We hope you are all well as the weekend rapidly approaches; let’s hope the sun is still shining when we get there.
MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK: 18th - 24th MAY
Next week is Mental Health Awareness week, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation. Each year, the foundation picks one topic to focus the week on, this year the theme is Kindness. Given the challenging times we face, we understand that the more vulnerable in our society may be feeling isolated and in need of an act of kindness.
For each day next week, Wirral UNISON are looking to encourage these acts of kindness. We are asking our members to let us know if they are aware of someone who could do with a bit of a lift during these challenging times, and we will do our best to send a special something. If you know someone who you could use a special something, let us know by mailing email@example.com
We also appreciate that for some, this pandemic will have caused or exacerbated potentially significant mental health difficulties that may require professional advice and support. If you or someone who you know is in this position please contact the CWP mental health helpline on 0300 303 3972 which is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Schools – No Return Until It’s Safe
Unison has today issued a joint press release with the teaching unions, NASUWT and NEU, opposing a return on 1 June, as we believe safety, of staff and pupils, cannot yet be assured. We have also call a Public Rally on Monday at 5pm to oppose this proposed return. More details of the rally will follow but here is the press release:
Wirral Education Unions Demand: NO RETURN UNTIL IT'S SAFE
Wirral NASUWT NEU UNISON have united to condemn Government plans to bring back nursery, reception, years 1 and 6 from 1 June. It is not yet safe and protective measures are not in place.
We all want schools to re-open, but only when it is safe to do so. The government is showing a lack of understanding about the dangers of the spread of coronavirus within schools, from schools to parents, sibling and relatives and to the wider community. In lifting guidance on social distancing within schools the government is experimenting with our members and also our children and communities. This is not acceptable.
We know this move has not been prompted by Wirral Council or local Heads, it is a directive from central government. We call for a step back from the arbitrary date of 1st June and want work to be undertaken with the unions to create the conditions for a safe return based on clear principles and tests.
The Unions will be launching a local petition, and on Monday 18 May at 5pm will host an online rally on Facebook “Wirral Schools – No Return Until Its Safe” open to all staff, parents and members of our communities.
Steve Bennett Schools Officer for Wirral UNISON said “Our members are passionate about their jobs, and committed to the pupils they support. They are rightly concerned that a return on 1 June risks their own health and the health of pupils. There should be no return unless and until it is safe to do so”
Ian Harris District Secretary for Wirral NEU said “the announcement by the Government that schools may reopen from June 1 with reception and years 1 and 6 is nothing short of reckless. Our members care deeply about the children in their care, they want reassurances that a return to school will be safe for children, staff and the wider community. The Government must meet our tests for the safe reopening of schools.”
Anne Rycroft, Local Negotiating Secretary, NASUWT - The Teachers’ Union “The NASUWT is clear that schools should not relax the restrictions on opening until it is safe to do so. We expect that all schools and colleges will need to be able to demonstrate that their provision is safe for staff and for children at all times. This will require planning, risk assessments and training for all staff in the new systems that will have to be put in place. The NASUWT is clear that no teacher or child should be expected to go into a school that is not safe and until it can be demonstrated that it is safe for them to do so.”
UNISON Schools Survey
Many members working in schools will have been sent this survey by the national organisation, but we are aware a few of you may have been missed. Please click the link and complete the survey by lunchtime tomorrow.
“Mass Gathering” Please avoid
We have become aware that a so called ‘Freedom Movement’ (in reality a front for far right/fascists) is publicising a number of gathering around the country, opposing vaccines and breaking the lockdown. It has been suggested these may occur in Birkenhead and Liverpool.
We urge all members please do not attend this gathering or help to publicise it on social media. This is an attempt to spread hatred and disrupt the community efforts to overcome this virus, and should be treated with the disdain it deserves. Support Care Workers and other key workers and stay safe.
Care Workers – More Action on Testing Required
It was disconcerting to read in the Liverpool Echo today that just 328 Care workers in Wirral have been tested for Coronavirus. There are more than 8,000 Care Workers on Wirral! Whilst UNISON has secured key advances on the Real Living Wage and Full Sick Pay, it is not acceptable that key testing is not more readily accessible. The Government is failing our members, and by extension failing the vulnerable people they support and our communities, and clearly more needs to be done.
What are your rights if you refuse to work because of safety concerns over coronavirus at your workplace?
The Prime Minister’s rush to return to work will have caused many workers concerns; notably is it safe? Am I protected? So does a worker have the right to refuse to work if you are worried?
First of all consult your unison rep, before anything else.
Workers have a right to be safe at work, wherever they work and whatever they do. Coronavirus does not change this. Employers must do a risk assessment. It is a legal requirement, under the Health & Safety at Work Regulations Act 1974, for bosses to carry out a workplace risk assessment. Employers must also carry out the actions that come from their risk assessment.
These may include enabling working from home where possible, ensuring good hygiene and cleanliness, and making sure workers can be at least two metres apart at all times. Where these actions don’t mitigate the risk, workers may need personal protective equipment. Employers must also enable extremely vulnerable workers in the shielded category to observe NHS advice, and protect other vulnerable or pregnant workers; the risk assessment is key to this process.
If you are worried about safety at work the first thing to do is to talk to your employer; if they do not rectify the situation please get in touch with us. If after raising your concerns there is still a serious or imminent danger, you and your colleagues may have the right to leave work depending on the specific circumstances. The relevant law is Section 44 of the Employment Act 1996 and it covers all employees. The law says:
Section 44.1: (d) in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent and which he could not reasonably have been expected to avert, he left (or proposed to leave) or (while the danger persisted) refused to return to his place of work or any dangerous part of his place of work, or (e) in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent, he took (or proposed to take) appropriate steps to protect himself or other persons from the danger.
It is important that you seek advice and support from your union rep on taking action. They will be able to advise on practical steps, get legal help, and make the demand for safe working a collective one – taking the onus off you as an individual. Make sure you communicate your actions and reasons clearly to your employer and make a careful record of what happened. The same section of law also protects you from being victimised and suffering detriment (loss of pay), if after raising concerns and seeking advice, the danger persists, and you decide to leave work.
If after raising your concerns there is still a serious or imminent danger, you and your colleagues may have the right to leave work.
If you are considering refusing to work because of a serious and imminent danger, know that you are not alone. Workers in libraries, the postal service and waste collection have already walked off the job over coronavirus exposure concerns. Be aware, though: all those who have acted have done so with the advice and support of their union.
You need to be able to demonstrate that you have a ‘reasonable belief of serious or imminent danger’. Your union will be able to advise on your specific situation.
That’s all from us for today but please feel free to share this with colleagues who are not yet members. And if you are reading this because it has been shared with you and you’re not a member, here’s the link to join up! Click here
Take care of yourselves and each other.
Lois and Dave
Dave: firstname.lastname@example.org 07880199539
Lois: email@example.com 07384512521
Published on: May 15, 2020