By Oliver Farrimond
TRADE unions have staged a dramatic mock funeral outside the Scottish Parliament in protest over mounting job losses.
Scores of angry demonstrators, dressed all in black, marched behind a horse-drawn carriage complete with coffin, sending the sombre message that Scotland’s voluntary sector was in danger of dying.
Union representatives are due to sit down with the MSPs later in the day, and will present a seven-point plan of action to tackle the dangers.
The plan has over 4,000 signatures, and demands more public funding and the same pay and work conditions as public sector workers.
A climate of cuts
Roz Foyer, organiser for Unite, said: “Unless the government does something to make funding for our section fairer, we’re in danger of losing everything that’s good about voluntary work.
“We’re bringing the voices of those who work at the sharp end of social services to the Scottish Parliament’s front door, so they know exactly how people’s lives have been affected.
“We want MSPs to act now to end this climate of cuts.”
The voluntary sector is worth over four billion pounds and looks after 160,000 Scots – roughly a third of those in publicly-funded care.
Workers have daily contact with the elderly, homeless people and those battling drug and alcohol addictions.
Organisations have been under intense pressure during the recession, with family centres and care projects all over Scotland facing the threat of closure.
The parliament’s petitions committee will hear that almost all voluntary services are run at a loss, and that workers are paid £1 below the average public sector rate.
Mrs Foyer, 36, added that competitive tendering, where voluntary organisations compete for government contracts, should be scrapped.
She said: “It’s a painful and needless system that brings harm to the neediest portions of our society.”
The protest coincides with the launch of Unite’s Death by a Thousand Cuts report, released today, which highlights the real price of the funding cuts.
Frank McAveety, convener of the Public Petitions Committee, came out to greet the protestors and stressed the importance of Scotland’s voluntary sector.
The Labour MSP for Glasgow Shettleston said: “The voluntary sector provides invaluable support for the most vulnerable members of society.
“This demonstration and the accompanying petition is the first stage of a long term project to restore health to this vital part of Scotland’s social infrastructure.”