Facilities Management review – 7 June 2017

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The FM (janitorial) review is approximately two weeks old and already it is creating a considerable amount of stress and confusion amongst those affected. The discomfort amongst members is palpable and ranges from worrying issues related to pay to serious concerns over health, safety and security.

Branch officials have been hearing and relaying these issues to the review board and representing members’ interests, both individually and collectively, to get the best result from this review.

Unite City of Edinburgh Council branch is member-led and member-run; branch officials can advise and negotiate on behalf of members, based on decisions taken both individually and collectively by members.

Grading raise versus pay cut?

The proposal to change grade 3 SSOs (janitors) into Grade 4 Facilities Technicians may initially seem benevolent. However, it doesn’t take much to figure out that the loss of working time payments and the lack of clarity on overtime mean that a pay cut is on the cards for most of those who work hard to maintain our schools, community centres and other facilities. This is largely due to the new start time of 7pm, the removal of split shifts and the internal squabble between FM and C&F over who should pay for janitorial support during out of hours and weekend working.

Some Unite members have told us that they stand to lose several thousand pounds and would be unable to accept these conditions unless something is changed.  Others have raised the question of some form of pay protection or pay transition in connection to the potential loss of allowances and overtime.  Branch negotiators will be taking these points, and any others raised by members, into the negotiations during the consultation period.

What workplace?

All workers whose jobs are under review are being asked to complete a preference form, during 1:1 with their line manager.  This form provides guidance for managers in the complicated task of allocating staff to the various proposed new roles.  Where a worker expresses a first preference for the location they already work in and there are no significant changes (e.g. in total weekly allocation of janitorial hours) then the preference should be honoured.

Many members have expressed concerns that they are being compelled to accept a reduction in hours or to “take someone else’s job” or will be moved to a different location.  That these concerns are being raised by members demonstrates a clear failure of communication between senior FM management, local area management and workers on the ground.   These concerns have been raised in consultation meetings (both in the general review meetings and in negotiations) and will be again.

Effect on the service

There have been multiple issues raised regarding the effect on the service. Some key points are

  • How can anyone think it’s possible to start up the boiler, check the building, open gates and doors, clean up any debris and maybe clear the pathways of snow etc on a 7am start and before the breakfast club and others start coming in?
  • If there is no janitor after 2.45pm who is going to lock up and secure the school?
  • Who is going to monitor contractors if the janitor finishes at 12pm?  Does that mean we will only have contractors working in the mornings?
  • Are we going to have to schedule deliveries for the mornings?  This is impractical.

Another very significant effect on service came to light recently as a result of the Lifelong Learning review. This review removed the Head of Establishment role from CLD workers, in Community Centres, effectively meaning that there is no-one in overall charge in the event of an emergency.  This issue has been raised as a matter of great urgency with both review boards.

Next steps

Both Unite and Unison branches had a presence at each of the review start meetings and we held discussions with members after management and HR had left.

During these discussions we heard members’ issues and explained the process of putting these points across to management during the consultation period (a 3-pronged approach involving 1:1’s with line manager, email to the review address and copy to branch negotiators, for issues to be raised in weekly negotiating meetings).

We will do the same during the mid-point meetings and follow this up with 2 or 3 joint union meetings where members should decide any course of action in order to seek appropriate solutions to the multitude of issues being raised.


UNISON pay offer action scuppered by Trade Union Act 2016

UNISON Scotland’s ballot for industrial action in the face of the COSLA pay offer dispute has been defeated, as the turnout was below the 50% threshold required by the Trade Union Act 2016. On 1 June, UNISON revealed that 22.8% of members voted with 62.7% voting in favour of industrial action.

Read about the UNISON ballot.

Back in April, Unite members overwhelming voted to accept the COSLA pay offer, with 82% voting to accept and 17% to reject. GMB also accepted, with 69% voting for the deal. UNISON, following a national campaign encouraging members to reject the offer, voted 77.6% to reject with only 22.4% voting to accept.

COSLA pay offer

1% pay rise for those earning over £35K or £350 rise for those earning under. For a worker earning £16K £350 is the equivalent of a pay rise of 2.19%.

The initial offer was 1% for those earning over £25K and £250 for those earning under, but this was increase following negotiations with trade unions.

This maximum pay increase of 2.19% for our lowest paid workers is in the face of


Had it all been four months’ earlier, there would have been the possibility of a strike. Already, we are seeing the effects of the Tories’ Trade Union Act. The 50% threshold is an attack on trade unions and the ability of workers to deny their labour.

