Archive | April, 2012

Unite calls for renewed focus on offshore safety

25 Apr

Following an emergency debate on offshore safety at the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) annual conference in Inverness this morning, trade unions from across the sector highlighted the persistent dangers facing workers on a daily basis.

Unite, which represents 15,000 members working in the UK offshore industry, also outlined specific concerns over the future potential for incidents caused by ageing installations delivering North Sea oil and gas operations.

Unite Regional Industrial Officer John Taylor said, “Recent incidents like the Elgin and Buzzard platforms highlight the dangers that our offshore members face.

Today the STUC joined the growing voices of concern for the proposed introduction of new EU Regulations for the offshore industry.

In 2011, the HSE found that more than half of offshore installations had reached their expected shelve-life of 20 years – yet most are expected to keep operating for the foreseeable future.

Now, more than ever, we need a renewed focus on offshore health and safety. Trade unions must ensure that health and safety standards are never compromised due to commercial pressures – any risk at all is too high a risk for offshore workers and their families.”


For further information please contact Unite Regional Industrial Officer John Taylor in the Aberdeen office on 0845 604 8312 or 01224 645271.


Janette Dunbar wins lifelong learning award

24 Apr

The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has announced that the recipient of this year’s STUC Helen Dowie Award for Lifelong Learning is Janette Dunbar, a Unite Union Learning Representative at Diageo in Kilmarnock.

Sponsored by Inverness College UHI, the award was be presented today by First Minister Alex Salmond MSP.

Diageo Kilmarnock was the home of Johnnie Walker Whisky. After the employer announced controversial plans in late 2009 to close the Kilmarnock plant, Janette was in the forefront of fighting to save the hundreds of jobs at the site. Upon being elected as the Site Convenor in 2010, Janette put her organising abilities and dynamic style into action as she became the driving force behind supporting members through the ‘ins and outs’ of the redundancy situation.

Janette decided that a lifelong learning programme for the site was the best avenue to support workers during the site closure. In February 2011, Janette was trained as a Union Learning Rep along with a group of other trade union activists. She then set about the task of analysing the learning and training needs of those who were faced with redundancy.

Unite member Myra Scoular said, “Facing redundancy was a daunting time, after working at Johnnie Walker for decades. I would not have had the confidence to try courses if it was not for Janette organising and bringing the courses into the workplace.”

Christine Duffy, another Unite member, said, “I have successfully completed a few courses, including computing and understanding pensions, and I will continue to learn when I leave Diageo. I would not have undertaken this journey if it was not for Janette and the other ULRs.”

In just over a year as the Lead Union Learning Rep for the site, Janette analysed 730 learning requests and collectively bargained around these with the employer and external learning partners, including PACE, to provide courses for Unite members at Diageo Kilmarnock. Janette addressed the frustration felt by the workers on site by organising learning opportunities in the workplace and delivering them around members’ shift times and days off.

Upon receiving the award, Janette said, “I am absolutely delighted to receive this honour. It has been a great learning curve for me and it has been even better to have shared the experience with so many people along the way who now have the confidence to take learning to another level.”

The STUC established the STUC Helen Dowie Award for Lifelong Learning in 2006 to commemorate Helen Dowie’s lifetime achievements in lifelong learning and to recognise other outstanding trade unionists who demonstrate their commitment to union values and lead the learning movement forward in Scotland. The award is administered by Scottish Union Learning.

Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary, said:

“In the current atmosphere of austerity, many workers in Scotland face concerns about their prospects and future job security. By offering learning opportunities, unions are enhancing the life chances of the workforce as a whole.

“For her unfailing commitment to the trade union movement, put into practise as a Union Learning Rep in supporting the people she has worked with for most of her life, Janette Dunbar is a shining example of how Union Learning Reps can help shape a better future for their colleagues and her actions at Diageo Kilmarnock demonstrate the relevance of trade unions in the modern workplace.”

Pat Rafferty, Unite Scottish Secretary, said:

“Unite is delighted that Janette Dunbar has received the STUC Helen Dowie Award in recognition for the work she has done for Unite members at Diageo Kilmarnock as Lead Union Learning Rep and Convenor for the site.

“Janette and her team of ULRs have given opportunities in learning and training to members facing redundancy at Diageo Kilmarnock that would not have been possible without her drive, dedication and determination.

“It should not be forgotten that the learning programme at Diageo Kilmarnock would not have been successful without facility agreements around paid release for union representatives.

“Yet again, this award demonstrates the positive contribution that Unite Union Representatives make to the workplace where decent facility time is allocated to them.”

Pauline Rooney, Diageo Kilmarnock Site Director, said:

“We are delighted that Janette has been recognised by the STUC for this prestigious award. It recognises the unstinting support that she provided to her colleagues in what was a very difficult time at Diageo Kilmarnock. By championing the benefits of training and bringing tailored courses to the site, she encouraged many people who would not have previously considered training to extend their horizons. Her contribution played a key role in securing the best outcomes for our people through the closure programme and for that, we extend our thanks.

David Hosey, Inverness College UHI Vice Principal, said:

“As both a college for the community and a key partner in the establishment and continuing development of the University of the Highlands and Islands, Inverness College has an inherent interest in Lifelong Learning. The Board of Management and all staff are fully committed to providing support, encouragement and guidance, to attract potential learners and fully support their individual needs as they progress through the learner journey. We are therefore proud and delighted to sponsor the STUC Helen Dowie Award for 2012. The example provided embodies the ethos of supporting others and helping them reach their full potential. Well done Janette!”

