Welcome to Scrutiny – a place for debate and discussion on politics today.

JRF evidence to Scottish Affairs Committee helps form its recommendations on employment practices

Uncategorized Mar 25, 2018 Add a comment

In January this year, Professor Mike Danson – on behalf of the Jimmy Reid Foundation – gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee of the Westminster Parliament. His evidence, along with others, has helped form the basis for the Committee’s recommendations to the Westminster Government, especially in the light of the report the Westminster Government commissioned from Matthew Taylor on modern working practices called ‘Good work’.

To strengthen the rights available to workers and employees, and enforcement of those rights, the Scottish Affairs Committee has recommended that the Westminster Government:

· extend the right to a written statement of terms and conditions to all workers;

· clarify employment status in primary legislation;

· create a right for workers who have been on zero hours contracts for 12 months to be able to request a contract which reflects actual hours worked;

· commission the Low Pay Commission to consider a higher minimum wage for hours which are not guaranteed;

· commission a study to assess the extent of unfair or illegal employment practices in Scotland;

· bring forward stronger and more deterrent penalties, including punitive fines, for repeat or serious breaches of employment legislation, and expand “naming and shaming” to all non-accidental breaches of employment rights; and

· work with trade unions to establish the current extent of blacklisting, and take action to eradicate it if is found still to exist.

The documentation leading the conclusion and recommendations can be found here and here. Mike Danson’s evidence can be found here. The JRF wishes to thank Mike Danson for stepping in to give evidence in person.

Minutes Please! – for accountability and transparency

Uncategorized Jan 26, 2018 Add a comment

Carole Ewart writes on the campaign responding to a disturbing new practice in the operation of the Scottish Government

I dread to think how many meetings I have attended in my career and sometimes agreeing the subsequent minute is problematic: some are an accurate record of who was there, what issues discussed and actions agreed; some are an attempt to skew the record; thankfully only some are page after page of who said what with some occasional sentence detailing decisions taken. For some, the practice of minute taking is now considered to be akin to a ‘dark art’, whilst others still believe in good governance so a ‘meeting’ cannot properly be said to have taken place unless there is a record of business transacted.

There is growing evidence that too many meetings attended by Government Ministers are not being minuted which raises the question of motivation.  Why would civil servants, government Ministers and Special Advisers fail to make a record of meetings? Whatever the reason, the impact is always a lack of accountability and transparency. There is also a real danger that participants get fed up going to unproductive meetings. Last year I attended a meeting where one of the participants announced at the start that if proceedings proved to be another waste of time she would leave half way through as she had lots of real work to get on with.  This refreshing approach was one which I shared but when she left, my inquisitiveness forced me to stay although debate was again more theoretical than practical, aspirational rather than realistic and avoided concrete decisions, clear timelines and allocated responsibilities.  Subsequently I had a moment of inspiration – if the meetings were minuted then progress would have to be evidenced.  My next thought was that meetings were unlikely to be convened in the first place if the purpose was just to allow people to vent opinions and avoid measurable outcomes.  Either way calling for Minutes was bound to make a positive impact.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS) has now launched a ‘Get it Minuted Campaign’ and is calling on people and organisations to ask and insist that there are agendas, notes and minutes for any meetings with the Scottish Government and, for that matter, with any public authority. Planning a meeting, recording outcomes, agreeing further actions by whom and when are all key steps forward in achieving our shared objective of making Scotland fairer. Civil servants, special advisers, government ministers attend lots of meetings with charities, with the public sector, with the private sector, with lobby groups and coalitions, with business people and professionals.  All these meetings should be minuted although we know that the public will not routinely see them as the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FoISA), permits broad exemptions to disclosure.

The ‘Get it Minuted Campaign’ is supported by a report written by CFoIS, with support from UNSION Scotland, on Minute taking rules.  The picture is complex and must be replaced with an actively enforced, single set of rules containing precise language and which details penalties for failure to comply.  For example, currently “Private Offices should arrange for a record to be taken of meetings with outside interest groups, including lobbyists, that will set out the reasons for the meeting, the names of those attending and the interests represented (see Ministerial Code[1] paragraph 4.22).” CFoIS would have preferred to see “Private Offices must arrange…”. Similarly, the wording and therefore the obligations on civils servants is also weak in respect of “it should be the responsibility of accompanying officials to take an appropriate record of an event with a Minister”. We would prefer to see “it is the responsibility”. The terms “Notes” and “Minutes” are used but clearly these are different types of documents.  The full report can be accessed on our website at https://www.cfoi.org.uk/scotland/

Failing to produce Minutes and Notes breeds public distrust.  According to the latest research from the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner 94% agreed that it is important for the public to be able to access information and 77% would be more likely to trust an authority that publishes a lot of information about its work.[2]

Building public trust at a time of fake news and the manipulation of social media is a declared priority for democratically elected politicians.  Therefore, there are considerable reputational, confidence-building and trust gains for a programme of pro-active publication of agendas, notes and minutes.  Even more reason to review whether FoISA is fit for purpose 16 years after it was passed and 13 years after it was implemented by over 10,000 listed public authorities in Scotland working in devolved areas.  CFoIS looks forward to the Scottish Parliament delivering on the motion passed 7 months ago, on 21st June 2017, to hold two independent inquiries into FoISA – post legislative scrutiny and the Scottish Government’s compliance with its legal obligations.

