Drew Smith MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 29 January 2015 : Thursday, January 29, 2015
Drew Smith (Glasgow) (Lab)

That is what SNP members want you to do, though—



Meeting of the Parliament 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Drew Smith (Glasgow) (Lab)

Over the afternoon, there have been perhaps two dozen of us in the chamber. We all have different experiences and skills, and of course there are differences in our political outlooks, but we have one thing in common that separates us from any similar-sized gathering of the people we represent: we are all well paid; we are all reasonably secure in our jobs, at least until election time; and the chances are that most of us enjoy or receive some fulfilment from our work.

Some of us have experienced unemployment, as Mr Ingram said, and others, such as me, grew up in families who have had shorter or longer periods where one or two parents were looking for work. For the moment, as a representative gathering of people in Scotland, we are unique in that none of us is unemployed, none of us is at risk of unemployment and none of us is suffering underemployment or enduring unfulfilling or even exploitative employment.

I say that to put in context the rest of my speech. It is all well and good to thank those involved in efforts to secure continuing employment for others, and I absolutely do so, but we should remember that a lack of work is a deeply personal and debilitating thing that can render an individual humiliated, to the point of contributing to mental illness. It can put stress on a family to the point of family breakdown. It is quite simply a social evil and it should be regarded as such. It is not just a matter of policy, whereby we view redundancies as an undesirable outcome that is to be minimised, a cost that must be borne or—worst of all in my view—a tragedy that is somehow unavoidable or unpredictable.

Redundancy is not an act of God, although there are situations where the person or company making the decisions about redundancy behaves in that way. That is the reality—they are very clear about who is playing the role of deity in those situations.

I absolutely agree with what Lewis Macdonald and Mark McDonald said in support of PACE, but we need to do much better than this. Redundancy is an outcome that society has come to accept too readily as a normal part of the economic cycle. I accept that there are situations where it is the only option and where the employers involved pursue it with genuine grief and after strenuous efforts to prevent it. In those circumstances, initiatives to advise redundant workers of their best chance of being re-engaged are necessary, but in most circumstances they are still reactive.

I have to question why the lead partner for PACE is still Skills Development Scotland, which is a training body, rather than Scottish Enterprise, which is the jobs and economic development agency. I agree that encouraging workers to reskill for a job other than the one for which they have been trained is necessary in some situations and that it can be positive—some people might never look back after that experience—but we need to face other facts that follow from pursuing only that approach or from pursuing it first. Some workers will not be reskilled at all and will in effect be deskilled, because they will discover that their period of unemployment or instance of redundancy leads not to an opportunity for career development but to being underpaid in a new occupation for which the qualifications or skills are not comparable to those of their previous employment.

We need to remember that one of the important purposes of PACE is to ensure continuity for the household or family affected by redundancy. However, someone does not have continuity by having another job for which they are paid substantially less than they were before, which can have a severe impact. They also do not have continuity if they are moved on to a job in which job security is low, which could be the result of various things that we talk about regularly in this place that are happening in the economy, such as zero-hours contracts, being asked to work without a contract and collective bargaining being non-existent.

I listened carefully to Mr Ingram’s point about USC in Dundonald and I agree with what he said. One reason why the STUC and Thompsons Solicitors needed to step in was that there was no collective bargaining in that workplace, no recognition of a union and no density of union membership, which meant that people were unaware of their employment rights at the time of redundancy. I agree that employment rights should be improved, but there also needs to be greater understanding of the rights that people have now and respect for them from employers.

As I have said in the chamber before, the world of work consists of good employers and less good employers, just as the workforce is made up of good workers and not-so-conscientious workers. The point is not to denigrate all for the sins of a minority but to recognise that the necessity of selling our labour in the workplace has a fundamental potential for exploitation. It is for that reason, and not because of the circumstances of particular companies, that employment requires to be regulated.

There is no greater example of the potential for exploitation than the situation of redundancy, the threat of which can be and—frankly—is used to ensure that workers comply with working practices that employers wish to promote that generally lead to greater job insecurity. I mentioned temporary contracts in that regard, and among plenty of other examples there is bogus self-employment.

When a workforce as a whole or a substantial part of it has been declared redundant, we need to recognise that it is not the work that is redundant but the workers; the work is simply moved elsewhere, more than likely to where the company will term it to be more competitive, which basically means that job security, pay or safety regulations will be weakened.



Meeting of the Parliament 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Drew Smith

We need to go back to first principles on PACE. We all accept that it is doing good work, but it is mainly a reactive service. I hear what the minister and others have said about the wish to protect companies from revealing information about their situation, but we need to have a greater deal of confidence and expectation that companies will engage early with the service so that redundancy is avoided rather than just mitigated after it happens. I therefore support the Labour amendment.