Kilmarnock engineers to begin strike action

23 Apr

Unite members at Mahle Engine Systems will start discontinuous strike action from tomorrow morning (Tuesday 24th April) after last-ditch negotiations failed to reach an agreement on the future of manufacturing at the Kilmarnock plant.

After workers voted overwhelmingly for strike action last month, the union had agreed to a series of requests from management for meetings in Kilmarnock and Rugby and also agreed a legal extension to postpone strike action allowing further talks to take place.

However, further proposals from management were rejected in a consultative ballot last week by over 65% of the workforce as commitments could not be secured to bid for new work and protect existing contracts that would help demonstrate profitability. Mahle have not returned with a new offer since.

Unite Regional Industrial Officer Jim Winter said, This strike action is the culmination of nearly a year of stonewalling by Mahle on the future of this world-class manufacturing plant. Its sorely disappointing that its taken impending industrial action to even drag Mahle kicking and screaming to the negotiating table.

This workforce has made every effort to appeal to management and our requests were modest. We asked for assurances that the plant could tender in a fair and time-bound manner for new work – this was road-blocked. We asked for decent redundancy payments for workers employed on contracts that Mahle refused to negotiate on – this was refused.

Sadly their directors are simply not prepared to give Kilmarnock a fair chance to fight for its future. The Ayrshire economy simply cannot sustain any more pain so we’ll fight to defend skills and livelihoods.


Notes to Editors:

Industrial action will start and end at the following times with an official picket line outside the Mahle Kilmarnock site:

  • Tuesday 24th April 6AM until Wednesday 25th April 7.30AM

  • Thursday 26th April 6AM until Friday 27th April 7.30AM

  • Saturday 28th April 6.45AM until Sunday 29th April 6.15AM

For further information please contact Unite Regional Industrial Officer Jim Winter on 07739654856 (on the picket line at Mahle, Kilmarnock) or Peter Welsh in the Scottish Campaigns Unit on 07810157931.

Subsidy cuts will spark ‘perfect storm’ in Scotland’s bus industry

18 Apr

Unite Scotland has warned the Scottish Government that a 17 per cent cut to the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) will kick-start an era of devastation for jobs and services across Scotland’s bus industry.

Unite, which represents 10,000 workers across the Scottish passenger transport sector, has spoken out ahead of tomorrow’s (Thursday 19th April) Scottish Parliamentary debate on the BSOG cuts.  On April 1st  2012 the Scottish government implemented a cut of 17% on the 2011 fuel subsidy – from £60.3 million down to £50 million – resulting in operators radically increasing their fares while placing services and employment under severe threat.

In 2010, the Scottish Government announced a funding programme for BSOG worth £66.5 million with significant investment for three years.  However, year on year this figure has been cut significantly.

Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty said, “The Scottish Government was well warned about the impact of this BSOG cut but it has forged ahead and now it’s the public and workers who will pay the price.

We are now seeing the first wave of bus operators dramatically increasing their fares on the travelling public and redundancies being announced with 200 jobs cut across First Group’s operations in East & Mid Lothian. 

This decision beggars belief in a time where everyone is affected by economic conditions.  Bus patronage is down across Scotland, fares are increasing and jobs and services are being cut – without intervention our bus industry is heading into a perfect storm.

We are urgently calling for the Scottish Government to repeal the BSOG cut as a first step to bring some short-term stability to the sector but in the long term we must revisit the issue of bus re-regulation if we are to return affordability and growth to this vital public service.


Notes to Editors: Unite Scotland will have a delegation from its Passenger Transport Sector in attendance at the Scottish Parliament for Thursday morning’s debate.

For further information please contact Unite Regional Industrial Officers Derek Ormiston on 07810157914 & Sandy Smart on 07810157927 or the Unite Scotland Campaigns Unit on 0781015793.

Lifelong Learning Booklet

16 Apr

We have published a new version of the lifelong learning booklet, with details of what is available to Unite members. You can download a copy below, or request hard copies by emailing Walton.


Unite learning booklet

Nationwide demonstrations for lock-out workers at Bootle packaging plant

3 Apr

Unite will start a series of nationwide demonstrations in support of locked-out Merseyside workers at the sites of supermarkets stocking products packaged by the rogue aristocratic company Mayr-Melnhof Packaging (MMP).

140 workers employed by MMP in Bootle have been locked out of their workplace since the 18th February after taking industrial action in protest against the imposition of new, inferior redundancy terms and the discriminatory selection of 49 workers for dismissal.

The packaging giant – which remains in the majority ownership of the elite Austrian aristocratic family, the Mayr-Melnhofs – holds lucrative contracts with household names such as Kellogg’s and Unilever.

Unite Senior Scottish Organiser Roz Foyer said, “Unite has been left with no option but to forcefully counter against this rogue employer.  We will simply not stand by and let workers in this country be treated with such contempt.

Those involved with MMP need to know the type of business they are associating themselves with and the general public need to know of the suppression of workers and their basic employment rights in 21st century Britain.

We’re not going to go away on this. We will demonstrate at all businesses associated either directly or indirectly with MMP in the UK and Ireland for as long as the company refuses to negotiate in good faith.”


Notes to Editors: Unite activists will demonstrate tomorrow morning and afternoon at a number of supermarket sites in the west-end of Glasgow. For further information please contact the Unite Scotland Organising Unit on 07890762186 or Peter Welsh in the Unite Scotland Campaigns Unit on 07810157931.