07899715085 or 07899713498 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus update 18.11.20

Dear Member
We all you are well on this mid November day. In the news today the Office for National Statistics is reporting that in November 4.2 million adults state they are always or often lonely, a significant increase compared with 2.6 million before the pandemic. We know it’s tough at the moment for all of us, but for some the impact is even harder. So take care of yourself and lets support each other.
We talked about long Covid a few weeks ago but it is helpful to revisit the subject given recent developments. The term long-Covid (also known as long-haul or long-tail) is not an official medical term, as yet. It is used by people suffering symptoms of the virus for longer than the official WHO-endorsed two week period, which is meant to be long enough for the virus to come and go. Sufferers report a huge spectrum of problems beyond the three NHS-approved symptoms (persistent cough, fever and loss of taste or smell). These include fatigue, breathlessness, muscle aches, joint pain, 'brain fog,' memory loss, lack of concentration, and depression. It is not thought that people are infectious for the long period, but just suffer long-term effects.

Research is in its infancy but a number of studies suggest at least 1 in 20 people are still suffering the symptoms after a month, and in some cases for a number of months.

For sufferers of long-Covid there can of course be an impact on working life. It is important that anyone in this situation receives all appropriate support, not just medically to aid recovery, but also in the workplace. If you think you are suffering from long-Covid and are not getting appropriate support at work please do get in touch with your Unison rep. Please do not struggle in silence.
Care Workers and Covid.
The Government, via the Council, has provided funding that any care worker who has to self-isolate, either following a positive test, or in compliance with track and trace should receive their normal pay. Each provider has to sign up this, but there is no financial disadvantage to signing up, in fact there is a benefit. If you need to self-isolate and you do not receive your normal pay, please do get in touch.

The situation regarding the clinically vulnerable (CV) and clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) is somewhat difference. If you are CEV (also known as shielding) you should have received a letter from the NHS or your GP; if you haven’t received one and think you should please contact your GP. The advice for CEV from the Government is clear “You are strongly advised to work from home. If you cannot work from home, you should not attend work for this period of restrictions”. It is disappointing the Wirral Council are taking a different stance in relation to care workers and are encouraging them to attend where possible. We are challenging the Council strongly on this.
The Government are saying that people in this category if unable to work from home may be entitled to SSP or alternatively they may be furloughed. In this case we are pressing the Council to fund the difference in pay to ensure that the vulnerable workers, those most at risk of serious illness are not financially disadvantaged.

For those who are CV, which includes if you are pregnant or over 60, the government advise is to be particularly careful to follow the rules and minimise contact with others. In the workplace you should undertake an individual risk assessment, and if the workplace cannot be made safe, alternative arrangements should be made.

We are aware that the care sector is an area of work where rates of infection are higher. Therefore, in some ways care workers who are CV or CEV face a doubly increased risk. Furlough should certainly be an option given serious consideration. We are pressing the Council to make funding available so that members in this category are not financially disadvantaged, whether furloughed or not.
Woodchurch Road School - Unanimous Vote for Action
We can confirm that in the face of pay cuts of up to 20%, Teaching Assistants and Play Workers at the school have voted unanimously to take strike action. Every eligible member voted in the ballot. This is possibly the first time in Unison’s history that 100% of members have voted, and 100% voted for strike action.

The text of our press release is below but here is the coverage in Liverpool Echo

Our petition can be signed here

Woodchurch Road Primary School support staff to take strike action over cuts to hours
Twenty Wirral school workers have announced that they will take strike action on Thursday 3 December over Woodchurch Primary School’s proposal to cut their hours and pay by 20%.
The school support staff- who stand to lose out as much as £3,885 in pay every year- voted 100% in favour of the strike.

The teaching assistants and play workers- who had previously received the backing of local MP Mick Whitley- are supported by parents of schoolchildren and the local community.

The school staff held an online meeting which has now been watched by almost 2000 people. The school staff’s trade union UNISON says that the meeting showed the “overwhelming support” for the Woodchurch workers and the opposition to the proposed cuts.

