South Lanarkshire UNISON Online
Cuts will hit the
vulnerable - South Lanarkshire UNISON
The impact of the government's policies will be felt hardest by older people, disabled people, children at school who have additional support needs and poor families. This is the conclusion from an analysis of South Lanarkshire Council's budget cuts package.
Of the £27.7m of cuts that the council need to make following cuts in the budget as a result of the Tory-led government's public sector cuts, 20.6% of the proposals are directly targeted at these vulnerable groups.
The analysis of the proposals has been carried out by the UNISON Branch in South Lanarkshire.
The union's South Lanarkshire branch secretary, Stephen Smellie, said: "Of the proposals being considered by the council, £5.7m of them are either cuts in services, increased or new charges which directly impact on older people, disabled people, children with Additional Support Needs or poor families. If these are selected by the councillors this would represent 26.3% of the total cuts package.
"This is despite the council trying to protect the most vulnerable by firstly making savings in other areas.
"The government claim that we are all in this together is shown to be a lie. Whilst the poorest and most vulnerable in South Lanarkshire are paying for the crisis they had nothing to do with causing, the bankers are still to get their bonuses and MPs debate whether to give themselves a pay rise.
"Even at this late stage we are urging the council to look again at these proposals and try to protect the most vulnerable.
However it is government policy which needs to change."
The UNISON analysis has been sent to all South Lanarkshire councillors and council directors.
Lanarkshire UNISON is calling on the public to show their outrage at the
drastic public spending cuts at the STUC There is
Stephen Smellie, South Lanarkshire Branch Secretary, said, “We can’t deny that we have to deal with the deficit, but cutting public spending is not the same as cutting the deficit. We all know who caused the crisis – the bankers and the banking sector, and their irresponsible gambling with our money. We bail them out, they still get their bonuses, and we have to pay.”
“Where is the logic? – if we see thousands of people losing their jobs, then that’s thousands more people reliant on the state and benefits. More people who need the services they slash. And what’s the knock on effect on local businesses if people don’t have money to spend in their local communities?”
On the cuts package currently under discussion at South Lanarkshire Council, Stephen said, “Even if they avoid the worst of the cuts, there is no doubt that the vulnerable will suffer – the young, the disabled and the elderly as services are slashed. Amongst the workforce somewhere between 1500 and 2000 jobs are likely to be lost with low paid workers like classroom assistants, day care workers, cleaners, catering and lollipop men and women all under particular threat.”
said, “Let’s get out on the streets in
South Lanarkshire Joint Trade Union Council has reacted to South Lanarkshire Council's cuts proposals by insisting that the Council stick to the commitment given to staff to avoid compulsory redundancies and to minimise cuts to services.
Andy Murphy, Chair of JTUC said "This is what David Cameron, George Osbourne and Nick Clegg see as the future of the people of South Lanarkshire. Big cuts in education, big reductions in services to older people, big numbers of people losing their jobs. I guess this is what they meant by a big society. We don't think this is necessary. There are alternatives but the ConDem government are ideologically attacking the public sector. This will have a knock on effect on the local economy and jobs will be lost in the private sector as well as within the Council"
The Council have indicated that they need at least £80m of cuts over the next 3 years and the Executive Director of Finance has produced proposals totalling £118m to allow Councillors to prioritise which cuts they prefer.
Stephen Smellie, UNISON Branch Secretary said, "The options presented are horrendous and even if they avoid the worst there is no doubt that young kids, disabled people and older people will suffer drastic cuts in services. Amongst the workforce somewhere between 1500 and 2000 jobs are likely to be lost with low paid workers like classroom assistants, day care workers, cleaners, catering and lollipop men and women all under particular threat. We will be meeting Council bosses over the next few weeks and we will be calling on them to guarantee that there will be no compulsory redundancies amongst staff."
However Andy Murphy also said "We will be calling on all the Councillors to join us in a campaign to change the Government policy which forces Councils to make these cuts. They can do that by joining us in Edinburgh on 23 October on the STUC's demonstration. They can even get a lift on our bus and we can discuss the issues on the way."
Thousands of UNISON activists, members and community groups joined forces to march through Glasgow's West End on Saturday 10th April. Speakers at the rally in Kelvingrove Park urged Scots to defend their services. Speakers included UNISON's national president, Gerry Gallagher, STUC General Secretary, Grahame Smith, and PCS Scottish President, Janice Godrich.