So far, the Campaign has secured support from a variety of organisations including UNISON Scotland, the Scottish Council on Deafness and the Jimmy Reid Foundation.  Disappointingly, it has also been misrepresented by the First Minister at FMQs on 18th January when she claimed to agree with its purpose but changed it to “… ensuring that appropriate records of business are taken. When meetings involving ministers meet the criteria that are set out in the civil service guidance, appropriate records are routinely taken.”  Ouch, the Campaign wants records taken of all meetings all of the time!

People’s work lives are increasingly frantic across public services due to staff cutbacks and increased workloads.  Making time for meetings is increasingly hard.  As some ministers and public servants are keen to meet with people and organisations to discuss not much and agree very little, it is understandable that staff and volunteers feel they need to prioritise their time and focus on the work for which they are funded. As there is no accountability for unproductive meetings, it is inevitable that more will be convened. The ‘Get it Minuted Campaign’ will hopefully benefit us all by reducing the number of useless meetings which waste all our time and increase our effectiveness by making a record of the business conducted at meetings convened by either the Scottish Government or the public sector.  If you want to join the Campaign, please email your support to cfoiscot@gamil.com

Carole Ewart is the Convener of the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland, and serves on the project Board of the Jimmy Reid Foundation

The Jimmy Reid Foundation is one of the initial supporters of the ‘Get it Minuted Campaign’.

[1] The Scottish Ministerial Code is published on the Scottish Government website at: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/08/1393.

[2] See OSIC website http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/home/SICReports/OtherReports/PublicAwarenessResearch2017.aspx

New JRF-UNISON Scotland report on the value of local government

Uncategorized Jan 21, 2018 Add a comment

The new JRF-UNISON Scotland report of the value of local government (its services and workers) to our communities and society in Scotland can be accessed here. The full report and the media release are to be found there.

Radical options for labour law in Scotland

Uncategorized May 01, 2017 Add a comment

On May Day, 1 May 2017, the day to celebrate wage-labourers of the world, the Jimmy Reid Foundation is pleased to publish its Quick Note called ‘A Manifesto for Labour Law: what would it look like in Scotland?’. Written by Professor Gregor Gall,  this ‘Quick Note’ looks at how the Institute of Employment Rights’ A Manifesto for Labour Law might apply to Scotland and what hurdles exist to its implementation. It begins by laying out the context of the Manifesto before detailing its components such as the creation of a Labour Court and the right to sectorial collective bargaining. Then it moves to discuss the political conditions needed to implement the Manifesto per se and how this relates to the specific conditions relating to Scotland. It shows that far more radical change is needed than the SNP Scottish Government has been willing to accept with its Fair Work Framework (launched in April 2016).

The Quick Note can be accessed here.

 

Common Space interview on the 45th anniversary of Jimmy Reid’s rectorial address

Uncategorized Apr 28, 2017 Add a comment

Professor Gregor Gall, director of the Jimmy Reid Foundation, was interviewed by Common Space on the 45th anniversary of Jimmy Reid’s rectorial address about the continuing relevance of the content of that historic speech. See the coverage here.

Jimmy Reid Foundation report on public sector reform guides formation of policy at STUC 2017

Uncategorized Apr 27, 2017 Add a comment

The STUC voted to support the motion from UNISON Scotland on the need for public sector reform guided by the involvement of the service providers (ie workers) and service users. The Jimmy Reid Foundation report on this very subject from earlier in the year was mentioned: see this report

45th anniversary of Jimmy Reid’s rectorial address on 28 April 1972

Uncategorized Apr 27, 2017 Add a comment

Tomorrow is the 45th anniversary of Jimmy Reid’s rectorial address at Glasgow university on 28 April 1972 – one of the best political speeches ever made. For the only know remaining film of a portion of the rectorial address, see this excerpt

Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April 2017

Uncategorized Apr 27, 2017 Add a comment

Tomorrow, 28 April 2017, is Workers’ Memorial Day to commemorate all those who have lost their lives at work or because of work due to the negligence and rapaciousness of employers – so remember, discuss and join in some of the events.

 

Successful Jimmy Reid Foundation fringe meeting at 2017 STUC

Uncategorized Apr 24, 2017 Add a comment

A successful and productive exchange of views was held today at a 30-strong Jimmy Reid Foundation lunchtime fringe meeting at the STUC congress in Aviemore. Chaired by PCS national officer, Lynn Henderson, we heard Professor Mike Danson from Heriot Watt university give an overview of the Foundation report on the case against the renewal of Trident followed by a response from Richard Hardy, Prospect union Scottish regional secretary and John McInally, PCS National vice-president. The one overwhelmingly supported outcome was that, under the auspices of the STUC, the various defence unions should meet to i) establish what they have in common and ii) how to progress the establishment of a credible diversification strategy (including a well resourced diversification agency). Many thanks to the GMB, Prospect, UCU and PCS unions for providing the resourcing to stage the fringe meeting and those delegates at the STUC for attending.

PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, to give 2017 Jimmy Reid annual lecture

Uncategorized Apr 11, 2017 Add a comment

The Jimmy Reid Foundation is delighted to announce that Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, has agreed to deliver the 2017 annual Jimmy Reid lecture on Thursday 5 October 2017. He will speak on the issue of the defence of public services in an era of austerity and neo-liberalism.

More details on venue and timings will follow in due course.