07899715085 or 07899713498 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus update 09.10.20

Dear Member

Welcome to the end of another week. As always we hope you get some time to relax and enjoy over the weekend even if you are on shift.

World Mental Health Day

Tomorrow, October 10th is World Mental Health day. It has never seemed more important or relevant to reflect upon the demands upon our mental wellbeing. With all the indicators on Covid taking a turn for the worse, it is a time that will be worrying for many of us, and for some the isolation may be particularly hard to deal with. As we all await the detail of further lockdown measures that the government are due to announce, it is important that we take some time to look after our mental health, and also be supportive to friends, families and colleagues.

The World Health Organisation instituted World Mental Health Day, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. This comes at a time when our daily lives have changed considerably as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The past months have brought many challenges: for health-care workers, providing care in difficult circumstances, going to work fearful of bringing COVID-19 home with them; for students, adapting to taking classes from home, with little contact with teachers and friends, and anxious about their futures; for workers whose livelihoods are threatened; for the vast number of people caught in poverty or in fragile humanitarian settings with extremely limited protection from COVID-19; and for people with mental health conditions, many experiencing even greater social isolation than before. And this is to say nothing of managing the grief of losing a loved one, sometimes without being able to say goodbye.

The economic consequences of the pandemic are already being felt, as companies let staff go in an effort to save their businesses, or indeed shut down completely.

Given past experience of emergencies, it is expected that the need for mental health and psychosocial support will substantially increase in the coming months and years. Investment in mental health programmes at the national and international levels, which have already suffered from years of chronic underfunding, is now more important than it has ever been.

We provide a link her to the mind website:

Women Bear Brunt of Covid-related Work Stress

A report published today has found that women are being disproportionately affected by a rise in mental health problems caused by increasing workloads as people do their jobs from home amid the pandemic. The  report, Burnout Britain, by the 4 Day Week campaign and thinktanks Compass and Autonomy found that the length of the working day has increased steadily, resulting in a 49% rise in mental distress reported by employees when compared with 2017-19.

Women are bearing the brunt of problems as they juggle work and childcare the report shows that women are 43% more likely to have increased their hours beyond a standard working week than men, and for those with children, this was even more clearly associated with mental health problems: 86% of women who are carrying out a standard working week alongside childcare, which is more than or equivalent to the UK average, experienced problems in April this year.

This is the sort of research that Unison will be utilising locally and nationally, and we move forward into a post Covid world, to ensure that policies are fit for purpose. We will be arguing for robust but flexible policies that meet the needs of our members.

Over 150 care workers & politicians stand together against law-breaking care company Lifeways

Over 150 care workers employed by Lifeways- which delivers care across the North West- have lodged a grievance through their union UNISON against their employer’s unlawful underpayment for annual leave. Lifeways, which is one of the UK’s largest social care providers, has been routinely underpaying its care workers when they take time off. In doing so, they have been breaking the law. The care workers, who have been on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19, regularly work overtime and so-called “sleep-in” shifts, where they stay overnight at a service user’s home in order to deliver care.

According to UK employment law, “sleep-in” shifts and overtime should be included when calculating how much holiday pay workers should earn. Instead, Lifeways’ employee handbook states that their staff will receive only their basic salary during periods of annual leave- leaving care workers hundreds of pounds out of pocket every year. Due to understaffing during the pandemic, the pressure on care workers to work additional hours has been greater than ever.

A care worker employed by Lifeways said: “Working during the pandemic has become more and more difficult- we’ve not been given the things we needed, even basic supplies like hand sanitiser. We worked through a pandemic at great risk without great reward. It’s an insult that despite our dedication, we are underpaid by Lifeways. I do two sleep-in shifts a week. Without them, I can’t afford to get by on the minimum wage. If I want to take annual leave, I’m losing out financially so I have to decide whether or not I can afford to take a day off. This issue leads to high turnover of staff and low morale which ultimately effects the people we care for.”