16:39  

Meeting of the Parliament 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Drew Smith

A number of members have made that point, and I understand where they are coming from, but surely employers who know that they may be putting their employees at risk of redundancy have a duty to engage with services, to approach the Government and to make it clear that action should be put in place to minimise the risk for those individuals.



Public Audit Committee 21 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Drew Smith (Glasgow) (Lab)

Mary Scanlon referred to the report cards that we have had over time. The latest report card continues to show that we are not making the progress in community planning that we would like to be making. Can the panel give us some insight into the examples of that lack of progress? Understandably, and I know the reasons why, people have given us the examples that show that it is not as bad as all that. We have been given good examples: Chief Superintendent Watson referred to the community hub and Mr McKinnon gave an interesting example of some of the innovative things that are being done. From your experience of being involved in community planning, what are the practical consequences—we probably understand those—and what are the factors that lead to us not being able to achieve things? Can you give us specific examples?

I cannot square the fact that we keep getting reports from the Auditor General saying that the boards are not performing as well as they should be and do not have a clear enough sense of what they should be doing, and, as Mary Scanlon said, that the overall report card is not improving fast enough, with the positive examples that the people in leadership positions on the community planning partnership are pointing to. Those examples undoubtedly exist, but so they should. Is anyone willing to share where it goes wrong?



Public Audit Committee 21 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Drew Smith

That is interesting, and I wonder whether the other panel members will reflect on it. The panel members are all in leadership positions in the delivery of our public services. Your communities will look to people such as you to be the key decision makers and to be ultimately responsible and, to a greater or lesser extent, accountable for the decisions.

When people tell me that an elderly relative has been delayed in getting out of hospital or that they are having difficulty dealing with an issue of antisocial behaviour because the council tells them to speak to the police and the police tell them to speak to the housing provider, those are examples of a failure of community planning.

If I respond by saying that the problem is that there is no buy-in at the appropriate level of leadership in the public services, or no significant enthusiasm for collective working at strategic level, people will not be very satisfied with those answers. That goes back to Mary Scanlon’s point that the process is not new. I understand that these things take time and that we will seek to get better over time but, after 10 years, is it good enough to say that the issue is about culture and whether the individuals in the room happen to get on or whether they have a similar and shared understanding of the challenges that they face in local communities?



Public Audit Committee 21 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Drew Smith

When police counters in my area were closing, I got a letter from Police Scotland to tell me about it, and when changes were made to day care services in Glasgow, I got a letter from the council to tell me about the disinvestment in those services. However, when the health board withdraws funding from a local voluntary sector organisation, we normally get a letter not from the health board but from the voluntary sector organisation. The health board rarely warns us in advance of such things.

I was interested in what David O’Neill said about this. A lot of the disinvestment decisions are taken by individual organisations while community planning partners think about where they want to invest and innovate. How much of a problem is it if the correct balance is not struck in discussions about disinvestment and investment? Community planning structures are fairly hamstrung by the fact that the other organisations take disinvestment decisions in isolation whereas they are subject to all the usual political pressures of making difficult choices.



Public Audit Committee 21 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Drew Smith

We talked about this at some length with the earlier panel, but whenever we discuss partnership relationships in the public services, a perennial issue is the extent to which everything appears to be dependent on fairly intangible things such as relationships and cultures. That causes frustration among those of us who want the process to be a success and to move forward more quickly. What is the appropriate balance between partnership and leadership? The Auditor General seems to be pointing to a deficiency in leadership. Where is the accountability for that leadership?

12:15  

Public Audit Committee 14 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Drew Smith (Glasgow) (Lab)

I have no relevant interests.



Public Audit Committee 14 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Drew Smith

I nominate Paul Martin.

Paul Martin was chosen as convener.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12182.1 Alex Fergusson: The Chilcot Inquiry—As an amendment to motion S4M-12182 in the name of N
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AbstainDefeated

S4M-12182 Nicola Sturgeon: The Chilcot Inquiry—That the Parliament calls for Sir John Chilcot’s offi
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12176 John Swinney: Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the gene
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12160.2 Michael Matheson: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Kez
>> Show more
AbstainCarried

S4M-12160.3 Margaret Mitchell: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Ke
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-12160 Kezia Dugdale: Women Offenders—That the Parliament welcomes the decision of the Scottish G
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12154.1 Lewis Macdonald: Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) – Supporting Indivi
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-12120.1 Jenny Marra: 2020 Vision, the Strategic Forward Direction of the NHS—As an amendment to
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12101 John Swinney: Budget (Scotland) (No.4) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the general prin
>> Show more
AbstainCarried

S4M-12095.4 Ken Macintosh: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Drew Smith
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12197: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11972: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 23/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11918: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11749: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 28/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11730: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 27/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11564: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 14/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11563: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 14/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11562: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 14/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11561: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 14/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11140: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 08/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Drew Smith
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-23795: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 23/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23796: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 23/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23680: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23561: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03797: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23294: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23301: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23296: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23297: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23298: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/11/2014 Show Full Question >>

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