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As Boris Johnson and others partied, UNISON members were fighting to save people’s lives and keep them safe – and nothing will ever erase that knowledge

By May 2020, there had been over 12,000 deaths in UK care homes involving COVID-19. Public service workers went to work every day to try to stop the number of deaths from soaring.

People stayed at home, and away from their loved ones, to protect them. We had been subject to severe restrictions to our daily lives for almost two months, but it already felt like a lifetime.

It was almost unimaginable, that two years later, we would still be battling this pandemic.

It’s now clear that the work of all our public service workers, and the efforts of everyone else who followed the rules, has been taken for granted by the people in power.

And that is being generous.

While they were enjoying themselves, UNISON members were hard at work trying to save lives. It just doesn’t get more sickening than this – until you find out that those at the top are also prepared to repeatedly hide the truth from us all.

Now, over 175,000 people have lost their lives. Their families and friends are left heartbroken, public service workers are exhausted and, just yesterday, inflation hit 5.1% – a 10-year high that will squeeze the living standards of hard-working people.

The Bank of England has forecast that this will rise to 6% by spring, with the inevitable consequence of pushing people to borrow more money in overdrafts, credit cards and payday loans, just to get by each day.

The pressures and demands that have been piled on everyone up and down the country have been relentless. I doubt that Prime Minister Boris Johnson could ever understand how everyone else has coped with this.

However, now that the truth is out about No10 partying while the country was in crisis, and now that his backbenchers are beginning to put pressure on him, perhaps he will have just a tiny taste of the strains we have all been tolerating.

He may try and move the attention away and on to his ‘living with COVID’ plan, or he may say ‘sorry’. But any apology he may choose to give will be too late, offer no comfort and will never erase the memories of the damage caused to people’s lives since he took up office as prime minister.

 

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Jan 17, 2022

 

Devolution means that guidance may be different across the four UK countries and updates may be announced at different times.

  • UK wide and England-specific updates will be placed on this page.
  • UNISON Cymru/Wales will post updates on its website and Facebook page.
  • UNISON Scotland will post updates on its website and Facebook page.
  • UNISON Northern Ireland will post updates on its website.

January 2022 update

UNISON’s Schools Committee has produced a statement on the current Covid staffing crisis, including requests for support staff to cover lessons, and the Westminster government guidance that says schools in England should consider merging classes. The statement also contains advice for members on cover issues in England.

Omicron and updated risk assessments 

It is a legal requirement that schools review and update risk assessments, in consultation with union reps and staff. In light of the much more transmissible Omicron variant it is critical that these revised procedures should be clearly communicated to staff, students, parents/carers, contractor staff, visitors and visiting workers.

If you have not yet seen a copy of your school’s updated risk assessment then email your school requesting an urgent copy before schools reopen.

Omicron variant – updated advice for staff with underlying health conditions, pregnant staff and those unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons

The position of the most vulnerable staff should be addressed through an individual risk assessment by your employer.

In addition, until we know more about the effects of the omicron variant, although it is not a government requirement, UNISON urge all employers to permit staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) and pregnant women to work from home – see Model letter to request home working.  The Local Government Association’s most recent advice to local authorities and schools is clear that CEV staff in particular should be offered individual risk assessments and that their requests to continue working from home should be properly considered and granted unless there are compelling reasons not to do so.  Where an employee’s role cannot be undertaken from home a temporary redeployment may be agreed to duties that can be undertaken from home – contact your local rep or branch if you need more advice on this

Vulnerable staff should also be offered the ‘option’ of a non-front-facing role with FFP2/FFP3 masks provided.

In addition, we know staff with underlying health conditions will in many circumstances need to seek medical advice about a return to work in these circumstances.  Due to the huge pressure on the NHS and GPs right now, the government has recently extended the period of self-certification for sickness absence from 7 to 28 days https://www.gov.uk/taking-sick-leave

Face mask rules for primary staff and secondary staff and students – current rules in England

The Department for Education has updated its policy to recommend that from January 2022, face coverings are worn in classrooms where pupils in year 7 and above are educated. This is in addition to existing guidance that face coverings should be worn by pupils, staff and adult visitors when moving around the premises outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas. Secondary pupils should also continue to wear face coverings on public and school transport.

In primary schools, under DfE Guidance, face coverings should be worn by staff and adults (including visitors) when moving around in corridors and communal areas.

Safe schools for all 

UNISON strongly opposed the government’s decision to remove mitigations in schools back in summer 2021. We warned at the time that it would lead to increased levels of educational disruption and illness which was unfortunately borne out in the Autumn term. UNISON called on schools themselves to implement additional safety measures.

