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Labour's postion on partnership

Anas Sarwar MSP


The Scottish Parliament EDINBURGH EH99 1SP

15 May 2017

Following the recent debate on ‘nurses pay’ led by Scottish Labour in the Scottish Parliament I have been asked by the Chair and Vice Chair of our Scottish Health Committee to write to you and seek an urgent meeting to discuss the growing anger amongst UNISON Health activists that the Scottish Labour Party seems to prefer to work on health matters, with the RCN, who as you are well aware are not affiliated to the Labour Party or the STUC as opposed to UNISON who of course are.

If you are agreeable, I would suggest that we hold a small group discussion in the first instance at which we can discuss our respective views and try to develop an understanding of how we can better ensure that the views of Scotland’s biggest health union are given due and proper consideration by Scottish Labour.

Finally we note that your colleague Richard Leonard MSP was highly critical of partnership working in that in the context of pay he said,

“I am sure that, in light of their experience, those workers will greet with some cynicism the suggestion in the Cabinet Secretary’s amendment that the best resolution will be found in partnership working and the benevolence of the Scottish Government.”

Given that industrial relations model of working we collectively call ’Partnership’ is world accredited and has delivered significant benefits to our members in Scotland, UNISON is concerned that a

— leading Labour MSP chose to be critical of it in this manner. Can you advise what the Labour Party’s position is on Partnership working in the NHS and how we can better influence that particular position?

I look forward to hearing from you. Regards,


Regional Organiser

Head of Health

The reply

Dear Matt,

Many thanks for your communication.

Can I start by saying that I am disappointed that your letter contains no mention of the positive impact a pay rise for your members would or any welcome of the debate or policy that we have advocated. I am sure you and your members will be pleased that we have raised the issue of the cap and have committed to scrapping the pay cap and giving NHS staff a real terms pay increase. I have come to this firm view having been informed by the experiences of all our dedicated NHS staff members that I have had the privilege to meet over the last year.

You will also note that our leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed the RCN annual congress yesterday and set out the UK party's manifesto on health and repeated our commitment to scrapping the pay cap.

I have spoken to my colleague Richard Leonard MSP and he has made clear that the quote that you selected was taken out of context. He was not critical of partnership working in the NHS but rather was reflecting on the Government's amendment which referenced partnership in terms of future submissions - this despite the fact that their own submission this year to the Pay Review Body was for maintaining the 1% pay cap. Richard did prefix his remarks by outlining the hard work done by UNISON members.

I am proud that UNISON is affiliated to the Labour Party. I have nothing but praise for the positive engagement I have had with the union to date since taking on the health brief in the Scottish Parliament and also long before that too. I am determined that that remains a positive and open relationship throughout.

I would of course be delighted to meet with you and members of the health committee to discuss this and many other issue that are of huge importance to your members. Please let me know when suits.

Kind regards,


Anas Sarwar MSP

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health

Member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow (Labour)