07899715085 or 07899713498 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus update 15.10.20

Dear Member

We hope you are all well, and keeping safe. These are uncertain times; Liverpool City Region was placed in the “Tier 3” category, which will be reviewed in 4 weeks time, but it appears that the measures and restrictions may change in the interim. We will do our best to alert you to any changes and relevant information; however please use the Government website for the definitive position. Use the postcode checker we gave you yesterday to get details for your area.

We have a number of smaller items this evening which we will turn to without further ado.

Shielding

We gave some information yesterday regarding those who are clinically extremely vulnerable (formerly Shielding) and those who are clinically vulnerable. Wirral Council have confirmed “Guidance states that shielding will only be reinstated in areas labelled 'Very High' when it is agreed by the government and local Directors of Public Health. Currently, there is no such agreement in place for Wirral.” 

Wirral Unison will be raising this issue with Wirral Public Health, to ascertain at what point they will support Shielding being re-introduced for those most vulnerable to this virus. Many of the employers we deal with, including the Council may take all reasonable steps to protect those workers at higher risk, but there may be some employers where clear guidance will be on benefit. Please do contact us if you have any concerns.

Gyms and Leisure Centres

The decision to close gyms and leisure centres has been met with dismay by many, with some questioning the evidence behind it. It also seems the local political leadership do not agree with the move. Wirral Council leader Janette Williamson has said the Region was not given any choice by the Government around the closure of gyms being included in the lockdown measures. She has said she is deeply frustrated by the closures and said local political leaders will work to try to make sure gyms can reopen when the first review of the measures take place in a month.

We know that many of our members will echo the words of Cllr Williamson. There is clear evidence of the positive benefits that the use of gyms, swimming pools and leisure can have to physical and mental health and well-being; especially for the more vulnerable in our communities.  Of course in many areas where communities struggle to make ends meet, the availability of Council facilities is absolutely essential.

Whilst it is crucial that all facilities are safe, it is disappointing that some Council leisure facilities have not re-opened since closure in March. We will be seeking urgent assurance from the Council that when gyms etc can reopen (hopefully in 4 weeks if not sooner) that all Council leisure facilities open at that time. And of course we will be seeking assurances that the Council will retain all our Leisure Centres for the long term, and not see them as an easy cost cutting measure when the budget comes around.

Political Leaders Statement on Lockdown

In a Joint statement, the Metro Mayor and Leaders of the City Region’s six local authorities including Wirral have issued a statement in relation to the Tier 3 status. The full statement can be read here  but we quote some interesting parts of the statement below:

“There are some things upon which we have been able to agree with the Government, but others where we do not, such as the level of the furlough scheme. To assist with efforts to bring the number of cases down, we have gained agreement from government for new, local arrangements and funding support for more localised test, trace and isolate and also enforcement, specifically:

  • An enforcement package, with laws, not just guidance and advice, and funding and resources to enforce restrictions where necessary.
  • An effective local Track, Trace and Isolate package with the funding to support it, cooperation on data, local control and the guaranteed supplies and resources required.
  • Opportunity to engage logistics and capacity support from the Armed Forces working alongside our own Local Authority staff and Public Health officials.

These measures will be supported by a specific package of financial support to deliver this for our City Region, covering a six-month period and not dependent upon the Tier position of our City Region.

In addition to this, we have secured an assurance from the Treasury that in coming to that national position, no Local Authorities placed on Tier 3 restrictions will be put in a position where they are unable to balance their budget this year or to set a legal budget next year. Further discussions will take place as a priority over the coming week.”

We have highlighted the last paragraph in red, because of its significance. We know that many members, primarily in the council, read with concern the initial budget statements a week or two ago; but this statement hopefully provides some reassurance. As we read it, this means there should be no need for any budget cuts this year. That is only as we read it, and we are seeking further confirmation.

Wales

You may have seen on the news that Welsh Government has announced that it intends to stop travel from the Tier 3 areas of England into Wales. We know that we have members who live in Wales whilst working in Wirral; and for some of those working from home may not be possible. However after looking at the proposal in further detail, it does not appear that this will affect those who may be travelling between areas for work purposes, or other essential reasons. So this measure should not impact on your employment.

Schools

Schools are a critical consideration in the battle against Covid; no-one doubts the importance and value of education, but at this time it has to be managed safely. The Government and some Public Health Officials appear to downplay the risk of transmission in schools. The view that the bigger risk is transmission in the community, may or may not be true,  but we do know that there are an increasing number of pupils self-isolating, and now one school in Wirral has shut due to Covid. These are worrying times, and we urge any school staff with concerns about safety to let us know.

We do however call for routine testing of school staff to manage the risk and identify infection at an early stage. Care Home staff get tested weekly (rightly so); but we believe that this should also apply to schools. We call on Wirral Council to support this measure, and help keep schools safe and transmission low

Wirral Evolutions

Our final point today relates to the pay rise  for Wirral Evolutions staff. As we have previously reported, directly as a result of pressure from Wirral UNISON, the Local Government pay rise has also been applied to WE staff. However due to a slight delay in the transfer of funds from the Council, this has not been processed in time for the October pay run. However it is being paid, it will be paid in November and backdated to April.

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

As always, please do 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

In solidarity!

Your Wirral Unison Team

Branch Office: 0151 666 3040
Central email: unison1@wirral.gov.uk


Published on: October 15, 2020