Our joint union checklist describes the measures you can ask your employer to implement to keep schools safe in this stage of the pandemic.

Read the joint union checklist (Jan 2022) here

UNISON published joint union guidance with NEU, GMB and Unite to explain the current government guidance for clinically vulnerable people. You can also find extra advice in the FAQs below. Please contact your branch if you have any concerns.

Read the advice for clinically vulnerable members (Jan 2022) here

The health and safety responsibilities owed by school and college employers

School staff have a right to a safe working environment and individuals shouldn‘t have to work where they reasonably believe that they (or others) face serious and imminent danger. The following link outlines main health and safety legislation, including your rights not to face serious and imminent danger at work (Section 44 ECRA 1996). UNISON branches can advise members how to use their rights if you  feel you are being put at serious or imminent risk.

Download further information on Schools and colleges’ health and  safety responsibilities

If you have any concerns about your working environment or what you are being asked to do, please contact your branch for further advice.

 

Early years

UNISON believes that early years staff should have the same rights and protections as other education workers. We know that staff are unable to apply social distancing within early years settings, placing them at increased risk.

The DfE have issued guidance for early years settings on coronavirus removing many restrictions placed on settings during the pandemic, leaving decisions on the safety of settings to employers.

Please see the FAQs below for more information.

Can I refuse to attend work if I believe that my workplace is unsafe?

Members who work in early years have a right to a safe working environment and we continue to pressure the Government and employers to ensure this. Individuals should not have to work where they reasonably believe that they (or others) face serious and imminent danger.

Please contact your local UNISON branch for further advice and support.

 

What if I have a question?

A full list of FAQs for school support staff and early years staff in England is provided below, but are currently being updated in light of the fast-moving Omicron situation (See links at the top of the page for advice in Scotland, Cymru/Wales and Northern Ireland).

If you are concerned about safety issues in your school or think that agreements are not being followed, please get in touch with your local UNISON branch.

Contact my branch

For more information about your rights at work please visit our dedicated web page


Jan 17, 2022

 

The Holocaust Memorial Trust has produced free guides and resources to help your UNISON branch organise events and activities

A single, lighted candle

Holocaust Memorial Day takes place every year on 27 January. This year, the theme is ‘one day’.

The theme, which is open to interpretation, encourages participants and events to focus on one day in history to learn more about, or one day when life changed for a Holocaust survivor. It also offers one day to set aside to remember the past and to create a world that will one day be free from fascism, genocide and the politics of hate. In the words of the organisers:

One day is just a snapshot in time and therefore cannot give the full picture, the context, the background that is needed, but it can help bring a piece of the full picture to life.

“For those who suffered for days, weeks, months, years, focussing on just one day is a starting point, a way in for us to learn more about what happened during the Holocaust and the genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.”

Click here to find out more about this years theme

The Holocaust Memorial Trust has also produced free guides and resources to help your UNISON branch organise events and activities, including guides and advice on marking the day which are specifically tailored for trade unions and workplaces.

Access a range of resources and order free activity packs

No matter the scale of your event or activity, the trust would love to learn more about how your workplace or UNISON branch commemorates the day. Whether your activity is private or open to the public, let them know at hmd.org.uk/node/add/events

Furthermore, as part of the activity around Holocaust Memorial Day 2021, UNISON will be highlighting the work of Generation 2 Generation (G2G), a charity that provides speakers to tell their family Holocaust stories online or face-to-face to a variety of audiences.

G2G works to ensure the lessons of the Holocaust are learned and promotes tolerance of all groups in society through engaging, historically accurate presentations which integrate first-hand survivor testimony.

Find out more at the G2G website 

To book a G2G speaker, click here

or email: bookings@generation2generation.org.uk


Jan 17, 2022

 

Air filters and masks welcome but nowhere near enough

Responding to the education secretary’s announcement today (Sunday) introducing further Covid safety measures for schools and colleges in England, UNISON assistant general secretary Jon Richards said:

“An increase in the use of face coverings and better ventilation are welcome but should have been in place before Christmas to have slowed the infection in schools.

“Providing 7,000 filters is a helpful step. But with over 20,000 schools – many with dozens of classrooms – this will barely scratch the surface.

“These new measures also don’t address the need for extra funding to meet additional costs to schools and colleges, such as paying for agency cover when staff are sick or isolating.

“Nor do they tackle the additional workload for those who’re able to work, or ensure staff working for private contractors are given full sick pay when they need to isolate.

