07899715085 or 07899713498 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Wirral UNISON Branch Update 10.03.2021

Dear Member

Hi Everyone! We hope you and yours are all keeping safe and well during what continue to be very challenging times.

Magenta Living Pay claim

This week Unison and Unite have submitted their joint pay claim to Magenta Living and we expect to hear back in the near future from Magenta with their response to our claim. The pay claim that we have put forward for 2021 is a 3% increase in pay across all grades and allowances and a £500 non-consolidated one-off payment to recognise staff efforts during the corona virus pandemic.

The increase in pay that we have proposed is based upon pay settlements in comparable housing associations, projected rates of inflation, the level of rents and financial affordability. We have additionally proposed the non-consolidated payment to recognise the work undertaken during the pandemic. Many Magenta Living workers have continued to operate on the front line during this crisis and collection levels have been maintained at a healthy level. We believe this is a fair pay claim and we will keep members updated with any developments.

NHS Pay

Whilst Wirral Unison is mainly based amongst staff on local authority terms and conditions, we also have other members employed in different sectors including Magenta Living and Wirral Met College. We also have a number of members who are on NHS terms and conditions and it is partially for this reason that we have an interest in the recent government announcement over NHS pay.

The government’s pay proposal of a 1% rise is derisory. And is a slap in the face for many health workers who have worked throughout this crisis in some of the most difficult circumstances. We therefore stand in solidarity with health workers but we also recognise that the level of pay increase achieved in the NHS will have an impact upon workers in all sectors.

We know that many workers are on lower pay rates than the NHS and too many workers have lost their jobs during this crisis. We will not however stand by and let this government pursue a ‘race to the bottom’ strategy. We know that the country faces significant financial challenges but the significant increases MPs have received in recent years and the contracts that have been issued to their friends and family during this crisis, for example the £37billion given to Serco for the failed Test and Trace system, shows that this is a question of priorities, rather than a question of affordability.

Opinion polls indicate that the majority of the country believe that NHS workers should receive a pay rise of at least 5%, we agree and we will continue to campaign alongside our brothers and sisters in the NHS unions to ensure they receive the pay rise they deserve.

Long Covid

We know that significant number of people are suffering from long covid and an example is provided by Samantha Ellingham who works on a surgical ward in a hospital. She contracted COVID-19 at work in April 2020 and has been on sick leave ever since.

She says, “Throughout the months I just didn’t get better, I couldn’t understand it, I didn’t know what was going on to be honest. I got more and more symptoms,”. In fact, Samantha describes 54 symptoms she has experienced since having the virus, including breathlessness and joint pain. “Before [I caught COVID-19] I was the most hyperactive person, no one could keep up with me! I’m a busy person, I like doing things, going places. I know I can’t do these things like I did before. Some days I can’t even walk. Even getting down the stairs is difficult. If I’ve put a wash on, I’ve done something… It might be all I can do for the whole day.” Samantha has joined the thousands of people, including many other UNISON members, who are now suffering from what is known as post-COVID-19 syndrome or ‘Long COVID’.

Most people who have contracted the virus are expected to recover within 12 weeks. However, approximately one in 10 people are experiencing ongoing health complications and symptoms long after the infection has gone. Long COVID symptoms include (but are not limited to):

  • extreme fatigue,
  • breathlessness,
  • chest pain
  • joint pain
  • dizziness
  • problems with memory or concentration (‘brain fog’)
  • loss of taste or smell which may come and go.

While Long COVID affects people differently, according to existing research it is more likely to impact women and people over the age of 50.

Long COVID and disability law
While ‘Long COVID’ is not yet a formal diagnosis, it is likely that as more research is conducted it may be recognised as a long-term health condition and ultimately qualify as a disability under the Equality Act 2010. This means that someone with ongoing Long COVID may be considered a ‘disabled person’ in law. According to the Equality Act, a disabled person is someone who has a mental or physical impairment that has a substantial and long-term (usually interpreted as 12 months or more) adverse effect on the person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. As we reach 12 months since the initial COVID-19 cases, it is very likely that workers experiencing Long COVID may qualify for protection under the Act, if they meet the requirements in the above description. This means that their employers would then be obliged to make ‘reasonable adjustments’, such as:

  • allowing the employee to work from home where possible
  • allowing the employee to work flexi or reduced hours
  • assigning a fixed shift (where shift work is involved)

It also means that the employee could take legal action against the employer if it can be proven that the employer discriminated against them due to their disability.

An industrial disease
The government has recently pledged £18.5 million towards research projects investigating the causes of Long COVID. According to Chris Whitty, who has well as being the chief medical officer of England is the head of the National Institute for Health Research: “This research … will increase our knowledge of how and why the virus causes some people to suffer long-term effects following a COVID-19 infection – and will be an important tool in developing more effective treatments for patients.”

UNISON welcomes this research. However, in the meantime Long COVID is having a devastating effect on the lives of many of the union’s members, so many of whom were frontline workers who contracted COVID-19 at work. UNISON believes there is strong evidence for getting COVID-19 classed as an industrial disease, separately and in addition to the Equality Act protections, which would help to allow those members most affected to get the support they need. The union is continuing to argue for this through the trade union representatives that sit on the Industrial Injury Advisory Council.

In recognition of the unprecedented scale and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wirral Unison will be pressing that employers should not treat any illness related to the virus as standard sickness absence leading to sickness absence capability triggers. We believe that employers  should conduct individual risk assessments with any staff who are experiencing Long COVID and to make reasonable adjustments for these staff. If you are suffering from any of the symptoms of long Covid and fee that you require any help, please do get in touch.

Wirral Unison AGM

Last week Wirral Unison held its annual general meeting. Following last year’s attendance of 115, this year we had 117 members in attendance, they heard an inspiring speech from Unison NEC member Paula Carlyle about the challenges facing public sector workers during this pandemic and hopefully as we move beyond the crisis. We hope to share the video of Paula’s speech on our Facebook page in the next few days so that if you missed the meeting you can still hear her speech. Alongside the other busines that was conducted we were able to draw a cash raffle following the meeting as we achieved our quoracy. We have written to the winners to let them know the good news!!

That’s all for today everyone; we hope that our email updates continue to provide helpful advice and information for members.

As always, please do share our updates with your colleagues and encourage them to JOIN UNISON if they haven’t already.

We’ll be back in touch soon with further updates.

In solidarity!

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


Published on: March 11, 2021