Skills boot camps for the unemployed a desperate attempt to distract voters from government care failings

Commenting on a speech today (Tuesday) by work and pensions secretary Mel Stride, in which he announced a ministerial taskforce to tackle recruitment in hard-to-fill sectors like social care, UNISON head of social care Gavin Edwards said:

“There’s nothing wrong with promoting social care as a career and offering proper training to try to attract new recruits to the crisis-stricken sector.

“But forcing the unemployed off benefits and into caring roles, while keeping pay rates low, simply won’t work. Most people will neither want to do the jobs, nor be remotely suited to them.

“This latest foolish idea shows ministers are clueless about how to fix care. It’s yet another desperate attempt to distract voters from years of government failure and broken promises.

“Ministers once thought they could persuade school leavers to work in care. When that failed, overseas workers became the solution. Now migrant carers have stopped coming because of government hostility, care is back to square one again.

“But the solution to the problems in care is staring ministers in the face. While the sector is kept at minimum-wage rates, employers will struggle to find and keep staff, and the many needing support won’t be helped.

“None of this is rocket science. Raise wages substantially and workforce pressures will lessen. By creating a fair pay agreement for care and the beginnings of a national care service, the crisis in the sector could soon be a distant memory.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk

The article Skills boot camps for the unemployed a desperate attempt to distract voters from government care failings first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Opinion: The water industry is a national scandal

By UNISON’s head of environment, Donna Rowe-Merriman

The current ownership and operating model for the water industry in England is in the news almost every day – and almost always for the wrong reasons.

Privatisation of the water industry has failed. Disastrously. It was a Tory government gamble that has not paid off – unless you are a water company chief executive or shareholder.

Consumers have not seen better outcomes. In fact, we are seeing profits being extracted for shareholders and some water companies being laden with debt despite significant under-investment on infrastructure.

Companies have proven themselves inadequate – with their actions resulting in higher bills, lower standards and increasing harm to the natural environment and public health.

This model has resulted in the prioritising of profit ahead of investment, and the incurring of unsustainable levels of debt to support it, with negative consequences for the public and customers being the inevitable result.

Since privatisation, consumers have paid billions for services. Despite this, our environment is at breaking point and there is no real desire from this government to turn the tide and force companies to deliver much needed infrastructure investment.

It was recently revealed that 2023 saw a huge increase in sewage spills into waterways in England, from 301,091 spills in 2022 to 464,056 in 2023 – an increase of over 54% in a single year, making it the worst year for sewage spills on record.

Recent media reports have also confirmed that the nine water companies in England discharged sewage into rivers close to their own headquarters for more than 56,000 hours in 2023, further underscoring these failings.

This affects UK wildlife and millions of people that use rivers and coastlines for recreation, from anglers to surfers. Growing campaigns highlight not only broken pipes – but a fundamentally broken system.

In addition, the current major drinking water contamination incident in Devon, and the admission by bosses at South West Water of the inadequacy of the company’s response, have demonstrated how even confidence in the safety of drinking water in homes has been affected by the failings of water companies in England.

Yet instead of investment and improvements to infrastructure, companies in the water sector – which were debt-free at the time of privatisation – have since taken on over £60 billion of debt, while at the same time investors have withdrawn £85 billion in shareholder dividends and other payments.

Water company bosses have also reportedly received over £25m in bonuses and incentives since 2019, according to analysis.

The only solution to this crisis

At the same time, companies including Southern Water and Thames Water are reporting significant financial problems, with the owners of Thames Water insisting on significant increases to customer bills and a write-off of fines before it agrees to financially shore-up the company.

The result of this is failing water infrastructure, increasing sewage spillages, reduced public confidence in the safety drinking water, coupled with excessive shareholder rewards and an increasingly precarious financial situation for water companies themselves.

This demonstrates that the current model of ownership and operation is not fit for purpose, and UNISON’s longstanding position in calling for a renationalised water sector, which is publicly owned and properly publicly accountable instead of beholden to shareholders, is the solution to the shortcomings of the failed private model of ownership.

Water companies have been profiteering from privatisation for decades to the tune of tens of billions extracted for shareholders at the expense of customers and the environment.

These companies are leaving everyone with decades worth of problems for future generations – whether it is our environment, our wildlife, or our public health.

This is a national scandal of epic proportions on a public right for clean water from our taps and clean rivers and coastline for our communities.

The only real option is to bring these failing water companies back under public oversight, is publicly accountable and above all publicly owned.