UNISON’s Scottish Convenor, Mike Kirby said:“UNISON members, who deliver services across Scotland are reporting that cuts are already threatening services for Scots from the cradle to the grave. Fewer full time places will be available for under fives in Edinburgh. Play groups or under fives groups might have funding withdrawn in East Ayrshire, classroom assistants hours are being cut in Falkirk, Dumfries & Galloway, Highland, Inverclyde, and others.
“Many communities will see their mobile library service withdrawn, eg in Falkirk, Clackmannan and Moray. If you find yourself out of work due to the recession, better get yourself up to speed on how the benefit system works as Welfare Rights Units employed by councils to make sure you get your due entitlement are cut back or closed in Aberdeen, Glasgow, and East Lothian.
“The annual spring clean that some elderly people receive is being abolished in Fife. The cost of meals on wheels for the elderly and vulnerable is going up in the Borders or switching from fresh to frozen food in Midlothian. And the cuts don’t stop when you die as the cost of being buried or cremated is increased to more closely reflect charges at private crematoria in Fife. No-one is exempt.
“And this is just the start of a sustained period of attacks on the public sector. As politicians vie with one another to out trump each other’s cuts to pay for the bail out of the banks, we urge our members and community campaigns to join UNISON’s Public Works campaign and tell politicians at all levels – in Westminster, in Holyrood and locally, that you will not accept cuts in our vital public services to bail out the fat cats.”
UNISON UK President, Gerry Gallagher brought greetings to the marchers from a similar rally in London. He will say
“In Glasgow and in London today our key message is that public services should not suffer because of the bank bailout. Our members didn’t cause the crash, and neither did the people we serve every day in communities across Scotland.
“Cuts will damage recovery from recession; Cuts will hit public services we all depend on; Cuts will threaten the wellbeing of our members and their families. You all have your own story to tell. And tell them you should. Because it is the combined voice of public service workers and service users that need to be heard in corridors of power.”
UNISONScotland’s Public Works campaign will now target the election, with hustings at Scottish and local level, and by questioning political parties and individual candidates.
UNISON's general Secretary, Dave Prentis, launched the public service
union's major 'Public Works' campaign fighting back against cuts in public
services. Speaking at a rally in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 6th
February, he attacked all political parties' 'Macho Politics' and announced
that the union's research has uncovered cuts of £300m across Scottish local
government with a planned job loss of over 3,000. "No school cleaner gambled
billions on the stock exchange." He said, "None of them created this
recession. Why should they be expected to pay for it?"
UNISON members in Scotland’s councils have voted to accept a two year pay
deal. Ballot papers were issued to nearly 100,000 UNISON members seeking
their view of the latest local government pay offer by CoSLA of 3% for 2008
and 2.5% for 2009. The ballot covered members working for Scotland’s 32
local councils, local joint valuation boards and fire and rescue staff. In a
very close result, UNISON members have voted by a narrow majority to accept
Ballot papers have been issued asking over 100,000 UNISON members working for Scotland’s local councils their view of the latest local government pay offer. The ballot covers members working for Scotland’s 32 local councils, local joint valuation boards and fire and rescue staff.
The union is recommending that members reject CoSLA’s offer of 3% for 2008 and 2.5% for 2009. Members of the other two unions representing local council staff (GMB and Unite(T&G))are also being balloted with a recommendation to reject the offer. They are due to declare at the same time as UNISON.
The new offer comes following two successful one day strikes by the unions. Selective action planned by UNISON members was suspended to allow consultation to take place.
Stephen Smellie, South Lanarkshire Branch Secretary said, “This offer is not a good offer – especially when inflation is riding around 5%, but our negotiators felt that we should put it before our members in a full postal ballot."
“It is clear from employers’ statements that they are digging in for a major dispute, and we will be telling our members that increased and longer strike action will be needed to deliver an offer that protects them from the major rises that they have experienced in food, heating and fuel.”
"We will also be stepping up our political campaign, and asking members to write to their councillors and ask for a fair resolution to this pay dispute."
Scotland’s largest council union, UNISON, agreed to recommend that their members reject the latest below-inflation pay offer made by Scotland’s councils at a meeting of the union’s local government branches in Glasgow on Friday.
UNISON will now institute a full ballot of their 100,000 members in Scottish Local Government – which will be declared in early November.
Following two highly successful one-day strikes by around 150,000 UNISON, GMB and Unite members in the last two months, local government employers increased their 2.5% offer to 3% for this year (April 08-April 09) – still less than the current rate of inflation. In addition they demanded that the unions commit to a fixed pay rise of 2.5% for 2009-10 - whatever the inflation rate.
