Please see the Latest News section of the Scotland pages for updates on the COVID-19 crisis
Message from Malcolm Clark, group president, 9 April
I hope you and your family are staying well and safe during these difficult days. I had planned to issue an extended update now, reflecting all your union and the wider CSGU have been dealing with in recent days. But the clock has been against me as we approached the Easter weekend. Suffice to say, I don’t think we’ve ever been busier, addressing developments arising from Covid-19 as constructively as possible. But some key points I would like to highlight:
- You may have seen the outrageous comments and proposals emerging in the HM Passport Office and appearing in the news. We raised this with the SG this morning and it was confirmed this in no way reflects our position, where the ambition remains to minimise footfall in all our building to essential levels and best ensure the safety of all staff.
- As part of this, those coming into buildings remains minimal, and both the big Atlantic Quay buildings have now shut. We continue to monitor the position elsewhere. In particular, a sizeable number of you still need to come in at Disclosure Scotland at Pacific Quay in Glasgow (owing to the secure technology used). Even so, all steps must be applied to keep staff as safe as possible.
- This emergency has highlighted for us – as well as wider society – the reliance placed on often the lowest paid. Our biggest concentrations of A-band colleagues for example, are now based in our different delivery areas, which are still providing a service direct to the public. We also have Control Room and front of house colleagues keeping our offices safe. After all this, there must be a levelling-up recognition of their contribution.
- The continuing efforts of the overwhelming majority of us now working from home needs to be properly recognised. I know for many it is throwing up new challenges. We are currently discussing additional working-from-home costs with HR (although for many, especially with reduced travel, we appreciate this will be minimal).
- Last week we started a discussion with HR on the continuation of personal cases whilst most work from home. Most unions followed the PCS lead that any move to virtual meetings should be voluntary, as should any terminations during the current emergency. The approach of HR is still to be confirmed and I may have more to say following that.
- You may have seen on Saltire today that a new resourcing hub has been set up by HR to move staff quickly to address issues during the current emergency. Although set up too quickly for the CSGU to offer unqualified support, we fully understand the reasoning behind this. We are committed to working with HR on this and to keep it under review. Feedback or concerns over the operation of the hub are particularly welcome.
- Our overtime position, especially as many are expected to do more over the upcoming weekend, was highlighted with HR this week and more explicit guidance issued. If issues still emerge, your union would like to hear.
- On pay, the Saltire ‘News in Brief’ this week noted: “People Directorate are in discussion with the Scottish Government trade unions at a national level about how to best proceed with pay award negotiations for 2020 to reach a constructive solution and give staff clarity as soon as possible. Irrespective of the timing, the pay award will be backdated to 1 April.” I hope more information can be provided on this soon.
- PCS elections and conferences have been suspended during the current emergency. Perhaps mundane in the current context, I’ll return to this in the future.
- In the SG family, hopefully your first port of call should remain your local rep or a Group officer.
Message from Lynsey Morgan, group secretary, 25 March
I hope you are all keeping well and finding ways to look after yourselves and each other through these incredibly challenging times. I wanted to reach out to all of you to remind you that your union is there to offer you advice and support. We are working closely with Scottish Government, the agencies and our sister unions to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of staff is at the heart of decision making. I wanted to update you on some of the issues we’ve been dealing with on your behalf since last week.
We know that many of you are concerned about whether Scottish Government staff (including those in agencies, NMDs and NDPBs) are classified as key workers, in particular following the decision by UK government departments like DWP and HMRC to classify staff as critical. We’re pressing Scottish Government to be clear about which roles are considered business critical, giving staff in those roles key worker status enabling them to access childcare from their local authority. We’re clear though that this needs to be kept under review as new roles are created or identified as business critical in the coming months. We’ll keep you updated as these discussions progress.
Closure of buildings
Hopefully you will all have seen the notice today advising the that Victoria Quay, Saughton House and 4 Atlantic Quay will close this week. We welcome this decision but are mindful that the position of members based in buildings outwith Glasgow and Edinburgh or in agencies, NMDs and NDPBs is less clear. We know that there are business areas across the Scottish Government family that must continue to have a skeleton staff in the office because their work cannot be done remotely. We are pressing local management to make decisions about the level of staffing needed in these areas and put in place measures to limit the amount of time affected staff spend in their workplace. There are areas, like Social Security Scotland, that are actively exploring solutions to reduce or even remove the requirement for staff to remain in the office. There are others, particularly those working directly on COVID-19 emergency response, where it is vital that they be present in their workplace for at least part of their working week. If you work in one of these areas, or you are feeling some pressure to be present in the workplace and aren’t clear why, then please get in touch. If social distancing isn’t being enforced or respected, we want to hear from you. Equally, if you’re concerned about what the building closures mean for you, please let us know.
Protection for contract staff
PCS and our sister unions have finally reached an agreement with Scottish Government and other Scottish Sector employers that all contract staff and outsourced workers (like Mitie and Sodexo) will be paid in full if they need to self-isolate, care for dependents or if their hours are reduced as a result of building closures. In the last week, we have been contacted by many of you, members in SG and the agencies as well as our members in Mitie and Sodexo, expressing concern about some of the messages they have received from their employers about their basic employment rights during this crisis. It is unacceptable that any worker should feel that they must make a choice between complying with NHS guidelines or continuing to work for fear of losing pay or their job. Whilst we are glad that this agreement has been reached, ensuring that vulnerable and low paid outsourced workers don’t face financial detriment because of this crisis, we will continue to campaign for their roles to be brought back in-house.