The article Opinion: The water industry is a national scandal first appeared on the UNISON National site.

UNISON opinion: Supporting our LGBT+ members is crucial

By UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea

Today is the international day against homophobia, bi+phobia (IDAHOBIT) and transphobia. It’s always been an important date for UNISON since its creation in 2004. Each year since then, we’ve reflected on how we can combat LGBT+-phobic discrimination and harassment.

Of course, some progress has been made over the last couple of decades, but I’m saddened to say that in some ways, LGBT+ equality is going backwards in the UK.

The 2024 ILGA Europe rainbow map was released just a couple of days ago. It ranks European and Central Asian countries in terms of how inclusive the country is for LGBT+ rights. Disappointingly, the UK has dropped to 16th place after ranking first right up until 2015.

The Conservatives’ culture wars have certainly contributed to our diminished standing on the rainbow map. In particular, ILGA Europe highlighted the lack of a ban on conversion practices, no self-determination legal framework for gender recognition and the passing of the Illegal Migration Act that could send LGBT+ asylum seekers to Rwanda, a country that is not safe for LGBT+ people.

Our union has a long, proud history of fighting for LGBT+ rights. I’m delighted that this year, our Year of LGBT+ Workers, has been embraced wholeheartedly by members. It’s been great to see the various launches, events and workplace activities that have been taking place across the UK to celebrate the year.

And we do have a lot to celebrate – the campaign has already been successful in encouraging members to step up to become leaders, with over 40 branches electing an LGBT+ branch officer since the start of the year and regional LGBT+ SOGs reporting a surge in new members coming along to meetings.

The young LGBT+ network is now 300 members strong, many of whom have gone on to other avenues of activism within the union.

Our trans equality campaign, which has been a key campaign of ours, has been wildly successful. Over 4,000 members have now been trained on how to be a good trans ally and over 70 of our trans, non-binary and gender diverse members have now completed a programme on how to deliver the trans ally training.

UNISON continues to lead the union movement in pushing for greater LGBT+ rights and inclusion. We have recently established an asexual (ACE) and aromantic network, which is a first for a UK trade union. We are focused on making workplaces inclusive of ace/aromantic workers, who are often misunderstood and many of whom experience appalling discrimination and harassment at work.

We have a lot more to do. The theme for this year’s IDAHOBIT is “no one left behind: equality, freedom and justice for all.” At UNISON, equality is at the heart of everything we dohardwired into our DNA.

I look forward to being part of the Year of LGBT+ workers activities throughout the rest of this year and promoting why UNISON really is the union for LGBT+ public service workers.

The article UNISON opinion: Supporting our LGBT+ members is crucial first appeared on the UNISON National site.

UNISON opinion: Supporting our LGBT+ members is crucial

By UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea

Today is the international day against homophobia, bi+phobia (IDAHOBIT) and transphobia. It’s always been an important date for UNISON since its creation in 2004. Each year since then, we’ve reflected on how we can combat LGBT+-phobic discrimination and harassment.

Of course, some progress has been made over the last couple of decades, but I’m saddened to say that in some ways, LGBT+ equality is going backwards in the UK.

The 2024 ILGA Europe rainbow map was released just a couple of days ago. It ranks European and Central Asian countries in terms of how inclusive the country is for LGBT+ rights. Disappointingly, the UK has dropped to 16th place after ranking first right up until 2015.

The Conservatives’ culture wars have certainly contributed to our diminished standing on the rainbow map. In particular, ILGA Europe highlighted the lack of a ban on conversion practices, no self-determination legal framework for gender recognition and the passing of the Illegal Migration Act that could send LGBT+ asylum seekers to Rwanda, a country that is not safe for LGBT+ people.

Our union has a long, proud history of fighting for LGBT+ rights. I’m delighted that this year, our Year of LGBT+ Workers, has been embraced wholeheartedly by members. It’s been great to see the various launches, events and workplace activities that have been taking place across the UK to celebrate the year.

And we do have a lot to celebrate – the campaign has already been successful in encouraging members to step up to become leaders, with over 40 branches electing an LGBT+ branch officer since the start of the year and regional LGBT+ SOGs reporting a surge in new members coming along to meetings.

The young LGBT+ network is now 300 members strong, many of whom have gone on to other avenues of activism within the union.

