Public services dominated the morning session of Congress today. Delegate after delegate highlighted the impact of the Con-Dem coalition's spending cuts on a range of public services. The planned 60,000 job losses will also have a big impact on the economy with a similar number of jobs going in the private sector. Low paid working women will be the most affected, undermining family budgets when they are most under strain.
A UNISON motion focused on services to elderly people. In this sector personalisation is being used as a cover for cuts. UNISON Scottish Convenor, Lilian Macer summed up the argument when she said:
"And it's a low, mean, dishonest trick to try to implement cuts to the services of the most vulnerable people in our society. We believe that everyone should have as much independent, choice and control over their care as they want. But this has to be real choice, not the only option because other facilities and arrangements have been closed or made unavailable."
The afternoon session had a Westminster feel to it. It started with Ian Davidson MP, Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee setting out the issues his committee planned to investigate this year. He was followed later in the afternoon by the Shadow Secretary of State, Ann McKechin MP. I also attended a lunch time event with colleagues from the energy industry. Not much support for the SNP manifesto plans there. A balanced energy policy retains widespread support from those who work in the sector.
One of the Scottish Affairs Committee investigations is into health and safety in Scotland. We met several of the MPs in the afternoon to highlight our concerns over the impact of cuts at the HSE. Fewer inspections, guidance and projects will inevitably undermine safety in Scotland. As will similar cuts in the other enforcement agency, environment health departments. Stress was the biggest safety risk identified by every union at the meeting. The largest cause of sickness absence and often the product of work intensification and human resource strategies.