Hello again! We hope you’re all well and are taking care of yourselves and each other during these incredibly testing times. As you can imagine things have moved very rapidly in the past 24 hours and we’ve got a few updates for you so we’ll get straight to them…..
Legal protection if your work place is not safe
Many of you will have watched as journalists in the news have repeatedly asked politicians and commentators if workers are legally protected if they do not feel their work place is safe. Many have actively sought to avoid the question which may have led to some confusion. To be clear, employees absolutely are protected in law if their work place is unsafe. Under Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 employees have the right to leave or propose to leave a work place if they think that the circumstances they are being expected to work in present the risk of serious and imminent danger. Employees also have the right not to return to the workplace whilst the danger remains. Under S44. this action may be taken without fear of recriminations, or suffering detriment (loss of pay)
If you believe that you are in a situation that presents a serious and imminent risk of danger in your workplace, please contact us immediately and we will take this up with your employer.
Office for National Statistics data
The BBC have reported today that the total number of people who have died as a result of Covid-19 may be twice as high as the figure we hear announced by the government each day. On the 1 May, the number of deaths announced by the government was just over 28,000, however just under 36,000 death certificates mentioned Covid-19. The measure preferred by statisticians which is counting all deaths above what would normally be expected in this time period exceeded 50,000. An explanation for this difference is that the governments figures only include those who have tested positive for Covid-19. We mention this because as the government talks about lifting the lockdown it is important that the true picture is known. This highlights the position that trade unions amongst many others are proposing which is that there should be no easing of restrictions until it is safe.
Furlough- Extended until October
The Chancellor has confirmed today that the furlough scheme will be extended until the end of October and it will remain at 80%. However, the expectation is that employers will share the cost of this from August. After much speculation that it may be ended in July or reduced to 60%, we are sure that this will come as some relief to our members who have been placed on this scheme. We will continue to monitor this situation to ensure that our members are protected.
Wirral Trades Council statement
Wirral Trades Council have today issued a statement in relation to the current crisis. Wirral Unison is an active member of the Trades Council, which is a body that encompasses unions across Wirral; and echo and share the views express in the statement which is below for information.
“WTUC is deeply concerned at the new advice given by the government on Sunday 10th May and with various updates to the confused message since.
The measures announced are nothing more than a panic response to the call from Capitalism to restart the economy, to protect the rich at all costs and drive workers back to to their jobs when scientific evidence shows it is not safe to do so. England stands alone in this with other devolved nations rejection of the message and the keeping of the Stay at Home message putting the horrific negligence of the Tories into stark contrast. Workers deserve better.
The lockdown should continue as it was with changes only taking place after thorough reviews of infection rates that see a real fall in deaths, infections and the R rate. This panicked easing of safeguards has left confusion and put workers in real danger in returning to workplaces not equipped to restart in a safe manner.
In particular Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME )and poorly paid workers are most at risk and have been most severely affected. This new announcement ignores that and puts them at continued and heightened risk.
Infection in care homes is also still a major concern and again the lockdown measures have been relaxed while deaths and infections are still massively high. This has not been addressed.
Nor has the return to schools for children who are bluntly to be used as guinea pigs in the government plans.
Many in the Tory Party have been clamouring for this for weeks, echoing the laissez faire policies of the USA. Not that PM Johnson was in favour of the lockdown, he wasn’t and has gleefully loosened it at the earliest possible juncture.
The response from Keir Starmer has been woeful, yes some low key criticism but a general acceptance of what has been announced. The same goes for Frances O’Grady the GS of the TUC who appears to have given a “cautious acceptance ” of the new measures, which confusingly flies in the face of the TUC No Return to Work Until It’s Safe messages.
Under Employment Law workers have the right to not to return to an unsafe workplace and we feel this right should be communicated widely by Unions, the TUC and the Labour Party with clear opposition to the new proposals.
The idea of a Universal Basic Income is also something that needs serious consideration.
Devi Sridhar Chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh said that
“on our current path we seem destined for a disastrous ending. Lifting lockdown without the public health infrastructure in place to contain the virus will allow Covid-19 to spread through the population unchecked”
This is a clear warning that it’s too early and the scientific evidence backs this up.
We need to say it, these changes are dangerous, they have caused confusion and panic among the public and lead to further deaths and a spread of the infection.
What was the use of the “Protect the NHS” message if there is a further massive wave of infection due to this ludicrous change to the measures in place?”
Sick Pay for Care Workers
As we have previously described we have now agreed a position with the council that as a result of the extra investment they have made in the care sector there is an expectation that any care worker absent from work as a result of corona virus reasons should receive full sick pay. Therefore we would urge ANY CARE WORKERS OFF WORK BECAUSE THEY ARE SICK, SYMPTOMATIC, VULNERABLE, VERY VULNERABLE OR LIVING WITH SOMEONE WHO IS AND IS NOT IN RECEIPT OF FULL SICK PAY contact us immediately. We will take this up with the provider and the council.
Council update on reopening of services
The government’s recent announcements have caused much concern as to what this means for many workers in terms of a return to work and services reopening. We will be liaising with a number of employers but the council have confirmed that there are no immediate plans to make any substantial changes to the way in which people have been working for the past few weeks. We will be in regular discussion with the council over the coming period to ensure that a return to work will only occur in a safe manner.
We have previously reported that schools should only revert to a wider reopening once it is safe to do so. The announcement on Sunday that nursery, reception and years 1 and 6 will return on 1 June will have taken many people including schools staff by surprise. There are concerns about the government proposals and how staff and children can be supported safely in school. Wirral Unison has been discussing our concerns with the teaching unions and how we can take these forward. Along with the teaching unions, we are calling a public rally – ‘Schools- No Return Until It’s Safe!’ to be held next week to discuss the issue of schools opening. This will be open to parents, staff in schools and the wider community. We will publicise the event on our social media, website and through our daily updates- look out for more details in the coming days.
For our members in schools we would advise them not to engage in any planning for a return to school on 1 June until the TUC education unions have met to agree a joint response. This statement should be published by the end of this week. For information in meantime please see links below:
For our members who work in nurseries we’re sure they will have been interested to hear the governments statement that nurseries should now move to a wider reopening to support parents returning to work. We know that a number of our members in nurseries may have been furloughed to cope with reduced demand and therefore we will be watching with interest how this expansion will be monitored. We will keep you updated with more information but please get in touch with us if you have any concerns.
That’s all for today. We know this is an anxious time for everyone but we hope that our daily updates are providing you all with some useful information.
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Take care of yourselves and each other. We’ll be back with more tomorrow.
Lois and Dave
Dave: firstname.lastname@example.org 07880199539
Lois: email@example.com 07384512521
Published on: May 13, 2020