Our trans equality campaign, which has been a key campaign of ours, has been wildly successful. Over 4,000 members have now been trained on how to be a good trans ally and over 70 of our trans, non-binary and gender diverse members have now completed a programme on how to deliver the trans ally training.

UNISON continues to lead the union movement in pushing for greater LGBT+ rights and inclusion. We have recently established an asexual (ACE) and aromantic network, which is a first for a UK trade union. We are focused on making workplaces inclusive of ace/aromantic workers, who are often misunderstood and many of whom experience appalling discrimination and harassment at work.

We have a lot more to do. The theme for this year’s IDAHOBIT is “no one left behind: equality, freedom and justice for all.” At UNISON, equality is at the heart of everything we dohardwired into our DNA.

I look forward to being part of the Year of LGBT+ workers activities throughout the rest of this year and promoting why UNISON really is the union for LGBT+ public service workers.

The article UNISON opinion: Supporting our LGBT+ members is crucial first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Councils need proper funding not further efficiency savings

Commenting on a letter to counclis today (Thursday) from local government minister Simon Hoare calling for greater productivity, UNISON head of local government Mike Short said:

“The best way for councils to run efficient services is for them to be adequately resourced and staffed.

“Local authority budgets have been cut to the bone after 14 years of slashed budgets, and that’s had a serious impact on communities.

“With so many councils teetering on the brink, the government has to realise it’s the funding system as a whole that needs attention. Not a further round of efficiency savings.

“That no doubt means forcing highly productive and already overworked staff to do even more with less.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk

The article Councils need proper funding not further efficiency savings first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Councils need proper funding not further efficiency savings

Commenting on a letter to counclis today (Thursday) from local government minister Simon Hoare calling for greater productivity, UNISON head of local government Mike Short said:

“The best way for councils to run efficient services is for them to be adequately resourced and staffed.

“Local authority budgets have been cut to the bone after 14 years of slashed budgets, and that’s had a serious impact on communities.

“With so many councils teetering on the brink, the government has to realise it’s the funding system as a whole that needs attention. Not a further round of efficiency savings.

“That no doubt means forcing highly productive and already overworked staff to do even more with less.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk

The article Councils need proper funding not further efficiency savings first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Council and school staff pay offer falls short

Commenting on the announcement today (Thursday) by local government employers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland of a pay offer of at least £1,290 for council and school staff, UNISON head of local government Mike Short said:

“Council and school staff deserve a decent pay rise for the vital support they provide to communities. But this offer falls short of the union’s reasonable claim.

“Many workers will feel let down because their household bills continue to rise. UNISON will consult representatives over the coming days before deciding the next steps.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk
Fatima Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk

The article Council and school staff pay offer falls short first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Council and school staff pay offer falls short

Commenting on the announcement today (Thursday) by local government employers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland of a pay offer of at least £1,290 for council and school staff, UNISON head of local government Mike Short said:

“Council and school staff deserve a decent pay rise for the vital support they provide to communities. But this offer falls short of the union’s reasonable claim.

“Many workers will feel let down because their household bills continue to rise. UNISON will consult representatives over the coming days before deciding the next steps.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk
Fatima Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk

The article Council and school staff pay offer falls short first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Investment not wishful thinking is key to fixing the NHS

Commenting on government plans intended to improve patient choice, UNISON head of health Helga Pile said today (Wednesday):

“Small-scale pilot schemes and wishful thinking are no solution to the huge problems facing the NHS.

“It’s not possible to magic up the extra trained staff and equipment needed to plug the gaping holes in the healthcare system caused by more than a decade of under-investment.

“Giving the illusion of more choice is cold comfort to patients who’ve been waiting far too long for treatment. It’s just another attempt to deflect from the government’s catalogue of failure on the NHS. The public won’t be fooled.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contact:
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk

The article Investment not wishful thinking is key to fixing the NHS first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Investment not wishful thinking is key to fixing the NHS

Commenting on government plans intended to improve patient choice, UNISON head of health Helga Pile said today (Wednesday):

“Small-scale pilot schemes and wishful thinking are no solution to the huge problems facing the NHS.

“It’s not possible to magic up the extra trained staff and equipment needed to plug the gaping holes in the healthcare system caused by more than a decade of under-investment.

“Giving the illusion of more choice is cold comfort to patients who’ve been waiting far too long for treatment. It’s just another attempt to deflect from the government’s catalogue of failure on the NHS. The public won’t be fooled.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contact:
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk

The article Investment not wishful thinking is key to fixing the NHS first appeared on the UNISON National site.