Stephen Smellie, South Lanarkshire Branch Secretary said, “It is clear our activists do not accept that this offer is good enough. Our members, like others are suffering from the effects of the economic downturn. The recent increases in inflation – especially in basic necessities like food and fuel – impact particularly hard on low-paid members, and a 3% increase does not deliver the kind of help they need. Bankers and fat cats in the city get help – it is time for hard-pressed public service workers to get that help. Council staff in Scotland have delivered around £200 m worth of efficiency savings that councils should share with staff as well as with council tax payers.”
"UNISON will be making it clear to our members that it will take a lot of pressure to get the employers to improve their offer. The employers are determined to keep the pay rise at the level of the current offer – if members hope to shift them we need to strengthen our industrial action strategy and members will need to be prepared to increase the level of their activity. There is no point simply voting to reject the offer – we have to intensify our industrial and political campaigning.”
Members of UNISON, GMB and Unite are taking strike action on 24th September in pursuit of a decent pay rise. This involves janitors, cleaners, school meals staff, classroom assistants, special educational needs auxiliaries, admin and clerical staff, school librarians and technicians. Despite this South Lanarkshire Council is intending to open schools.
The 3 trade unions are raising concerns that the Council is putting children at risk by encouraging them to attend school when many key staff are unavailable due to them supporting the strike.
Stephen Smellie, Branch Secretary of UNISON in South Lanarkshire said, “The members of the 3 trade unions are critical to the safety of children whilst at school. It is our members who provide pupil supervision out of class, first aid cover, and support to teachers in class and to children with special educational needs and physical disabilities. These staff are essential on a day to day basis. No Head Teacher would argue that these staff are not needed and yet the Council intends to open schools next week. We believe that children could be put at risk where schools are not adequately staffed.”
Bobby Watson, GMB Secretary added, “One example is that each school will have an agreed fire drill in the event of a fire. The school janitor and clerical staff play a key role in this. Classroom Assistants and Special Educational Needs Auxilliaries have clear roles to play in ensuring children, including children with disabilities, are evacuated safely. Without these staff the agreed fire drill cannot be followed. We hope that nothing like that happens but if it did children would certainly be at risk.”
Tom Bartle, Unite Secretary, said,“The union members don’t want to cause disruption. It is the Councils and CoSLA who have caused this situation. If children are out at risk the responsibility will lie with the CoSLA for causing this dispute and the council for opening schools without adequate staffing in place. The Education Director should carry out a full risk assessment prior to making decisions about opening schools. That is his legal responsibility”
Stephen Smellie added, “We will have pickets at a number of schools. This means that staff may decide not to go into work, leaving the situation where Head Teachers may find they do not have the staff they thought they would and having to consider sending children home. We would urge the Education department to think again.”
“Further action is now inevitable,” said Stephen Smellie, South Lanarkshire UNISON's Branch Secretary as UNISON, the largest union representing over 100,000 council staff in Scotland, reacted with “bitter disappointment” at the failure of the local government employers body CoSLA to improve the rejected pay offer which led to strike action last month.
UNISON along with the other trade unions involved in the pay dispute, Unite and GMB, met with the employers (COSLA) on Monday 1 September to continue talks on this years pay settlement. Regrettably the meeting broke up with no new offer being made.
The only concession being made by the employers is to make their offer of 2.5% effective for one year instead of the three previously offered.
Stephen Smellie said: “Whilst we are pleased that our day of action forced the employer back to the negotiating table and they retracted the three year element of their final offer, we are bitterly disappointed and angry that the value of the offer has not been improved. The employers publicly stated that they required to look at a settlement that took account of the rises in inflation and to subsequently make no new offer is disingenuous on their part.”
Stephen Smellie said: “Our members will be extremely angry at the way their employers are treating them. Many of our members are amongst the lowest paid in the public sector and to give indications that the offer would be improved and then subsequently not will simply strengthen their resolve in pursuing a better offer. Further action is now inevitable and we will be talking to our fellow trade unions to pursue this.”
The 24 hour stoppage that closed and disrupted council services across Scotland on Wednesday has won a reopening of talks with the employers, the main council union – UNISON said today.
A meeting of UNISON’s Scottish local government branches today welcomed the news that council employers had suggested further talks, and congratulated the members who struck last Wednesday.
