Back to the Floor… in Facilities Management

Unite CEC Branch have been working with HR in the Council on an initiative called Back to the Floor, which takes managers and takes them ‘back to the floor’ for a day, working in a frontline role. The initiative aspires to foster understanding of the challenges faces on the frontline and to encourage empathetic relationships, letting management get firsthand experience of the conditions faced by our essential workers.

The pandemic created a gulf between management and frontline staff. Management adapted to working from home, with human contact often happening digitally, and dealt with continually changing guidance and circumstances they have to consider in their decision making. Frontline workers have experienced increased workloads and greatly increased risks to health and safety and have found themselves subject to rapidly changing decisions, all with a backdrop of rising costs of living and often low pay. The Back to the Floor initiative seeks to bridge this gulf.

Mark Stenhouse gets back to the floor

The first area the initiative has run in has been Facilities Management, where Mark Stenhouse, the Head of Facilities Management, got back to the floor working with cleaning staff.

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Reducing COVID risks in schools

Photo by Ivan Aleksic from

We continue to see a high number of COVID cases in schools and this is likely to increase in the near future as we approach the peak of the omicron wave.

Staff in schools should be aware of the current Scottish Government guidance for schools. Contact us if you have any concerns whatsoever.

Shirley-Ann Sommerville, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, wrote to the trade unions on these, with the main points

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Day in the life of a janitor part 2—local authority newsletter

The local authority newsletter is focusing on jobs across local authorities to show how valuable our public sector workers are and the hard work they put in under difficult conditions and often low pay.

Today our focus is on Tam (not his real name) who works for a Lanarkshire council as a janitor. Tam works across a number of facilities and earns just £450 per week—around three quarters of the UK’s average wage.

Continue reading “Day in the life of a janitor part 2—local authority newsletter”

Day in the life of a janitor—local authority newsletter

The local authority newsletter is focusing on jobs across local authorities to show how valuable our public sector workers are and the hard work they put in under difficult conditions and often low pay.

Today our focus is on Rab (not his real name) who works for the City of Edinburgh Council as a janitor. Rab has worked for the council for over 15 years. He works 25 hours a week and his weekly earnings are a mere £240—nearly half of the UK’s average wage (£31,830).

Continue reading “Day in the life of a janitor—local authority newsletter”

Janitors and facilities review meeting on 27 November

We have arranged a mass joint meeting of UNISON and UNITE members on Monday 27 November 2017 from 6:30 to 7:30pm at Augustine Church, George IV Bridge, EH1 1EL.

We hope you can join us to discuss the Facilities Management review and what it will mean for you. The meeting will be followed by a 15 minute demonstration outside the City Chambers where the budget consultation meeting will be held. Bring your thoughts and your flags.

Brian Robertson, Unite CEC branch secretary, 0749 359 7149
Gerry Stovin, UNISON City of Edinburgh service conditions officer, 0131 558 7488 



Justice for cleaners

We invite all City of Edinburgh Council cleaners — Unite members and non-members — to a pre-review meeting to discuss what can be done to ensure the organisational review for cleaners is fair, open and honestly pays attention to the concerns and views of the workforce.

The meeting is on Thursday 9 November 2017 from 12 to 3pm in the Dean of Guild Room of the City Chambers at 253 High Street.

We will provide a buffet lunch and transport costs.

The review is going to happen — the decision you have to make is whether you want to have your say or not.

Organise, unionise and realise how you can make the upcoming review work for you, instead of having it done to you.

Contact Brian Robertson, branch secretary, if you are interested but cannot make the meeting on 0749 359 7149

Facilities Management review – 7 June 2017

​Download the FM newsletter (PDF)


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.