07899715085 or 07899713498 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus update 30.09.20

Dear Member

Hello again everyone. We hope you are all keeping safe and well and are having a good week. Our email update is slightly longer today for our members who work for Wirral Council as there were some specific updates we wanted to share, so apologies if the email seems rather lengthy today!

Local Lockdown Restrictions

As infection rates continue to rise in the Merseyside area, we await news from central government of further potential lockdown restrictions. It does seem that each different day, in each different area of the country brings new and different restrictions and it can seem difficult to keep track of the changes. Indeed, yesterday the Prime Minister himself seemed to struggle with what measures were in place.

Wirral Unison will seek to highlight any measures that we believe are of particular concern to our members, however we would also refer people to Wirral Council’s website identifying the local measures in place which can be accessed here

If you are not resident in Wirral, you can find out about local restrictions in your area, from the government website which can be accessed using this link

We would of course also reiterate the basic steps that people should be following of washing your hands regularly, wearing a face covering where appropriate and maintaining social distancing.

Health and Safety- Temperature

As the temperature starts to drop, we just want to take a few moments to reflect on the legal position regarding workplace temperatures. This may be particularly relevant because we are aware a number of indoor workplaces are leaving windows open to improve ventilation and air circulation, to minimise the risk of transmission of Covid-19. Whilst those measures are entirely reasonable, they do not negate the legal obligation under the Workplace Regulations 1992 on employers to provide a reasonable temperature in the workplace.

The approved code of practice suggests that the minimum temperature should normally be at least 16 degrees (13 if your work involves rigorous physical effort). If the temperature drops below 16 degrees we would expect immediate steps to be taken by the employer, to increase the temperature or find  an alternative place of work.  

For any of our members who are working outside, there are particular measures in place to support them, including the use of PPE and mobile facilities for warming up.

If you need any further advice on these matters, please do get in touch. Health and Safety legislation is there to protect the wellbeing of the workforce and you should not have to work in unreasonable conditions.

Unison calls for Covid-19 Testing for All Schools Staff

Central government’s recently published testing priority list only includes teachers within schools, ignoring the rest of a school’s workforce. Unison has launched an emergency petition calling on Health Secretary, Matt Hancock to include all schools staff as one of the groups named for priority Covid-19 testing.

It takes a whole team to operate schools safely and effectively and the government, in only mentioning teaching staff have completely ignored the valuable role of more than half of the workforce who are not teachers.

Wirral Unison have also raised this matter locally and called on the council to include all schools staff in their local provision, even if the government continues to ignore support staff.

Please find the link HERE to our petition, which we would encourage all of our members to sign.

Brackenwood Juniors- Anti- Academy Campaign

As we mentioned earlier in the week, Wirral Unison, in alliance with the NEU has expressed its concerns around the proposed academisation of Brackenwood Junior school. We have called a public meeting for this Friday, at 5:30pm to launch our campaign. Speakers include:

  • David Jones, Wirral Unison Branch Secretary,
  • Simon O’Hara from the anti-academies alliance,
  • also confirmed as a speaker is a parent with children at the school.

Please see the link to our meeting HERE and feel free to like, share and attend!

Wirral Council Budget

Many members may have seen the ‘Exec View’ from the Chief Executive yesterday which referred to the budgetary situation in Wirral. In doing so, he referred to a “very stark situation” and “looking at some very difficult decisions.” We know that this has caused some alarm and anxiety amongst some of our members, at what is still an early stage in the process.

The council have also published, on their website yesterday, their initial documents regarding the budget setting process. It is clear form this paperwork, that there is a potential multi million pound deficit, however the need for specific savings has not yet been identified. The budget process is at an early stage.

It is acknowledged that the pandemic has had a significant impact upon the council’s finances, this follows after a decade of austerity. The council have spent significant sums of money above what was budgeted for at the start of the year. They were correct to do so as public health has had to be the priority at this time. There has been additional funding received from the Government and more may yet be received; it certainly should be pressed for. There are also options open to the council to capitalise the budget deficit and to use the council’s borrowing powers to meet the demands at this time, without making cuts we can ill afford.

Wirral Unison has been clear with the council leadership and the council officers that we will not countenance any compulsory redundancies. We should be clear that the council have not proposed any redundancies or indeed any other savings at this point, but we have set out clearly what our position is, so they are not in doubt. We will continue to be in dialogue with the council and of course will continually update members, over the coming months.

Home Working

We have talked about homeworking previously, and we are aware that a number of our members may be concerned about continuing to work from home. This may well include financial worries as the costs of heating and electricity rise as we head into the winter months.

We have raised and continue to raise the need for financial support amongst other issues, without reaching a final agreement. However the council have assured us that no one is obliged to work from home and if they are struggling for whatever reason, office accommodation can be available. If you need further support with this, please do get in touch with us.

Health and Safety Risk Assessments

As you know we have tried to keep you updated with both national issues and local developments during this pandemic. However, much of our work and the detail of it, we have not been able to report back upon. A large element of this has been the ongoing discussions we have been having with council officers regarding the remobilisation of services and ensuring appropriate risk assessments are in place. However, we just want to take this opportunity to inform you that we are consistently analysing, challenging and suggesting improvements to management’s plans. We have brought about improvements in a number of areas including the provision of PPE and Covid-19 secure measures, fire safety, ventilation and individual support for members who are heightened risk.

So whilst we are not always able to share the details of the discussions we are engaged in, we do ask that you share with us any concerns you may have about workplace safety during these very difficult times.

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: October 1, 2020