Annual and flexi leave
Access to annual and flexi leave will be dependent on business need. Where staff have already booked annual leave, only in exceptional circumstances will they be asked to cancel this. Staff who have pre-booked leave over the course of the next few weeks may wish to cancel due to the isolation measures recently announced. Managers are encouraged to look sympathetically on requests to cancel leave where a planned holiday has been cancelled in this immediate period due to coronavirus travel restrictions. However, we would encourage all of you to take your leave, find some space to disconnect from work and recharge.
I think lots of us are struggling to balance work and home life, whether we’re adjusting to long-term homeworking or still being required to come into the office. A number of members who work in COVID-19 emergency roles have reported that they are struggling with workload, particularly where they are required to be present in the office. Long hours, high levels of stress and increased workload added to very understandable anxiety about potentially being exposed to the virus whilst travelling between home and work is really taking its toll. For those of us able to work from home, the situation can be equally difficult as we struggle with space, lack of appropriate equipment, isolation, IT issues and trying to adjust to a new way of working at such short notice. We’re here to support you and want you to tell us the specific issues you’re encountering so we can help to resolve them where possible or flag them up for senior management.
Keeping in touch
We want to hear from you about how you want your union to communicate with you in the coming weeks. We plan to continue to email you as new guidance is published and important decisions are made, or to let you know what issues we are raising with our employers. It’s so important that you keep in touch with us, letting us know where problems arise or where things are working well and you want to share the good practice, or seeking answers to questions that your employer isn’t giving. We’re looking at our social media presence, including Yammer, and considering if that might be an effective way to reach members, so let us know if you have any thoughts about that. We’re also very happy to receive pictures of your animals (cats are particularly welcomed!). Maybe we’ll do a PCS Pets calendar!
Also, now is a good time for any of you that haven’t already done so to register with PCS Digital, our new membership system. You can check your details, update your contact information with personal email addresses and phone numbers, and make sure that any information sent out from either PCS Scotland or the national union can reach you. Follow this link: https://pcsunion.force.com/pcsdigital/s/login/SelfRegister?language=en_US&startURL=%2Fpcsdigital%2Fs%2F. If you have any problems registering, please either get in touch.
You could also let us know how you’re keeping in touch with your colleagues, particularly if you’re a line manager finding effective ways to connect with and support your team. Tell us what is working well, and what isn’t working and we’ll share that with the people who are developing the guidance and best practice for business areas across the SG family.
We know that so many of you will understandably be very concerned about the effect of COVID-19 and the impact it is having on your lives inside and outside of work but want to reassure you that your union has been working closely with Scottish Government and other employers to ensure your wellbeing and safety are prioritised as we respond to this crisis. A large part of this has been about agreeing the guidance (the latest version is online) and feeding back to specific concerns and questions that many of you are raising with us. We have also made representations to Scottish Government to ensure the hard working staff in Mitie and Sodexo, many of whom are PCS members, do not face financial hardship if they need to self-isolate. We’ll update you as those discussions progress. .
I want to reassure you that your union will continue to do everything that we can to ensure that you and your loved ones remain safe, to push for clarity and robust guidance to give you the certainty and protection you need to make decisions about how (and when) to work over the coming weeks as things change. Your reps are there to support you, even remotely. If you want to contact your branch then any of the following people will be able to help you:
Gordon Thomson-Mclean – Gordon.email@example.com
Stewart Christie – firstname.lastname@example.org
Magnus Hughson – email@example.com
Gareth Allen – Gareth.firstname.lastname@example.org
Lynsey Morgan – email@example.com
Jessica Tabarias – Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org
Fiona Brittle – email@example.com
Social Security Scotland – High Street
Fraser Dick – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jemma Hatherill – email@example.com
Alan Sharkey – firstname.lastname@example.org
Alison Wills – email@example.com
Nadia Alnasser – firstname.lastname@example.org
Clair Watson – email@example.com
Ken Reid – firstname.lastname@example.org
Risk Management Authority
Julie Webber – Julie.email@example.com
For ease, we have listed reps based on location, in case you have a specific question related to a particular agency, NDPB or building.
We will endeavour to keep you all updated as new guidance is agreed or circumstances change. Please do get in touch with any questions or concerns; we are here to help guide you through these challenging times. Feel free to share this message with your colleagues, whether they are PCS members or not…although please encourage them to join if they haven’t yet!
The devolved government for Scotland is responsible for most of the issues of day-to-day concern to the people of Scotland, including:
- rural affairs
- social security
The Scottish Government group has been described as Scotland's "mini Whitehall" and has about 3,500 members working in over 80 offices the length and breadth of Scotland.
Our members work in very diverse areas from direct delivery of services to policy development and drafting legislation.
We are unique in that we are UK civil servants subject to the Westminster Government, but also subject to the Scottish Government at Holyrood. We are very active within the Scottish Sector, and play a leading role in dealing with the issues that affect our members which arise as a consequence of living and working in a devolved Scotland.
Our key priority as a group is to protect and defend the interests of members to the best of our ability, and our focus at the moment is on campaigning for fair pay increases for all members.
The group has 6 officers and an executive committee of 15, all of which are elected annually. The group executive committee (GEC) meets on a monthly basis and considers reports of negotiations, contributes to policy developement and considers how to take forward group campaigns.