07899715085 or 07899713498 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus update 02.11.20

Dear Member

Hello Everyone.  We hope you are all keeping safe and well.

We’re sure all our members will have seen the news over the weekend that we are going into a new national lockdown, or tier 4, or further national restrictions, depending on how you choose to phrase it; the impact however is the same. In mid-September, the scientific experts were advising that we should have a two week national lockdown or ‘circuit break’ to stop infection rates rising. This advice was ignored and instead in October, we entered a three tier system that was meant to simplify the restrictions. Now, a matter of weeks later we are entering at least a four week lockdown, as we approach Christmas. Whilst this pandemic is of course a unique situation, we can’t help but question the motivation or competence behind of some of the actions taken by government. What we do know, is that many of our members and of course our friends and family in the community are feeling the impact upon their physical and mental health, economic wellbeing, child care and education and housing situations. We will continue to analyse the current guidance and support available and share information with members, and of course we will remain available for any advice that is required.

Impact on Services

The government guidance is still being finalised but it is clear that the government advice is that you must not leave or be outside your home except for specific purposes, this includes for work, where your place of work remains open and you cannot work from home. Many of the service areas where our members work have been instructed to close, this includes all indoor and outdoor leisure facilities including golf courses and theatres and museums. The full list of which services will need to close is still being worked out and we will provide further information as it becomes available.

Wirral Evolutions

It is not entirely clear to us whether Day Centres will be able to remain open under the new lockdown restrictions. However, the suggestion is that they may well be able to remain open, based on an exemption that is being offered to some venues for the provision of specific activities related to support groups. This will be confirmed but we understand the service is looking to continue on an alternate week basis. We will be discussing with management at Wirral Evolutions, what measures are in place to minimise risk, but we can confirm that anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable will not have to attend the workplace.

Care Workers

This latest lockdown will once again place the spotlight upon the extremely demanding role that care workers fulfil. It can be a rewarding job but far too rarely is it a financially rewarding job. Earlier this Spring, Wirral Unison spearheaded the campaign that saw many care workers in Wirral receive the Real Living Wage, however, far too many still  do not receive even this basic level of pay. The increased infection rates and the consequential increase in the need to self-isolate will once again see some care workers financially punished for doing the right thing. We will be seeking urgent discussions with the council to seek to address and improve this situation.

People More at Risk- Clinically Vulnerable and Clinically Extremely Vulnerable

The position for those more at risk during this new lockdown, is similar to the guidance from Spring although there are notable differences. One of the significant changes is that anyone over the age of 60 is now, in effect included in the clinically vulnerable group. Being clinically vulnerable means that you could be at higher risk of serve illness if you contract Corona virus. If you fall into this category the advice is now that you should:

  • Be especially careful to follow the rules and minimise your contact with others.
  • Continue to wash your hands carefully and frequently. And maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas in your home and workplace.

Whilst not a problem in and of themselves, these points do not in our opinion go far enough in offering assurance and protection for those who are clinically vulnerable. In light of this, Wirral Unison strongly suggests that if you cannot work from home  everyone within this category should have an individual workplace risk assessment to ensure that the risk is minimised and you are protected whilst at work. If your working environment cannot be made safe, we would contend that you should be treated in the same way as someone in the clinically extremely vulnerable group, in that you should be based at home.

For those people who are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable or ‘shielding’ (although the government appears to have dropped the phrase ‘shielding’) the government has issued some initial advice, however further detailed advice is expected to be published from today. The initial advice states that during this current lockdown period people who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to work from home. If you cannot work from home the government advises you not to go to  work. They go on to state that you may be eligible for statutory sick pay, however, Wirral Unison is pressing for employers to continue to provide full pay for anyone within this category.

f you need any further advice on the above points, please do get in touch.

Schools and Further Education

The most notable difference to this lockdown from the one in Spring is that schools, colleges and universities are to remain open, this has been subject to much discussion over the past couple of days. We are aware that the evidence suggests that although younger people are  much less likely to suffer severe illness as a result of Covid-19, they can still contract the virus and pass it on into the wider community. This has led to large numbers of pupils and staff having to self-isolate following positive tests amongst the school population. It is in consideration of this that the Teachers Union NEU, has called for a shutdown of schools, similar to that during the first lockdown for an initial period, followed by a return on a rota basis.

However, the other argument that needs to be considered is the impact upon the education that children receive. Whilst we take this concern as expressed by the government with a pinch of salt, given the ongoing squeeze on funding for education, it is nevertheless a genuine concern for us and many families. The impact of closing schools will be felt most keenly in many working families and in particular in areas of social deprivation. We cannot neglect those concerns nor the demands for child care if schools  are closed.

We will be discussing with our stewards in schools what demands we should be putting forward that best meet these conflicting needs. We are also aware that the situation may be different depending on whether we are looking at an FE college, a primary school, a secondary school or a special school. We will update members further on our position surrounding education once we have had the opportunity to consult with our stewards in schools.

The full guidance as currently issued by the Government for this lockdown can be found here

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

We’ll be back in touch with further updates in the coming days. Take care and stay safe.

In solidarity!

Your Wirral Unison Team

Branch Office: 0151 666 3040

Central email: unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Published on: November 3, 2020