Stephen Smellie, South Lanarkshire Branch Secretary, said “We are pleased that CoSLA has approached us to reopen talks on this years pay award, following the successful strike by members of the three unions on Wednesday. We also note that the invitation to talks addresses some of the contentious issues. Obviously we want a solution to this dispute, so we hope that discussions around a new offer more acceptable to our members can start quickly.”
The meeting of branches welcomed the news but also agreed to maintain the dispute and make preparations for further strike action in the event of any failure of talks.
Stephen Smellie said “Members made it very clear on Wednesday that they want a settlement that protects them from inflation and does not lock them in to multi-year awards. The talks are welcome but are not in themselves a solution. We will be talking to our fellow unions to agree future action should it be required, and will announce this later.”
Thousands of South Lanarkshire Council workers will strike on Wednesday 20 August over their ongoing pay dispute. Members of the largest council union UNISON, and colleagues from GMB and Unite unions have overwhelmingly voted for industrial action to fight a fair pay rise for local government workers across Scotland.
The 24 hour stoppage will affect all council services, including schools, libraries, housing, leisure services and bin collections as around 200,000 staff take action across Scotland. The union has, however, agreed some exemptions for workers from strike action, to ensure that essential services to the most vulnerable members of the community can still be delivered, for example in Home Care and in Residential Care.
Stephen Smellie, South Lanarkshire Branch Secretary said,“We don't take striking lightly, but our members are angry that the employers want to lock them into 2.5% increases for the next three years, while inflation is still rising and is set to continue. The 2.5% pay offer is already a pay cut. Food is up 6%, transport 7%, mortgages 8%, electricity and only recently gas up by an additional 35%. Pay in the private sector is rising by 4%.”
John McLaughlin, Home Carer and UNISON Home Care Convener, said "In Home Care, we are very angry with the derisory pay offer, and are extremely disappointed not to be able to join our colleagues on the picket lines unless it's our day off, but we have agreed not to take strike action to ensure continuity of care for our clients.”
"Caring's what we do, and we do care, we care about the people we look after, but we have to care for our families too and we are among some of the lowest paid workers not only in councils but in the public sector. We're looking after your mums and dads, do we not deserve better?"
"Of course, we're not the only low paid workers working for councils providing services to the public. Our lowest paid members are currently on an hourly rate of £5.99 and they stand to gain the princely sum of 46p after three years. Three-quarters of the councils' workforce are women, but there’s a 40% gap between part-time women’s and full-time men’s hourly pay.”
UNISON dismisses employers’ claims of affordability too. Stephen Smellie said, “Scottish councils agreed that they didn’t need to raise council tax, and they have saved £200million in efficiency savings over the last two years – efficiencies that have been delivered by our members. As at 1 April, 2007 unallocated reserves in Scottish councils were at least £100 million."
UNISON members working for South Lanarkshire Council were among the 100,000 local government workers across Scotland balloted for strike action over pay. UNISON announced a 70% majority for strike action. A meeting of its local government branches being held today (Friday 1st August) will decide the union’s next steps in the dispute over pay.
The ballot was called after Scotland’s local council employers offered a 2.5% rise each year for three years. All three local council unions (UNISON, GMB and Unite (T&G)) rejected the offer. Now the members of all three unions have voted to pursue their claim with strike action. The form of the industrial action will be decided in discussions between the three unions later, but is likely to comprise a day of all-out strike followed by selective action from key sections of staff.
Stephen Smellie, South Lanarkshire UNISON’s Branch Secretary said, “This result is a clear rejection of an inadequate offer. Our members are clear that they cannot afford another series of below inflation pay increases. Inflation is at 4.6% and key items on household bills like bread and milk are increasing even faster. Our members need a fair offer from their employers. We have a window of opportunity to see if we can avoid disruptive strikes. I hope the employers take it.”
“Our members are not the cause of inflation, they are the victims of it. They have the worst pay, holidays, parental rights and sick pay in the public sector and without them vital services will fall apart. The offer is a pay cut, increases the differential between higher and low paid and locks us into likely pay cuts for three years.”
UNISON’s local government members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland took strike action over a similar 2.45% offer on 16 and 17 July. The union has also announced that it intends to demand reopening negotiations in the NHS over a three year deal which offers similar rises (2.54% and 2.5%) in years two and three.
Over 6,000 UNISON members working for South Lanarkshire Council along with their local government colleagues across Scotland will be balloted for industrial action over their pay.
As UNISON¹s local government members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland voted by 55% to 45% for a programme of sustained strike action over a 2.45% pay offer, in Scotland the unions announced plans for a strike ballot over the rejected 2.5% per year offer for similar staff in Scotland.
