07899715085 or 07899713498 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus update 23.09.20

Dear Member

Hello again everyone! We hope you are all keeping safe and well and have had a good working week so far.

Working from Home

Following a number of weeks during which the Government have been encouraging people to go back to the workplace, with the latest announcements it has now been stated that office workers “who can work effectively from home should do so over the winter.” However, Wirral Unison will also be looking for employers to take account of employees wellbeing and any childcare issues, particularly as a result of self-isolation, in managing home working. We know that working from home can be demanding for many of our members and the employer retains a duty of care for the heath and wellbeing of their staff. However, as we move into the winter months there will also be an increased financial burden placed upon members due to increased use of heating and other utilities.

Under tax legislation people using their home as an office are entitled to claim for increased costs. This can be done by a simplified claims procedure; there are two ways this can be done:
1,  Employers can pay you an allowance of £6 per week/ £26 per month as a tax free allowance paid by your employer. This is the system that Wirral Unison believes should operate so that you receive the full amount. We are speaking to employers about this. However, in the absence of this allowance there is another option;
2, Claim tax relief of £6 per week. Under this method you will reduce your tax amount that is paid which will equate to up to £1.60 per week for the majority of our members. To claim this you will need to complete a P87 form through the Government Gateway.

To claim through either of the above methods your employer must ‘require’ you to work at home. However, we are aware that HMRC are interpreting this flexibly during the current pandemic.

In the midst of the new guidance being issued by the Government there has been little mention of those who were previously defined as shielding or clinically vulnerable. What the Government has said is that “extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk” when considering their working arrangements. We would re-iterate our previous advice that if you fall within either the clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable group, you should have an individual risk assessment in place and this should have been reviewed in light of the recent spikes in cases.

Test and Trace support payment

As we have previously advised, the Government has established a test and trace support payment for low paid workers who are required to self-isolate. Details on this system are still scant, however the system is being managed by the Council and claims will be verified against a set criteria which include being in receipt of a qualifying benefit. The payments will be payable from the 28 September and the scheme is currently anticipated to run until the end of January 2021.

Wirral Schools Funding

It is fair to say that it has been commonly accepted that children’s education has suffered during this pandemic, we accept that this has to a significant degree been unavoidable. However, our concern us is what steps are being taken to catch up. There may have been many fine words uttered in the media and the House of Commons, however the reality is that school funding is still at insufficient levels.

We have yet to reach the end of September and already Wirral Unison has been contacted by a number of schools that are considering making cuts in staffing levels in the face of declining budgets. This would not be welcome news at any time, but in the midst of the pandemic it highlights how hollow some of the concerns for our children’s future really are. We are consulting with our members in the schools that are effected (which we will not name at this point) and we will be considering the full range of steps that can be taken to oppose these cuts which will impact negatively not just upon our members but upon the children they support.  

‘We Are With You’ strike

We wanted to make our members aware of a dispute amongst support workers in the North West, to highlight the work that Unison does in other areas to ensure our members get fair treatment. We express our solidarity to the striking workers.

Workers in the Wigan-Council commissioned drug and alcohol rehabilitation service will began a further ten days of strike action on 21 September in a dispute over pay. The workers are employed by the London-based charity We Are With You. Between them, the support workers stand to lose £230,000 in wages over the duration of We Are With You’s contract with Wigan Council.

Thirty UNISON members voted 100% in favour of strike action over failure to ensure that staff transferred from the NHS receive the full NHS rates of pay. From this Monday, they will began ten days of strike action. The rehab workers will hold socially distanced picket lines in Wigan and Leigh and will hold a virtual rally featuring speakers including Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan and Shadow Foreign Secretary.

UNISON members have taken sixteen days of strike action previously over the unresolved issue. The support workers postponed all strike action during the initial lockdown period but have become frustrated by their employer’s failure to settle the dispute.

Meanwhile, the drug and alcohol support workers have finally won their battle and forced their employer We Are With You to recognise UNISON as their trade union. This decision means that We Are With You will be forced to negotiate with the support workers collectively through their union UNISON from now on.

Recruitment campaign- Prize draw

Members may remember that in May and June we ran a recruitment campaign which included two chances to be entered in to a prize draw. Anyone who joined in May or June was entered in a draw for one of five £50 prizes AND If members encouraged someone else to Join, they were also entered into a draw for one of five £50 prizes. The winners have been drawn and successful members written to to let them know. Congratulations to all those who won one of the ten £50 prizes.

Magenta Pay Offer

Following our earlier email confirming the outcome of our ballot result, we can confirm that both Unison and Unite have accepted the pay offer and we have formally written to Magenta Living to confirm this. We understand that the pay rise, with the back pay will be processed in time for the October pay day.

That’s all for today everyone. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any concerns or require support.

As always, please feel free to 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

Enjoy your evening and we’ll be in touch soon with further updates.    

In solidarity!

Your Wirral Unison Team

Branch Office: 0151 666 3040

Central email: unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Published on: September 24, 2020