07899715085 or 07899713498 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus update 22.06.20

Hi! And welcome to another week.

We’ve just seen today’s government briefing, where the government have announced changes for those that are clinically vulnerable, and those who are shielding. We haven’t had a chance yet to analyse the full details of this announcement yet, but they appear to saying that the clinically vulnerable can return to the workplace from 1 August, if social distancing can be maintained. We will look into the detail of what this will mean for members who are shielding or clinically vulnerable and come back to you in the next day or two.

Further to our emails last week, further details are emerging of the government’s £1bn COVID-19 ‘catch-up’ package for schools in England, which aims to make up for lost schooling. The new funding consists of £650m for state primary and secondary schools for the 2020/21 academic year, plus £350m for a national tutoring programme for the most disadvantaged pupils.

Whilst this investment is to be welcomed, particularly as some will be targeted at the most disadvantaged groups; we do still have questions. Firstly is it sufficient? In the week that this funding was announced we received notification of a school opening consultation on budget cuts and potential redundancies amongst school support staff. Surely the last thing pupils need now is staff being made redundant. We are also concerned that additional funding does not appear to have been made available for early years or pupils over 16.  As schools move towards greater opening, it is important that we retain a focus on safety, but that does not take away from the desperate funding crisis that schools face, that has only been exacerbated by this pandemic. UNISON nationally and locally will continue to lobby and press on these issues.

Council Staff and Quarantine
As lockdown lifts, the thoughts of some may drift to future foreign holidays, and how soon we can jet off for some relaxation in the sun.  As you will be aware the government recently imposed a 14 day quarantine for anyone coming into the UK, including coming back from a holiday. The government may not stick to this decision, and another u turn may be on the agenda, but it is a factor to consider in any travel.  The Local Government Association together with the Trade Unions have issued guidance for how the issue of quarantine should be approached. If you are planning to travel abroad, we would urge you to speak to your manager, and seek advice from your union rep before you go, and preferably before you book. The guidance is specifically for Council staff, but we think it can be used as a basis for discussion with other employers.

A New Council Leader
As some of you may be aware the current Council Leader, Cllr Pat Hackett is stepping down as a Councillor in the near future. He has represented New Brighton residents for many years, and has recently been the Council Leader; we wish him well.
The Labour Group is currently in the process of electing their new Leader, who may well also be the next Council Leader (as currently the Labour Group are slightly short of an overall majority). This will be of interest to many of our members who either work for the Council or live on the Wirral. We have  had constructive relationships with previous leaders, and therefore although the election is by the Councillors, however given the importance of the role, we have written to the candidates posing 5 key questions:  

  1. As you know Unison has been campaigning for the Real Living Wage for Care Workers as a step towards a £10 hour minimum wage. We were pleased when the Council announced funding for Providers commissioned by Wirral to implement the RLW. This funding has been available since 1 May, yet as we write, although the majority of the 20 Domiciliary Care Providers have signed up, only 30 of 127 Care Homes have implemented the RLW. What steps will you take as Leader to ensure that RLW is implemented broadly across the whole care sector.
  2. In similar vein, the Council has responded to Unison calls, by stating that as a result of the extra funding provided to Providers, they expect all absence for Covid related reasons to receive full sick pay. However many providers are still not paying above SSP. The Adult Social Care Department has said in effect, ‘there is nothing we can do about it’. What steps will you take to ensure sick care workers, many losing up to £400 a week, will receive full sick pay, rather than the Councils money going to Provider’s bank accounts.
  3. There has been no compulsory redundancies from Wirral Council for the last two years. Will you give a clear commitment that there will be no compulsory redundancies for at least the next two years.
  4. Will you give a commitment that there will be no further privatisation of services, and the you will work constructively with Unison with a stated aim to bring key services back in house, including in the care sector
  5. Bullying is sadly an issue that affects all organisations, and that can undermine and disempower individuals. Wirral Council rightly has a policy to support a working environment free from harassment and bullying; however UNISON would like to see the Council take a more proactive approach taken to bullying, at whatever level it occurs. Would you be willing to work with UNISON in developing a Wirral Anti-Bullying Charter.

Unison National Recruitment Campaign
A new recruitment campaign, â€‹aimed at increasing the record number of public service workers who’ve joined UNISON since the start of the pandemic, is being launched by the union today. The 60-second animated advert is being screened on Sky, ITV, Channel 4 and YouTube with the message that no worker should feel alone in â€‹these uncertain times.
This comes as UNISON is currently experiencing a membership surge, with more than 90,000 people signing up â€‹by the end of May. That’s an increase of almost a quarter (23%) on the same period in 2019.
A quarter (25%) of th​is membership â€‹increase came in May alone, with 23,040 joining​ last month, a 51% â€‹rise on the same month last year. Altogether UNISON welcomed 91,925 new members during the first five months of 2020. The net rise is estimated to be well in excess of 24,000 people when leavers and retiring members for the period are â€‹discounted. One sector where growth has been â€‹significant is among school â€‹support staff​, says UNISON. Recruitment for May â€‹among those working in education was more than four times higher (308%) than the equivalent month in 2019. The union’s campaigning on behalf of care workers throughout the coronavirus pandemic has also â€‹prompted a marked increase of 135% year-on-year increase for May â€‹in social care membership. Figures also show â€‹that three in ten of â€‹all new members (31%) are employed in the private sector.

We have also seen a significant growth in membership in Wirral with over 400 joining since the beginning of March.  We believe Unison has been an effective voice for members across Wirral during this pandemic, achieving many positive results, providing information and reassurance for many members. We hope you can agree.
Do you know someone who is not in a union, a friend, family member, or colleague  - why not share this email with them and encourage them to join. Just click this link: JOIN UNISON
We represent workers in Wirral, in the Council, housing, social care, childcare, education – in fact pretty much the whole public sector other than the NHS ( a different Branch of Unison), and the Civil Service (a different Union)
Prize Draw: Anyone joining in May or June will be entered in a draw for one of five £50 prizes. If you encourage someone to Join, simply email us (unison1@wirral.gov.uk) your name and the new member’s name and you will also be entered into a draw for one of five £50 prizes.

That’s all for today everyone! We will be back in touch tomorrow, please pass our updates on to colleagues and urge them to join Unison if they haven’t done already.

Take care of yourselves and each other.

In solidarity!

Lois and Dave

Dave: davidnjones@wirral.gov.uk  07880199539
Lois: loisfounds1@wirral.gov.uk   07384512521

Published on: June 23, 2020