South Lanarkshire UNISON representatives joined UNISON negotiators and low paid workers at a lobby of the Scottish employers organisation, CoSLA, on Wednesday 25 June to underline the members' rejection of the offer.
Dougie Black, UNISONScotland Regional Organiser said “Despite public statements from CoSLA that they are still in negotiation, the employers have recently cancelled a negotiating meeting scheduled for Wednesday. We have decided that our negotiators, and a representative number of our low paid members, will keep the appointment nevertheless to make the point to CoSLA that their offer is unacceptable."
“They will be carrying the princely sum of 46p – the total that our lowest paid members can expect their hourly rate to increase if they accepted the employers’ offer.”
UNISON and the two other local government unions – GMB and UNITE (T&G) – claimed an increase of 5% or £1,000 (whichever was the greater), from 1 April 2008. Scottish Local Councils have offered an increase of 2.5% a year for the next three years. Members of all three unions have rejected this offer and the unions now plan ballots on Industrial Action to take place during July.
Stephen Smellie, South Lanarkshire UNISON's Branch Secretary said, “With inflation running at 3-4%, and many items such as fuel and food surging in price by 15 – 40% it is no wonder that members who deliver our vital services reject being locked into a below-inflation deal for the next three years. In addition, with fuel costs spiralling, many staff who use their cars to do their work are effectively subsidising employers. We hope that our employers will see that to deliver the improved services we all want, we need staff who are properly paid and qualified. Pay offers like their current one will do nothing to attract and retain these staff.”
by Kate Ramsden, Scottish Communications & Campaigns Committee
Home care services are essential for our most vulnerable groups and should be kept in house to ensure the services are of the highest standards. Conference pledged to step up the campaign to oppose the privatisation of Home Care and to demand a regulatory framework to ensure regular training and proper support for all health and social care staff.
Supporting Comp B on Home Care Services, John McLaughlin, South Lanarkshire, himself a home carer, told conference that the continuing trend to privatise home care services to reduce costs was an attack on thousands of UNISON members in local authority home care.
"However, it also means a continuing deterioration in the quality of services provided to the most vulnerable members of the community," he warned.
"One thing we must do is to ensure that when the private sector is involved, they fulfil the same standards of care and health & safety requirements and have the relevant accreditation to carry out the role to the same standard as local authority home carers," he said, adding that in South Lanarkshire they have used through local negotiating fora to successfully push for this.
"We must ask ourselves, would we rather big business looked after our mums and dads, or dedicated carers."
South Lanarkshire’s partner unions are joining forces to campaign for fair pay for Local Government workers across Scotland. The three unions, UNISON, GMB and Unite (T&G), which represent workers across South Lanarkshire Council, earlier rejected a three-year pay offer from CoSLA, the Local Government employers.
The CoSLA offer given in early March, spanned three years, proposing rises of 2.5% in 2008, 2.5% in 2009 and a further 2.5% in 2010. The unions’ joint claim submitted last November was for a rise of £1,000 or 5% in 2008. The unions rejected the latest offer following a sounding on members views, and are now gearing up to carry out a full member consultation and will call on their members to reject this offer.
South Lanarkshire UNISON’s Branch Secretary Stephen Smellie, said "All three trade unions have rejected the employers’ offer. There is a great deal of anger at the employers’ insistence on a 3 year deal and their continuing refusal to agree a reopener clause linked to inflation. The offer is already less than inflation, and without a re-opener clause our members are being asked to buy a pig in a poke."
Bobby Watson, South Lanarkshire GMB Branch Secretary said: "Clearly rejection of this offer places us on a course for industrial action, and all three trade unions recognise the need to coordinate a joint campaign supported by campaigning materials and briefings outlining our concerns with the offer."
Tom Bartle, South Lanarkshire Unite’s Branch Secretary said: "The offer doesn't approach the current rate of inflation, let alone begin to catch up the loss staff have suffered over recent years and it skews the pay scales, increasing the gap between higher and lower paid - for our lowest paid workers the increase after 3 years is around 50p! This is effectively a pay cut."
Stephen Smellie said: "Councillors should be aware that our members are serious about this offer being unacceptable. CoSLA have said they want to make 'efficiency savings so they can reinvest in services. One of those investments should be in the workforce that delivers these services. If you want first class public services, if you want the sick and elderly cared for, your children well-educated and protected and your streets clean and safe, cutting the pay of public sector workers is the wrong way to go about it."
