0151 666 3040 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus update 03.07.20

Dear Member

Welcome to another weekend. Although it may be wet and dreary we hope you can find some enjoyment and respite over the next couple of days.

Schools September Return
Yesterday the government issued its guidance for schools on planning for a full return of pupils in England at the beginning of the autumn term. Not for the first time during this pandemic the guidance has posed as many questions as it has offers answers. This will put huge pressure on schools and school leaders to make the decisions that the government have dodged. Nevertheless, Unison has produced a summary of the key points of the guidance and in establishing our union's position on the government's plans as they stand.

UNISON has always been clear that we want to see a full return to schools as soon as possible, but that the safety of pupils, parents, staff and our communities must not be sacrificed by government. UNISON is particularly concerned that the test and trace system is not currently fit for purpose and needs to be urgently improved in time for September.
Over the coming vital weeks UNISON will:

  • Work with the other unions to try to get the government to make improvements to the guidance and make a plan B in case of more local lockdowns
  • Produce joint union checklists for early years, special schools, mainstream schools and FE. These will be for branches, school reps and members to use when working with schools to produce updated risk assessments for opening in September and will include the key changes we will be seeking to the guidance
  • Push for changes and improvements to the test & trace system to ensure it is fit for purpose
  • Campaign for additional funding and resources for schools to deal with increased work and the need for more staff
  • Campaign for additional support for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils

The government guidance can be found here and Unison’s summary is here

Whilst we are talking about schools, we can report that a number of staff at a primary school in Wirral walked out this week on health and safety grounds. The concerns related to inadequate washing and toilet amenities; this led to staff removing themselves from the workplace under S44 Employment Rights Act. This is never a step that should be taken lightly; however numerous attempts had been made to resolve the issue without success. We are pleased to report that following the walkout, action was taken and the problem has now been resolved.

Guidance for early years and childcare providers 
 The Department for Education has issued updated COVID-19 advice for early years and childcare providers: here
UNISON has a number of serious concerns with this guidance. The specific changes include:

  • From 20 July, early years settings will no longer be required to keep children in small, consistent groups within settings. 
  • Settings should still ‘consider how they can minimise mixing within settings, for example where they use different rooms for different age groups, keeping those groups apart as much as possible.’

The updated guidance states this is possible because of ‘significant progress in tackling the coronavirus…. The prevalence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is down, and our NHS test and trace system is up and running. In addition, early years settings are on average much smaller than schools, allowing a less restrictive approach to mixing within settings than schools.’ However, the government has not given any scientific evidence to support this change.
Further, whilst the guidance states that settings will need to update their risk assessments it does give any specific additional detail.
The revised guidance on vulnerable staff is particularly vague and it is unclear how this applies where shielding is still in place until 1 August. UNISON’s position therefore is that staff who are currently/working from home on safety grounds should remain away from the workplace. Further advice will be forthcoming but if you have any concerns please do get in touch.

Care Workers Pay – the Campaign Goes on.
Over 70 Care Providers have  now signed up to the Real Living Wage, including 30 Care Homes. That’s is good news, but it is not enough. 
We believe all Care Workers deserve the Real Living Wage, and we will keep pressing, in different ways, in different times but we will keep pressing. And the more union members we have at an establishment, the better the chance of success. Members may have seen the coverage in the Wirral Globe here of our protest at The Old Garden. Despite their claims, we are neither ‘adversarial’, ‘uncompromising’ or ‘inflexible’, in fact we have offered to meet them  on a number of occasions. There has been no response. We know the challenges for the care sector; our members tell us! But when the standard ‘Wirral Rate’ for a Care Home placement is less than £500/week, and this home charges (we are told) c£1300/week, you will forgive us if we struggle to understand how they can’t pay their staff an extra 58 pence an hour.
We will continue the campaign at all Providers who are not paying.

New Funding - Sophisticated or Stingy
The Government yesterday announced a further £500m funding to Councils, less than a third the size of previous packages.  The £500m cash injection, which will be shared among 343 councils in England, comes alongside an income loss compensation scheme that will refund councils at the rate of 75p in the pound where they have lost more than 5% of their expected income this year from rents, and fees and charges from car parking, museums and leisure centres.
Not surprisingly this has left a multi £billion gap in Local Authority finances. Robert Jenrick, the Government Minister latterly in the press over dodgy property deals, called the funding sophisticated. We call it stingy. The Government can not let local services suffer.

NHS Birthday Rally
Despite years of cuts, privatisations, closures and pay freezes the NHS, the fabulous NHS is celebrating its 72nd Birthday. We know that the NHS, and Social Care, and shown just how important our key services are.
To mark the occasion an alliance of campaign group and unions have called an Rally on Sunday

Sunday 5 July 3:30 pm - Our NHS Deserves Better - Online Rally
 Speakers will include:  Cat Hobbs (We Own It), Dr Sonia Adesara (Keep Our NHS Public), Helen O’Conner (GMB), John Lister (Health Campaigns Together), Dr Kambiz Boomla (Doctors in Unite), Kevin Courtney (National Education Union), Laura Ho (Build Back Better), Laura Pidcock (People’s Assembly), Rachel Ambrose (mental health nurse) and Roger McKenzie (Unison)
Join the Rally Here: https://www.facebook.com/keepournhspublic/

Or on YouTube here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZdAcTB5Hcv0Z6WN62Q3SnQ
Solidarity to Tower Hamlets
Wirral Unison has sent a message of solidarity to Unison members in Tower Hamlets (London) who today (and this coming Monday and Tuesday) are striking against the council’s imposition of Tower Rewards – a new contract. This new contract tears up their terms and conditions. It slashes severance pay – an important safety net for essential workers worried about their jobs. It removes vital market supplements – that make working in inner London more affordable. It also takes away important protections in grievance and disciplinary procedures. All whilst giving big pay rises Senior Officers

Tower Rewards will make workers more vulnerable and will increase inequality. The council is sacking thousands of essential workers to impose this new contract on July 6.
It was so many years ago a similar tactic was threatened in Wirral Council, so they have our full support.

NJC PAY OFFER 2020 – Council & Schools Only


Prior to the opening of the consultation ballot on the 2020 Pay Offer Unison North West is holding an online rally this coming Thursday open to all members.

People can join the event through this link - https://www.facebook.com/events/602934090341020/

More info can be found at the regional website https://www.unisonnw.org/first_they_clap_us_then_they_slap_us

That’s all for this week. As always please feel free  pass our updates on to colleagues and encourage them to join Unison if they haven’t done already. Here’s the link to join up! JOIN UNISON

In solidarity!

Lois and Dave

Dave: davidnjones@wirral.gov.uk  07880199539
Lois: loisfounds1@wirral.gov.uk   07384512521
Branch Office:0151 666 3040

Published on: July 4, 2020