“Unions have been calling for these changes for months. But just like last year, changes announced at the last minute leave little time to prepare for the new term.”

Notes to editors:
-UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk


Jan 3, 2022

Dec 16, 2021

UNISON owned and operated Croyde Bay Resort, in North Devon, offers 15% off any holiday or short break for UNISON members, rising to a huge 50% off for low paid UNISON members.

The resort features a modern 56 bedroom hotel as well as self catering cottages and summer chalet b&b rooms.

The brilliant location next to the fabulous Croyde Beach, matched with top quality 4* rated accommodation, lots of free facilities and a super friendly welcome, have all contributed to Croyde Bay Holiday Resort winning a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for the last 3 years!

This popular surfing mecca has a well-earned reputation with all age groups and makes a great base for exploring all that beautiful North Devon has to offer, on land and sea.

Check out the holiday possibilities 


Dec 10, 2021
Dec 10, 2021
Dec 8, 2021

 

The COVID-19 response fund offers grants of up to £350 to help members whose household incomes have been affected by the pandemic.

Eligibility and Application

To access the online application form, and for more information regarding eligibility and the support available, please go to the following link or see the attached editable application form. 

Note: the quickest way to apply and receive a grant is via the online application form, so in the first instance, please advise members to use this method. Then secondly via emailing the attached application form to covidgrantenquiries@unison.co.uk. Otherwise, members can also request a postal application, but the timescales for processing may be longer.

 

In all cases, please advise members to supply relevant supporting documents.

 

Regards,

Sarah Jones
Centre Administrator

Planning & Regeneration - Adult Learning
Regeneration & Enterprise
Dudley Council 
Brierley Hill Neighbourhood LRN Centre, Dudley, DY5 2UE
01384 816296
www.dudley.gov.uk

 


Dec 1, 2021

 

 

 

Dear Colleague

As you know from the recent consultation ballot carried out by UNISON, this year’s pay offer of 1.75% (or 2.75% for those on the lowest grade) was rejected by UNISON members in councils and schools, yet employers have refused to offer more.

As a result, most members working in councils and schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scotland has its own pay negotiating body) will be balloted on taking strike action. If you receive a ballot paper from UNISON, we believe you are eligible to vote and eligible to take strike action. 

Why is UNISON balloting for strike action, shouldn’t we continue to negotiate with employers?

We continue to try and negotiate with local government employers. After announcing plans for a strike ballot, UNISON and other unions have continued speaking and meeting with employers. But at every opportunity they have refused to budge. Even knowing that we are balloting for strike action they insist 1.75% is their final offer.

How do I vote?

Week commencing 6th December 2021, you will receive a ballot paper, a return envelope and some additional material explaining UNISON’s recommendation to members. The ballot paper asks members if they are prepared to take part in strike action. You should put a cross in the box against your choice on the ballot paper. This must be returned to CES (who are running the ballot on UNISON’s behalf) by 14 January 2022. 

Can I vote online?

No. The law doesn’t allow for electronic voting in these types of ballots.

Is UNISON recommending how I should vote?

UNISON is recommending members vote YES to strike action.

Are member in academies and multi-academy trusts included?

Most members in academies/multi-academy trusts can take part. If you receive a ballot paper from UNISON that means we believe you are eligible to vote and eligible to take strike action.

How Can I support the Campaign?

Tell your colleagues about the ballot and why they deserve fair pay. If your colleague is not a member of UNISON, they won’t be able to vote, so make sure you tell them to join by 3 January 2022. They can join online – it takes 5 minutes at join.unison.org.uk

What Should I do if I have not received my ballot paper?

You should receive your ballot paper by 14 December 2021. If you do not receive a ballot, contact UNISONdirect before 12 noon on 10 January 2022 so they can order a replacement for you. You can also request a duplicate ballot paper online via MyUnison at http://www.unison.org.uk/myunison/welcome

What happens if the results are for industrial action?

Once the results are received UNISON will consider the available options. Members will be kept informed.

If members vote to take strike action, how many days of strike action would we need to take?

If members vote to take strike action and we get a turnout of 50% or more, our aim would be to hold an initial day of strike action. But we think we’re likely to need to take further action to secure an improved pay offer. Without a 50% turnout, strike action will not be possible, so it’s important that you vote.

For the latest information, please visit: www.unison.org.uk/LGpay 

Regards

Theresa Kelly

Branch Secretary (Membership Services and Admin)

UNISON Dudley General Branch 

(Direct: 01384 815109)

UNISON Branch: http://unisondudleygeneral.org.uk

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/dudleyunison/

 

 


Dec 1, 2021
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