A Young Worker’s Event in South Lanarkshire this March was an all out success, recruiting 18 young members into the local UNISON branch, and also helping to encourage existing members to take a more active role in the union’s activities.
South Lanarkshire UNISON took the lead in organising this event along with South Lanarkshire Council and the partner unions. The Council’s involvement was crucial to the event, identifying and inviting young workers who were not a member of any trade union.
Tracey Carruthers, Young Members Officer, said “We were really pleased with the turnout for the event. The free lunch and the chance to win a Wii probably helped, but I think we managed to get the balance right with a range of stalls, all offering advice to young people wanting to take control of their lives.
“There were stalls from the various trade unions, the Council’s Money Matters Advice Service (MMAS), Strathclyde Pension Fund , Scotwest Credit Union, NHS Health Promotions and a Sexual Health Awareness stall.”
“It was great to speak to existing members and to get so many new young members. I’m not saying the rest of the branch are old fogeys, but none of us are getting any younger, so we really do need to keep recruiting young people and to make them feel a part of the union. We will certainly be organising similar events in the future.”
The following people have accepted their nominations for Branch Officer positions and are duly elected unopposed.
More than one nomination was received for the Service Conditions Officer Post, and approval will be sought for John Gilmour and Dave McLellan to share this position.
There are still vacancies for International Officer and Life-Long Learning Co-Ordinator. Nominations for these will be sought at the Branch Council Annual Meeting in February.
Update from AGM
At Branch AGM of February 22nd 2008, approval was given for John Gilmour and Dave McLellan to job share the Service Conditions Officer position.
Paul Nicoll was nominated for position of International Officer and duly elected.
The Lanark Swimming Pool team won this year’s UNISON sponsored SLC Employee Equal Opportunities Award. They were nominated by a UNISON member impressed at the way they welcomed Anne, a blind woman, and Pip, her guide dog, whilst other places had been unable to accommodate her.
Anne and Pip became regulars at the pool, as she prepared for a parachute jump for charity. Unfortunately, Anne didn’t get doing the parachute jump, but it was still all very worthwhile.
The staff ensured Anne had a lane close to the edge of the pool and that she was not disturbed by other users and looked after Pip at the side of the pool.
Ian White, the Lanark Pool Manager, explained that they had learned a lot from Anne, an independent woman with a great sense of humour and have since been able to provide a service to another blind user. Anne delivered deafness and blindness awareness training to the staff. Anne works for Pathfinders, an organisation that provides world class German Shepherd guide dogs to blind people and earlier this year, the Lanark Pool ran a charity event for the organisation. You can find more information on Pathfinders at http://www.pathfinderdogs.org/index.php.
Ian was keen to point out that the prize was for the whole team, "There are twenty staff in the team. Staff will change, but I hope that the ethos will always be there."
It was a dream" for Gladys Ayllón from the Cuban Institute of Friendship between the Peoples (ICAP) to come to Scotland, a land of independence, a land with strong links to Cuba.
Cuba is a country of independence, a young country born from revolution 49 years ago, and country of humanity, hospitality and friendship still changing for the better. They had already proved, when Fidel Castro was recently ill that the country and its ethos will survive him.
Gladys told us that despite 184 countries voting this year in favour of UN Resolution to remove the 45 year old US embargo against Cuba. The US were resolute in keeping the blockade. But the US have been ignoring UN calls to remove it since 1992.
This has always been much more than a trade embargo but instead a human, and cultural blockade, Children are dying because of this blockade, Gladys explained, with the embargo including urgently needed medicines. In fact, Cuba has an advanced pharmaceuticals industry, and the US could have benefited from the Cuban vaccine against meningitis, a huge killer in the US.
Cuba has turned the other cheek and has included US students in their extensive medical training programme. This programme offers students from deprived backgrounds full scholarships, including accommodation on the condition they return to the US to offer low-cost healthcare.
Gladys was critical of double standards of countries backing removal of the blockade but allowing discriminatory practices within their borders- it was reported earlier this year, that an Oslo hotel, owned by the Hilton Group, had turned back a Cuban trade delegation, because of the US blockade and that this would be the policy of the hotel group.
Gladys highlighted the importance of young people in Cuba, that the older generation were working with the younger generation to keep the country constantly improving economically and socially for the good of the majority - working together to "maintain the Cuban Pride".
Want to find out more, or go to this vibrant country, an example to us all go to http://www.scottishcuba.org/