07899715085 or 07899713498 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus update 11.01.21

Dear Member

Hello Everyone! We hope you’re all well at the end of what feels like a very long week! We hope you’re looking forward to a well deserved rest this weekend and if you are working we hope you have the opportunity for a rest very soon.

We have all seen in the news the stories of the increasingly serious impact COVID-19 is having in different areas of the country and Wirral is not exempt from this . On 9 December Wirral infection rate per 100,000 people was 52 according to the Wirral Council website. The Council report that today, that figure has risen to 696, that is a 14 fold increase in a month. This highlights the importance of us all following the basic guidance of wearing face coverings,  maintaining social distancing and regular hand washing.

Early Years

You will be aware that the Prime Minister announced on Monday that all schools and colleges in England would close as a result of the increased risk to the health of staff in schools and the communities they serve resulting from the increase in cases of COVID-19. In his statement he said that nurseries and early years settings would remain open.

We are astonished that the government could decide that these settings are safe to remain open while saying that schools must close on safety grounds. You are the forgotten service of this pandemic and we do not believe that your health, and the health of the communities you work with, can be put at risk due to the economic consequences of closing nurseries. We have been working with the Shadow Minister for Early Years who has written to the minister outlining these concerns.

The Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed that nursery classes in schools can be kept open, but reception classes should close. We are still waiting to hear from the DfE whether they are proposing any further mitigating measures for nurseries to make them safer. The government has presented no evidence to suggest that early years settings present any less risk in terms of transmission than other education establishments. In fact earlier this week Professor Semple, a member of the SAGE committee strongly implied that the decision to keep early years settings fully open was a decision based on political rather than scientific considerations. For further information follow this link

UNISON is calling on the government to treat early years and nurseries in the same way as primary schools, and close them to all except vulnerable and key workers’ children. The advice we offered earlier this week in terms of sending a section 44 letter if you feel your safety is being compromised, still stands.  

Clinically Vulnerable and Clinically Extremely Vulnerable Workers

The government has confirmed that anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable should now again be shielding, if you fall into this category you are strongly advised by government to work from home. According to the government guidance “if you cannot work from home then you should not attend work.” If necessary the furlough scheme is available.

We know that for all of our members the past week may well have led to increased anxiety and concerns about the new strain of the virus; there are still so many unknowns about the new strain but one thing we do know is that it is more contagious than the previous form of the disease. For our members who would normally have face to face contact with others in the community this is all the more concerning.

In March 2020 the NJC published guidance which stated that “Employees in both groups should not be expected to attend the workplace. All options for working at home should be considered, as well as for those employees who live with and / or have caring responsibilities for people in the two groups. However, as previously advised, employers will have no option other than to accept that some employees will be staying at home on full pay for the duration of this emergency as they are not able to work from home.”

We know that the Local Government Association has recently advised local authorities that this guidance still applies. To this end we have written to the council for confirmation that no worker who is either clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable will be expected to carry out work in the community including visiting private and commercial premises. If you are concerned that any work that you are being asked to undertake is not safe whether you are vulnerable or not, please do contact us as soon as possible.

We have reached agreement with Wirral Evolutions that any staff members in the vulnerable category will be home based working from home as far as possible.

School Support staff

As you will be aware since late on Monday night schools were informed that they should only be open to the children of critical workers and for vulnerable children. The definitions of the categories have broadened since last March and this has created a degree of uncertainty within many schools. We are working with School Heads and the Local Authority to address many of the issues that are arising, including how children should be supported. Government guidance was issued late last night, which whilst helpful does not provide full clarity in all areas.

To advise and support our members we are calling an all members meeting, jointly with other education trade unions for next Wednesday 13 January 2021 at 5:30pm. We will provide further details next week, but please make a note in your diary.

In the interim if you have any concerns about safety in your school, please contact our Schools Officer Steve Bennett using one of the phone numbers at the bottom of this email or by stephenbennett@wirral.gov.uk

Save Europa Pools

Lat night Wirral Unison hosted a very successful public meeting as part of our campaign to save Europa Pools. Over 1000 people attended or subsequently viewed this meeting. The meeting can be accessed here:  https://www.facebook.com/1509956122655127/videos/1184259185304927/

We also received messages of support from MP’s Alison McGovern, Mick Whitley and Angela Eagle. We are delighted that they are supporting our campaign to ensure that all facilities at Europa Pools are preserved. We will continue to provide updates of the campaign.

Could YOU be a UNISON Steward?

Unison has been very successful during this pandemic at representing and defending the interests of our members and in a number of key areas achieving significant improvements.

We could not have done this without having a number of stewards across all the service areas and employers where we have members. The feedback and assistance we get from stewards in relation to their work areas has been absolutely essential, however there are still a number of areas where we do not currently have a steward or a health and safety representative in place.

Could you be a Unison steward or do you know someone else who could? We will provide full support, advice and training for the role. Please do consider this as it’s in all our interests that we have abroad base of stewards. Please contact unsion1@wirral.gov.uk if you are interested in becoming a steward or a health and safety representative for Unison.

That’s all for today everyone. As always, please do pass our updates on to colleagues and encourage them to join Unison if they haven’t already. Here’s the link to join up! JOIN UNISON

We’ll be back in touch next week with further updates.

In solidarity!

Your Wirral Unison Team
Central email: unison1@wirral.gov.uk
Telephone: 07899713498 or 07899715085

Published on: January 11, 2021