We have to bear in mind that this rule was imposed on workers by a government that routinely allows turnouts below 30% to elect regional police commissioners in England and Wales. In the May 2016 England and Wales police and crime commissioner elections, only 7 of the 40 regions saw turnouts of over 30%. None had a turnout of over 50%. The same elections back in 2012 saw a historically low turnout of 15%. This election system was introduced by Theresa May, as home secretary, who said that despite the turnout the result was the ‘voice of the people’.

`This episode shows us that union advice weighs heavily on members’ decisions: Unite’s ballot letter recommended accept, while UNISON campaigned for reject. The overwhelming decisions in both cases are evidence that members respect the analysis of their unions when it comes to pay.

Drop the Debt parliamentary hearing

On Tuesday 7 March 2017, Alex Rowley, Depute Leader of Scottish Labour, put our Drop the Debt research up for debate at Holyrood. The response from the Scottish Government was, in a nutshell, that they consider the issues and points we raise to be both strong and valid. However, they do not believe that the Tories at Westminster will be forthcoming, therefore they are not even going to raise the issue with the UK Government.

What this means…

We need to campaign harder, we need to pile on the pressure. Reps will be running stalls in Glasgow and in Edinburgh over the coming weeks.

Unite CEC Branch Convener, Craig Cummings, who watched the debate at Holyrood, said

This is a strong campaign that we developed locally in Edinburgh and which has now gone nationwide. The fact is that Edinburgh Council is paying out £32 million per year in interest-only on pre-devolution debt liabilities held with the UK Treasury. We are fighting on many fronts to protect jobs and services and make advances where we can. However, real terms cuts to council budgets and rip off loan repayment rates are undermining council services.

We need the Scottish Government to get behind our calls for an amnesty on interest rate repayments to the UK Treasury. At a rate of over 8%, we have sent back £500 million in interest-only to the UK Treasury on liabilities of around £350 million since devolution in 1998 and we still need to settle the principle sums. Our message is clear and simple:

We have paid what we owe. Now we must prioritise local jobs and services.

Scottish Labour backs Union calls for “debt amnesty” on Scottish councils’ pre-devolution debt liabilities

Scottish Labour has thrown its full support behind a campaign calling on the UK Government to grant a “debt amnesty” to Scottish local authorities

Ahead of attending STUC Congress in Dundee, Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary, Ian Murray, has written to George Osborne, asking him to consider reducing the rates of interest currently being paid by local authorities on their pre-devolution debt liabilities. In 2015-16, this debt resulted in payments to the Treasury from Scottish Local authorities of £195 million.

In his letter to the Chancellor, Ian Murray said

I would urge you to give serious consideration to the request from Scottish local authorities and the Unite union to grant an amnesty on outstanding pre-devolution debt liability. This request has my full support, and that of the Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale.

Unite estimates that, since 1999, Scottish local authorities have paid back over £3 billion in interest on pre-devolution debt. Given the current financial parameters within which Scotland’s local authorities are being forced to operate, payments on this scale are both unfair and unsustainable.

The new powers transferred to Scotland by the Scotland Act will greatly enhance the Scottish Parliament’s control over our public finances. However, if this is truly to represent a clean break from the past and a fresh start for Scotland, relief should be granted on pre-devolution debt liabilities that continue to impose an unwarranted burden of debt on Scottish local authorities.

The Labour Party and Scottish local authorities are prepared to take responsibility for fixing local authority finances – but this can only be done on a level playing field, not one skewed by a historic burden of debt. Agreeing to an amnesty would be morally just, fiscally responsible, and in the best interests of the people of Scotland.

Unite calls for Edinburgh council debt amnesty as cuts crisis grows

Local government workers across Edinburgh will demonstrate at the city chambers tomorrow morning (Thursday 29 October) against proposals for 2,000 compulsory redundancies by May 2016.

The cuts are being pushed through as the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) seeks to make savings of £141 million over the next four years while grappling with a total debt estimated by Unite to be as much as £1.6 billion.

Unite has tabled a number of alternative financing proposals to alleviate budget constraints including a collaborative effort to pursue a debt amnesty on all pre-Scotland Act loans from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB), which could free-up £32 million a year in the council budget.

Unite Deputy Scottish Secretary Mary Alexander said

Mass compulsory redundancies are not in the interests of anyone – not the workers, not the public and not the council itself.

We know CEC has significant debts but we are not looking at recriminations, we are looking for solutions to the problem.

We need to explore how we can loosen the budget constraints but this requires a political will from the city’s elected representatives and council officials to work collaboratively with the joint trade unions.

Through our alternative financing proposals we believe there is a better way and our message is clear: Let’s work together to secure jobs and services under public control in Edinburgh for the next generation.