Unite claims ‘major incidents’ arising from outsourcing 

Unite the union has confirmed today (20 July) that is balloting its members over cuts to the City of Edinburgh Council’s Monitoring and Response Service Unit. 

Unite’s members at ATEC24’s Monitoring and Response Service provide emergency telecare for Edinburgh’s vulnerable citizens to let them live safely at home. 

Vulnerable clients of the service have an alarm and other devices, such as pendants that detect if they have fallen or sensors to check if they have left the house, which then call the service to alert them that the client may need attention. 

The ballot involving over 20 members opens on 20 July and closes on 3 August. It could lead to strike action taking place in the coming weeks.

Amid concerns over staff pressures and fatigue, Unite is accusing the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB) of making detrimental decisions without consultation. This includes case call handling being outsourced to Newham Council in May 2022 allegedly on a temporary basis. 

Increased times for local Monitoring and Response Officers (MROs) to arrive on scene (i.e. over 40 mins) is directly arising from Newham based call handlers contacting family members first instead of local responders. Unite has been made aware of ‘major incidents’ arising from the outsourcing which has led to significant stress being placed on both client users, family relatives and staff.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary said: “Our members in Edinburgh’s Monitoring and Response Unit have simply had enough of the chaos. This is directly due to service cuts and the outsourcing of call handling to Newham Borough Council, in London, almost 400 miles away. Make no mistake about this, lives are at risk. The workers deserve the support of Edinburgh’s citizens because this is a fight not only about better jobs, pay and conditions, but a better service for the most vulnerable people in the City.”

Unite can further disclose that calls are being assigned to local MROs irrespective of geography. This means that teams are now being allocated calls at opposite ends of the City when another team is closer to the situation. Prior to the outsourcing it was the team closest who would attend the call.  

The number of teams have also reduced from two teams on each shift to one due to understaffing placing a huge pressure on the single team. 

Unite Scottish Deputy, Mary Alexander added: “Our members have given their all during the pandemic to keep their vulnerable clients safe. But now those very same vulnerable clients are being put at risk because of the length of time to respond and undue pressures being put on families to attend first. It is only the dedication and commitment of our members that keeps the service going. Unite has repeatedly raised that major incidents are arising from the cuts and outsourcing which isn’t being addressed. This is why our members feel they have no option but to ballot for strike action as a last resort.”

Unite hopes the industrial action ballot will help to raise awareness of the significant pressures being placed on MRO’s as they are often required to attend deaths and emergencies.  The impact of facing these situations is dramatically increased when staff have to face them alone.


Notes to Editor

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Unite Scotland is the country’s biggest and most diverse trade union with around 150,000 members. The union is led in Scotland by Pat Rafferty.