This weekend is the annual seminar of UNISON's Scottish utility branches covering our Energy, Water & Environment service groups. UNISON is best known for our membership in local government and health, but we are also the largest trade union in the energy and water industries in Scotland. It is also our biggest interface with the private sector.
On Friday evening I led a session on the political challenges impacting on the industry. Not surprisingly members identified the financial crisis and the consequent economic downturn as the biggest concern. The direct impact on public services of budget cuts (SEPA is facing a 10% cut this year) and the impact on consumers ability to meet increasing energy costs. Fuel poverty remains a real issue in Scotland and it is UNISON members in the energy call centres who have to deal with struggling customers.
The next biggest issue was regulation. In fact just bad regulation. Recent price determinations in water and electricity distribution simply don't do enough for Scotland's crumbling infrastructure. In electricity we also have Ofgem's ideological drive to impose locational charging and transmission loss, further discrimination against Scottish generation and the important jobs that go with it.
A very clear message from members at the sharp end of these vital industries that I will take with me to a meeting with the UK energy minister next week.