions but, unfortunately, no agreement has been reached. There is
no doubt that PVG registration is a transferrable benefit which can be used to facilitate
· employment with a different NHS employer, a local councilor a private service provider.

However, I acknowledge that the situation has moved on since 2011 and have listened
carefully to the points being made around this issue. I am particularly conscious of the
significant ongoing pressures hard working NHSScotland staff face on their take home pay
and have therefore written today to the Joint Chairs of STAC asking the Committee to
· discuss an approach which would see employers cover PVG registration fees for all staff.

I hope this is helpful in clarifying the position.

Alex Neil

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Audit Scotland report ‘Health Inequalities in Scotland’ - UNISON comment

UNISON today welcomed Audit Scotland’s focus on health inequalities and the need for more preventative services but warned that action must include addressing wider issues such as in-work poverty.

Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, said: “We are pleased that Audit Scotland has identified the importance of more preventative services and healthcare focused in areas of high deprivation.

“But, of course, rising living costs and falling incomes are having a huge impact on families just now, with large numbers of people in work struggling financially. They need a living wage. Poverty is a major factor in the deep-seated health inequalities in Scotland.

“However much we want Community Planning Partnerships to ensure health boards, councils and others work together on this, that can only go so far in making a difference if we don’t also address some of the root causes by building a more equal society. At present, the policies of ‘austerity’ are doing the opposite.”

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


John Swinney (SNP Finance Secretary) told the Scottish Parliament last week that the UK Government had confirmed its intention to increase public sector worker pension contributions in the coming year, as part of a move to increase contributions by an average of 3.2% per cent of pensionable pay by 2014-15.
The Scottish Government could choose not to impose the increases however it did impose them in 2012/13 and it is planning to do so again in 2013/14 and 2014/15. The additional contributions do not go towards pensions, they are simply a tax on public sector workers.
Dave Watson, UNISON Scotland Organiser said: “We agree that these pension changes are being driven by Westminster, but Scottish Government ministers could do something different on this if they wanted to – and they have decided not to.”
A special meeting of UNISON Scotland’s Health Committee will take place within the next two weeks to discuss further industrial action.
Updating the Scottish Council on the NHS pensions dispute in Scotland, Tom Waterson told delegates that it is now clear that it is the Scottish Government that is choosing to impose the pensions tax on health workers in Scotland.  Tom described the Scottish Government pensions tax as ‘The Swinney Tax’.


UNISON’s Scottish Council has voted unanimously to step-up its campaign to defend pay, jobs, services and pensions by organising co-ordinated strike action at its meeting held on Saturday 1st December.

The motion approved by the Council stated:
‘This meeting notes that the political parties in the Scottish Parliament and local councils are making the overall level of cuts in public spending asked of them by the UK Government.’
‘Much of the UK Government’s policy programme is a direct or indirect attack on jobs, wages, pensions and services which UNISON can never agree to. The UK Government’s wider austerity measures, attacks on welfare benefits and overall management of the economy represent further attacks on working people and the most vulnerable in our society.’

‘The trade union movement must now step-up its campaign to defend jobs, wages, pensions and services by organising co-ordinated strike action across all sectors of the economy.’

‘This meeting therefore agrees that UNISON Scotland immediately take the necessary steps to promote with all STUC affiliated trade unions and other professional organisations the need for a co-ordinated industrial action strategy beginning with a one-day strike across Scotland, and to co-ordinate the strike with any action by trade unions at a UK level as appropriate.

Behind the Mask of the Taxpayers Alliance

NIPSA has published a pam-phlet looking “Behind the Mask” of the Taxpayers Alliance. NIPSA is the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance. The Taxpayers Alliance claims to speak up for ordinary taxpayers who are worried that their money is being wasted. Even a brief look at their campaigns shows that what they really want is to cut back public spending and reduce taxes.

This is the organisation that loves to campaign against pub-lic sector “non jobs” and more recently facility time for union activists. They are currently campaigning to get rid of National Insurance, which no doubt suits their wealthy backers but may be a bit more tricky for the rest of us.

This pamphlet looks at who funds the alliance and how they get their message into the me-dia. Backers include: Tony Gallacher owner of Gallacher UK who has given £3million to the Conservatives since 2001; Christopher Kelly owner of Kel-truck : Sir Anthony Bamford, of JCB who has also donated £1million to the Conservatives. and Stuart Wheeler who having previously donated £5million to the Conservatives has now en-dorsed UKIP. Hardly ordinary taxpayers.

The pamphlet also gives an overview of recent research into the funding and transparency of a range of UK think tanks. The Taxpayers Alliance, Adam Smith Institute and ResPublica are given an E rating while IPPR Compass and the new Eco-nomics foundations gaining an A rating. A being the most open.

No public cash for tax cheats

Tax dodging companies should not be allowed to bid for public contracts. That's one of the proposals UNISON Scotland has made for new procurement legislation. The Scottish Government's forth-coming Procurement Reform Bill is an opportunity to tackle tax dodging in innovative ways. It can also be used to extend the Living Wage to contractors, to strengthen labour rights and to contribute to climate change targets.
UNISON has pointed to examples in a number of European cities to show that it is possible to act against companies that use tax havens and other forms of tax dodging.

Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said: “It is entirely wrong that companies seeking to avoid paying their fair share of tax should be awarded public contracts.
“Public bodies in Scotland spend nearly £11 billion annually through procurement. This Bill offers ways to use that spending to deliver local social, economic and environmental benefits.
“We think this is an important opportunity to do what some European cities such as Helsinki and Paris are already doing, in acting against companies using tax havens.
“The Scottish Government should adopt a tax justice approach, finding ways, with appropriate legal advice, to bar companies involved in tax dodging from being eligible to bid.”

Recently public outrage has focused on companies like Google, Amazon and Starbucks paying miniscule amounts of tax. Many companies investing in PPP/PFI projects are registered in tax havens.
UNISON believes that community benefit clauses could be used to argue that the community will benefit from companies paying proper levels of taxes.

UNISONs response to the consultation said the Bill should promote workforce protections such as the two tier workforce provisions and compliance with the Equality Act and Freedom of Information rights must follow the public pound.