Another care worker employed by Lifeways added: “It’s been stressful working through the pandemic, we have been understaffed. I love my job but we need a break more than ever and we shouldn’t be penalised for taking one. For me to take annual leave and not be out of pocket, I need to work extra the week before or after. But we have a young child and finding childcare is so difficult at the moment. I’ve cancelled my annual leave on two occasions because I couldn’t afford to take the days off.”

The care workers have received political backing for their Fair Pay for Holiday campaign from MPs and councillors across the North West, and we will be asking Wirral Council to support this campaign.

Paula Barker, MP for Liverpool Wavertree and former Unison Regional Convenor said: “We’ve all watched on in awe as care workers have put their own lives on the line this year, despite receiving scant protection from their employer or Government- all whilst receiving insultingly low levels of pay. The pandemic has shone a light on the total dysfunctionality of the social care sector in our country. And yet I am still shocked to learn that Lifeways have persisted with their unlawful underpayment for annual leave in the midst of a global pandemic. The company have proven themselves to be cruel, callous and completely unfit to operate in what is supposed to be a caring sector. I urge them in the strongest terms to right this wrong immediately.”

Mick Whitley, MP for Birkenhead said: “I joined in the clapping for care workers during the lockdown. But I never believed clapping was enough- applause does not pay the bills. Decent pay, terms and conditions for the highly skilled care workers who continue to work on the front-line of the fight against COVID-19 is well deserved. Fair and decent holiday pay is a right, not a privilege. The staff at Lifeways in my constituency and across the country should be given full holiday pay. I have signed the open letter to Lifeways calling for this and I pledge full support to these care workers.”

Union Learning Fund to be scrapped from March 2021

A week after Boris Johnson announced plans for adult skills, a key fund for lifelong learning looks set to be axed as The Union Learning Fund is to be scrapped from March 202.
The disgraceful news comes just a week after prime minister Boris Johnson announced a "skills guarantee" for adult learners.

The fund, which is worth around £11 million a year, was established in 1988 and, through the work of trade unions and union learning representatives, delivers a range of learning and training programmes, including schemes to improve maths, English and digital skills, growing apprenticeship provision and seeking solutions to skills shortages. It currently supports 250,000 workers a year to access learning. According to a report published by Union Learn and the Department for Education in 2018-19, every £1 invested in the fund resulted in a total economic return of £12.30.

Many members in Wirral have benefited from this, and we will stand with the TUC and University and College Union, who are responsible for the service, in the campaign for the proposal to be dropped.

In the meantime if you are interested in being a Union Learning Rep please get in touch for more information. We will support you in this valuable role.

General secretary election: make your vote count

Unison will be electing a new General Secretary before the year is out, with the ballot due to open later this month. The election is your chance to vote to elect the most senior person in the union. Being a member, or retired member, of UNISON entitles you to a vote if you were a member on 28 July 2020.

The general secretary represents you and the other 1.3 million members of UNISON in meetings with politicians across the UK, in discussions with employers and when working with other trade unions. They speak up for you and are the public face of your union, in the press, on TV and on social media. This is your chance to have a say in who leads the union and who represents all our members.  The election only comes around every five years so use your vote and make sure your voice is heard. Wirral Unison has nominated Hugo Pierre, and there are three other candidates standing.

The ballot opens on 28 October so please look out for your ballot paper, which will be sent by post to your home address, sadly under anti trade union legislation it cannot be an electronic vote. Make sure you post your completed ballot in plenty of time to CES by 5pm on November 27. It will be freepost, so don’t worry about a stamp. Your election pack will include the ballot paper, and the pre-paid return envelope. There will also be information about the candidates who are standing to be general secretary. If anything is missing from your election pack, or you lose your ballot paper please call our ballot helpline free on 0800 0 857 857 or on textphone 0800 0 967 968. The helpline opens on 10 November and closes on 20 November.

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 12, 2020