0151 666 3040 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus update 31.07.20

Dear Member

Hello and Happy Friday!!! What glorious weather we’ve got, we hope you get the chance to enjoy it either this evening or over the weekend, if it continues to be nice.  

Latest Government updates

It will not have escaped the attention of many of our members that the Government has announced a series of changes to lockdown restrictions over the past few hours. This has seen a tightening of some measures in response to the number of infections rising. It would appear to us that rather than this being down to communities not following the rules, it is likely to be connected with confusing messages often coming from Government. The latest slogan that the Prime Minister seems to be sharing highlights this “Hands, face, space, get a test and self-isolate” Many of us have, understandably been left confused by some of the messages.

Overnight the Government imposed tighter restrictions on large areas of northern England. Today the government has also delayed a number of measures such as the re-opening of casinos and bowling alleys. However, the Government have confirmed that people who are shielding can still return to the workplace from 1 August if it is safe to do so, as originally planned. This decision may surprise some and indeed make many people who are shielding more anxious, in light of the recent developments. Wirral Unison believes that it is now clear that great caution should be exercised before those who are shielding return to the workplace. We expect robust risk assessments, that provide for stringent social distancing to be in place. We will also be writing to employers seeking agreement that those who are shielding do not have to return to the workplace if they have concerns. Please contact us if you are impacted by this.

Individual Risk Assessments- Wirral Council members

Wirral Unison recognises the value of robust risk assessments being in place for our members who are at high risk. We are therefore delighted today to announce that we have successfully negotiated a robust individual risk assessment process with the Council. Members may be aware that there is growing evidence to highlight the increased risk from Covid- 19 for the BAME community and latterly an increased risk linked to social deprivation. In what are quite significant and pioneering steps, we have agreed that risk assessments for members at risk within the council will assess these key areas where applicable.

Library Services

In line with the government’s guidance, Wirral Libraries are moving towards a phased re-opening. We have been working with management constructively to ensure that Public Health guidance and safety measures are appropriately implemented. However, under the current guidance, there is no provision that means the public in libraries have to wear face coverings. This may seem rather inconsistent given that , if as member of the public you go to a book shop you are required to wear a face covering.

After consulting with our members, Wirral Unison are clear that face coverings should be a requirement for the public in libraries and we have expressed this view clearly to management. Although we have not yet reached agreement, Boris Johnson’s statement this afternoon seems to imply that the government is amending their guidance to take account of this. As with shops we would expect that face coverings are available for staff but that they are not mandated to wear them.

Wirral Evolutions

Since Wirral Evolutions transferred out of the Council, they have not automatically received the Council pay rise. In many years we have been able to negotiate the application of that pay rise but Unison wanted a position whereby our members were tied in to the national pay negotiations. We have therefore recently raised this matter with the Council and are pleased to report that following Unison’s representations the council have confirmed that hence forth they will fund the pay raise for Wirral Evolutions each year. As a result of this decision we have now circulated the pay ballot to all our members in Wirral Evolutions that we hold an email address for. We would encourage our members to vote in this ballot as it affects you!

UNISON: Defending Council Leisure Services

The Government announced that gyms and leisure centres could reopen in England from the 25 July. However, in common with many other Councils Wirral Gyms and Leisure Centre’s have not yet opened, this is to allow the Council the time to ensure that all measures are in place for the safety of staff and customers; that is only right.

These are difficult times for Gyms and Leisure Centres, both private and Council with many memberships lapsing, and government guidance restricting significantly the numbers that can use gyms and leisure centres. There are 7200 gyms and leisure centres in the UK, with over 2,700 of them provided by local Councils. Private Providers will face their own challenges, but Council services face particular threats; as a non- statutory service, and with Council budgets decimated, some may be tempted by cuts and closures that offer short term savings.

Wirral UNISON, opposes any such cuts or closures to our leisure services in Wirral. It will not surprise our members, that it is UNISON, taking proactive steps to protect our leisure services. Earlier these week, UNISON met with senior Councillors and Council Officers and raised the value of rour leisure services. Although this was only an initial discussion, it was broad ranging and positive, and we will develop our case for Council Leisure Services in the coming weeks and months.

The benefits of exercise to physical and mental wellbeing are long documented, this pandemic has only reinforced that message. Having readily accessible, and affordable, leisure services is not only good for individuals, it can save the Council and NHS significant expenditure on health and care at a later date. This can be difficult to put on a spreadsheet but it cannot be ignored. We will do the research, we will work with Managers, Councillors, we will listen to our members and our communities, and we will show that Leisure Centres are essential services, not luxuries. Our members in Leisure Services, and our communities can be assured – we are on your side! We will not wait until cuts and closure are threatened, we are making the case now for Council Leisure Services.

Schools Staff

We thought we’d drop a line to school support staff as you come to the end of the second week of the summer holidays. Schools may be closed, but your team of Unison Officers, including Schools Officer Steve Bennett, alongside Dave and Lois are continuing to work at plans to return to full school opening in September - safely. We are examining risk assessments, liaising with management and analysing the latest government guidance to ensure that safety is paramount. As you may have seen with the latest and sudden changes to lockdown, things can change quickly, and from this government, uncertainly. Who knows what the position will be in September.

Just a reminder to school staff to vote in the pay ballot. The Offer is 2.75%, and the Branch Committee recommends REJECT. We are particularly vexed by the fact that the teachers are being offered 3.1% - still not enough in our opinion, but why should teachers get offered more. You as support staff are just as important to the running of a school, so why not get the same pay rise. If you haven’t had a ballot – perhaps we hold your school email address - just let us know and we’ll send a duplicate. But be quick the ballot closes next Friday.

We hope you have a lovely weekend and we will be back in touch on Monday with a further update. Stay safe and keep well.

In solidarity!

Lois and Dave

Branch Office: 0151 666 3040
Central email: unison1@wirral.gov.uk


Published on: August 3, 2020