Speaking at the meeting, parent Amina Hussein said: “I have two children who attend the school. The staff are fabulous but they cannot provide the same support in less time. I say to Wirral Council: stop these cuts and give my children the support that they deserve.”

Following the meeting, Wirral UNISON have launched a petition to oppose the cuts which can be accessed here.

Wirral UNISON branch secretary David Jones said: “A 100% vote in favour of strike action shows the strength of feeling amongst our members. The fantastic turnout for our meeting shows that the parents and the community are outraged about these pay cuts and the potential impact upon their children’s education. We urge the Council to enter into meaningful dialogue with us to stop these cuts.”
Wirral UNISON Victory saves School Catering Staff from the sack.
School catering company Compass/Chartwells had threatened to sack 10 staff at 2 schools in the run up to Christmas. This was outrageous and unnecessary; Wirral Unison as always would not accept this without a fight!

Faced with growing opposition orchestrated by Unison (led by Branch Officer Gill Harris) the Company have this morning announced that they will furlough the staff, which will protect jobs until the pandemic is passed. Below is the press release we issued yesterday for you information.
Catering Company Chartwells Threaten Wirral School Staff With Redundancy
School catering company Chartwells are proposing to make ten low-paid catering assistants redundant within a month, just 3 weeks before Christmas. Wirral UNISON, local MPs and the CEO of one school affected have expressed their outrage about the treatment of the staff who provide school meals at Bebington High and Weatherhead schools.

The company have stated that the reason for the proposed redundancies is reduced demand for school meals, especially hot meals. However, their own managers have acknowledged in discussions with UNISON that the reasons for this are related to the COVID pandemic and there is every indication that demand will return to previous levels once this pandemic has abated. It is precisely for these circumstances that the Government has extended the furlough scheme until March. Chartwells have previously placed staff in these schools on furlough but are now refusing to extend it.

A member of the catering staff who did not want to be named said: “I feel totally let down by the company. I'm sad that after many years of service and through no fault of my own I may lose my job.
“I will miss the banter with the kids, it's not an easy job but I love it. I feel totally worthless.”
Chris Tomlinson, Chief Executive Officer for Co-op Academies Trust which oversees Bebington school, said: "I'm really very disappointed with this proposed action from Chartwells. So close to Christmas they're making members of our community redundant when the furlough scheme is available. Totally unnecessary and despicable. I'm asking Chartwells publicly to use the furlough scheme that is available to ensure no jobs are lost where there is an obvious and accessible solution."

A number of the staff have contacted Alison McGovern MP for her support. Ms McGovern stated: "I cannot understand why this company is proposing to go ahead with redundancies of these women when the furlough scheme exists to avoid situations like this. I am calling on Chartwells to withdraw these redundancies and use the furlough scheme that is available so that these employees are not made jobless just before Christmas.”

Angela Eagle and Mick Whitley MPs have also expressed support for the catering staff, whilst the Leader of Wirral Council has written to Chartwells to ask them to furlough the school workers.
Wirral UNISON branch officer Gill Harris said: “Our low paid, but dedicated school caterers are devastated by these proposals- some of them have worked in these schools for 20 years. These are totally unnecessary redundancies that can be easily avoided by agreeing to furlough these staff. The reason the furlough scheme was introduced was specifically to avoid redundancies where COVID has had an impact. The Chief Executive of Co-op Trust, the Leader of the Council and local MPs can all see that furlough should be used by Chartwells to avoid these unnecessary redundancies- why can't company bosses? We again call on Chartwells to place these staff on furlough and avoid making these low-paid, women workers redundant weeks before Christmas.”

Once again it pays to be a member of a union!
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 next week. Enjoy your weekend.

In solidarity!

Your Wirral Unison Team
Central email: unison1@wirral.gov.uk
Telephone: 07899713498 or 07899715085


Published on: November 19, 2020