07899715085 or 07899713498 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus update 02.10.20

Dear Member

Hi again everyone and Happy Friday! We hope you are all keeping safe and well in what continue to be very strange times for us all.

Celebrating Black History Month – John Archer

October is Black History month, and to mark this we take a few moments to reflect upon John Archer and his contribution.

John Archer was born in Liverpool to a Barbadian father and Irish mother (which speaks loudly to the foundations the city was built upon). From humble beginnings he went onto become the first black mayor in Britain.  Following  a path that would be trod by many others from the city, John went to sea, before becoming involved in politics. He was a radical Liberal before the Labour Party was established, and moved to London. In 1906 he was elected as a Councillor in Battersea and successfully campaigned for a minimum wage of 32 shillings a week for council workers.  

In 1913, he was nominated for the position of mayor (a position that was the political leader of the council, rather than a ceremonial role).  There were negative and racist aspects to the campaign, with allegations that he did not have British nationality. He won by 40 votes to 39 among his fellow councillors, and gave a notable victory speech:
"My election tonight means a new era. You have made history tonight. For the first time in the history of the English nation a man of colour has been elected as mayor of an English borough." 

Archer’s politics moved to the left during his time as a Councillor and in 1919 he was re-elected to the council as a Labour representative. In 1919 he was a British delegate to the Pan-African Congress in Paris and two years later, chaired the Pan-African Congress in London.

In 1922, he gave up his council seat to act as election agent for Shapurji Saklatvala, a Communist Party activist standing for parliament in North Battersea. He convinced the Labour Party to endorse Saklatvala who was duly elected one of the first Indian MPs in Britain. Archer was again elected in 1931, for the Nine Elms ward and at the time of his death in 1932, he was deputy leader of Battersea Council.

We salute the efforts and achievements of John Archer.

PPE accessible for all

The government has announced NHS and social care workers will be given clear face masks to help them communicate with people with certain conditions such as hearing loss, autism and dementia. This is a positive move for those of us who communicate non-verbally and reading facial expression. The masks are see-through and have an anti-fogging barrier to ensure the face and mouth are always visible to help doctors, nurses and carers communicate better with their patients. The masks will help those who need to lip read or rely on facial expressions to support communication.

Disability Rights UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “This is a simple, necessary measure that will go a long way to providing assurance for the 12 million people with hearing loss in the UK.”

We have raised the question, with the council as to whether there is an adequate supply of these face masks available. We are aware that the government were only making 250,000 of these masks available for the whole country, which may not be enough. If you work in a care setting and you are struggling to obtain these masks, please let us know.

We would also call for the use of these masks to be extended to any workers where none verbal communication is important to them or their colleagues.

Local Lockdown Restrictions

We wrote to members on Wednesday about the then imminent, announcement of further restrictions in our area and more broadly across Merseyside. Members will be aware that additional restrictions have since been announced by government. We provide for information here, the link to Wirral’s website so that members can remain informed about our measures locally.

We know that one of the restrictions that has been put in place is in relation to care homes. We are aware that for many family members and residents of homes this can be an extremely difficult restriction to cope with, particularly over an extended period of time. Whilst we understand and support measures to minimise the transmission of covid-19, we also recognise that mental health can be detrimentally effected by not having contact with family members.

We know that under current restrictions, only essential visits are allowed, however if the restrictions are to continue for any length of time, we would hope that a more flexible yet safe arrangement can be put into place.

Wirral Met College

UNISON has submitted a pay claim for further education colleges in England, which seeks a “full restoration” of the cuts to pay in the sector over the past decade. The claim calls for:

  • a significant move towards the full restoration of college pay levels to where they would be had college pay kept pace with inflation since 2009;
  • the living wage, as calculated by the Living Wage Foundation, to be the minimum wage in the sector, with all further education colleges in England becoming accredited living wage employers with the foundation;
  • all contracted-out services to be brought back in-house with improvements in terms and conditions equal to those already directly employed by the college.

UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “The government has made some big announcements on further education recently. We’ve heard recognition of the need to invest in skills, promises on the need to reinvigorate adult education, a new drive on apprenticeships and the need to end the ‘bogus distinction’ between further and higher education. After more than a decade of cuts to the sector, and a decade of cuts to staff and pay, the FE sector needs investment – not just in buildings and equipment, but in staff to fulfil this ambitious agenda.

Additionally, Wirral Unison can confirm that next week we will be opening the consultation on the proposed revisions to the pay and grading structure. Members will recall that this consultation was paused in March due to lockdown restrictions. We will be sending out details of the proposals and conducting the consultation via an online ballot. We will update members on the outcome of this in due course.

Brackenwood Junior School Proposed Academy 

We issued the following press release yesterday:

Wirral Unison (School Support Staff) and the National Education Union (Teachers), have reacted with concern about the proposals to voluntarily convert Brackenwood Junior to Academy status.  
The Academy process leads to the division of our education system and undermines local accountability for the education of our children.  
With specific reference to Brackenwood Juniors we see no clear advantage to the school in this but do see many concerns. As the school proposes to join a Multi Academy Trust with five other schools, they will lose a degree of autonomy, and have to sign over 4.4% of their budget to the Multi Academy Trust.  
The two unions have called an online public meeting this Friday at 5:30 to call for opposition to this. Sadly neither staff nor parents, have Wirral a vote on these proposals, so we must organise a public campaign. The meeting, organised under the banner of No More Academies, can be accessed here Oppose Brackenwood Jnrs Academy Public Meeting. Speakers include: 

  • David Jones, Wirral Unison Branch Secretary, 
  • Ian Harris, National Education Union 
  • Simon O’Hara, Anti-Academies Alliance, 
  • also confirmed as a speaker is a parent with children at the school. 

Steve Bennett, Wirral Unison School Officers said “ Brackenwood Juniors is not a failing school, so we pose the question what does the school gain, and what is the risk? Those questions remain unanswered. If the school becomes an academy and it doesn’t work out, the decision cannot be reversed. This decision is not in the interests of staff, or of current and future pupils.” 
Ian Harris said "Academy conversion is an irreversible process with far-reaching consequences for pupils, staff and the wider community. It is not a decision that should be taken lightly.  In the case of Brackenwood Juniors it is difficult to find any benefit to voluntary academisation" 
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 weekend 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 5, 2020