07899715085 or 07899713498 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus Update 27.03.20

Dear Member

Hello again! We’ve reached the end of what has been an incredibly strange and in many cases stressful week. We hope you’re all feeling okay and can look forward to some relaxation if you’re not working at the weekend.

Last night I’m sure many of you joined in with the ‘clap for carers’ or heard the streets around you ringing with the sound of applause to mark the nations collective gratitude for the amazing work our NHS staff and other frontline care workers do. For many this was an emotional show of solidarity and whilst we agree, we know our carers need more! NHS doctors, nurses, carers, cleaners and porters have been reflecting on social media that whilst they have been deeply moved by the publics display of unity and support what they really need is to go into their places of work equipped to safely do their jobs. They need PPE that is safe and fit for purpose, they need proper breaks so that they are not exhausted and they need to be properly paid for the exceptional work they do.

This crisis has exposed what a decade of austerity has done to our public services. It has also exposed who the real key workers are, not the corporate bankers or hedge fund managers but public sector workers, you- our members. It has never been acceptable to us that care workers are classed as ‘unskilled’ or that they are only paid minimum wage. This crisis has shown the true value of care and now more than ever we need to call for the value of this work to be reflected in  their pay and conditions.   

Since 2010 successive Tory governments have stripped public services of resources, privatised key areas and pushed through measures that have resulted in real term pay cuts for public sector workers in excess of 20%. For too long, public services have compensated for the cuts by relying upon the good will and extra hours worked by staff. The fact that over 700,000 people volunteered to support the NHS in a 36 hour period shows the depth of community solidarity when we are in trouble. However when this crisis passes, and it will pass, we cannot allow the government to use the volunteers and their goodwill to further reduce the paid, skilled and dedicated workforce. When this crisis is over there must be a reckoning across the country that recognises the value of public sector workers and invests in the services we provide, that have played such an important role during this emergency.

We’ve got a few updates for you today to follow but as always keep getting in touch and we’ll keep doing our best to support you all. We will be having some time off at the weekend but will check emails where possible and respond as soon as we are able.

Schools and Easter (Spring Break)
We can confirm that any work  done by our members over the break should be on a voluntary basis. Equally arrangements for Easter workings should not form part of a wider rota and should be treated differently as the agreement is that the Easter rota will be staffed by volunteers only. We expect new rotas or rotas currently in place (if they are working) will be reinstated after the break.  We continue to seek a firm commitment that any working over the Easter period is paid but our position is clear, our members should be paid for time worked over the break. 

We continue to press local employers for the provision of personal protective equipment where it is needed. Unison nationally is agitating for the urgent provision of appropriate PPE for all front line workers in order that our members are protected and crucially that the spread of the virus is limited. The provision of hand sanitiser is crucial especially for those in public facing roles. For many of our members who may be providing personal care the provision of PPE goes beyond hand sanitiser and it is vital that these workers are provided with appropriate provision by their employer.

We shouldn’t be in a situation where supermarkets are having to allocate special shopping hours for different groups of society but unfortunately due to the actions of some this is the position we find ourselves in. We were saddened earlier this morning to hear of our members who work in the care sector being turned away by a supermarket security guard because she was not the right kind of care worker! Alongside workers in the NHS, our members who are providing vital services for our communities need access to shops, they need to be able to feed themselves and their families and of course are often shopping for their vulnerable clients as well. We will use our influence as a local trade union to put pressure on supermarket bosses locally to ensure that the systems they have in place for priority access to their stores is fair and equitable and does not disregard the essential work of our members.

There For You
We know that for so many the implications of this crisis are far reaching and will be felt deeply. We of course welcome your queries and concerns about work related matters but also wanted to ensure that you all know about provision available to members though ‘There For You’, the link is below.

Wirral Evolutions
We are aware that the usage of the Day Services has reduced dramatically; with only one centre open, and usage of an outreach service small, as families, not unreasonably keep their loved ones at home. A number of staff have volunteered to help out other services. However we have raised our concerns to management in that it appears staff who are not engaged in direct care are being called into centres to undertake non-essential or core tasks. This, appears at least, to be in conflict with the Governments advice to stay at home unless attendance at a workplace is essential. We hope that this matter will be clarified and resolved quickly, so risk is minimised

This company provides school support services, and is wholly owned by Wirral and Cheshire West Councils. They have proposed that a pay rise that was due to come in as of 1 April be deferred until September as a result of the crisis. We have informed the company that we cannot agree to their proposal; firstly because we do not believe any worker should be at a financial detriment during this crisis, and secondly because the government has issued guidance making clear that all contractors (including catering, cleaning, IT and other suppliers of goods and services) will continue to be paid in full by public bodies during the partial schools closures.  We will be consulting with our members further to this.

Stay safe over the weekend all and we will be back in touch on Monday.

In Solidarity!

Lois and Dave

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

Published on: March 30, 2020