Mass testing in #schools – #UNISON initial statement

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Following the government’s announcement of mass testing in schools in the New Year, UNISON’s National Schools Committee secured a meeting with the Department for Education (DfE) and NHS Test and Trace, to take place on Tuesday 22 December. The government also announced that secondary schools and other schools with secondary-age pupils will move to online learning (except for the children of key workers and vulnerable children) in the first week of the winter term (4 January). The aim is to allow mass testing of all pupils and staff in those schools during the opening week.

UNISON believes this is hugely ambitious and that announcing this on the last day of term is jaw-dropping and gives schools very little time to plan. We think that most schools will not be able to deliver this.

Taking this into account and looking at the materials that the DfE has provided so far, the committee’s initial position is:

• We support mass testing in schools to try to stop the spread of the virus (on a sensible timetable)
• Any testing site in a school must be fully planned and risk assessed with union engagement
• Staff should only undertake the testing duty if they volunteer, and if they are comfortable with their competence after appropriate training – in line with Department for Education guidance ‘Supporting pupils at school with medical conditions’.
• Staff involved in the testing programme should have correct PPE, appropriate clinical oversight and clear guarantees around any potential liabilities
• The work of staff volunteering to participate should not be passed to other current staff, who are already overworked.
• Any additional staff time must be fully paid at the appropriate rate
• Due to the reported high percentage of false negatives generated by the ‘lateral flow test’ being proposed it should only be used as an additional measure. Bubbles and self-isolation, alongside all additional other safety measures, should be retained for the foreseeable future.
• Staff asked to take a test themselves as part of a mass lateral flow testing programme where cases have not been identified may do so voluntarily, but it should not be compulsory. UNISON encourages staff to participate fully in the testing programme.

Next Following our meeting with the DfE we will issue guidance for UNISON members for next term. In the meantime if you are being asked to do anything that contradicts the above points contact us for advice.

UNISON Coventry City Branch

Call us on 02476 550829
email us at office@unisoncoventry.co.uk

Message to our #Members – Thank you! And have a happy and safe #Christmas.

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This year has been a truly different year – from our AGM, which was only just prior to lockdown, we seem to have been in a distanced workplace.  The word unprecedented is used on a far too regular basis but the year, has been truly unprecedented and so many of you, our members, have gone above and beyond in your workplaces and services to ensure the best for the people of Coventry.

We know it’s been a really tough year and the branch has seen so many issues from dealing with COVID cases through to the major adjustments of working at home and the impacts on mental health for so many people.

We want to thank you, our members for everything you’ve done, and we also want to pledge that we won’t stop fighting for you at work.  Whether that is on health and safety grounds, pay, or other issues, we want you to know that we have your back.

As a branch team made up of brilliant workplace reps, seconded officers, our amazing caseworker, and incredible administrator, we’ve worked in new and different ways and it’s been a learning experience, and at times a technical challenge, for all of us.  We know that many of you have also faced these challenges with generally the same good humour tinged with exasperation that we have.

On the health and safety front, it’s never been clearer that being in a union is the best protection you can have.  From high-level schools work, service areas to individual concerns we’ve raised many of them on your behalf and forced employers to change their practices from the early days of COVID.  Whilst many employers are still not perfect, we’ve worked hard to make the changes you’ve all needed.

To finish I just want to say thank you again on behalf of Coventry City Branch to all of you; as carers, public sector workers, schools workers, you’ve all been brilliant while coping with the unknown.

We would like to wish all of our members a happy and safe Christmas.

Sarah Feeney

Branch Secretary

#UNISON – #Coventry Branch #AGM

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Our AGM this year will be slightly different. At the moment, we are planning for a “virtual” AGM to be held via teams on Friday 12th March. More details with the links will come in writing in a few weeks time.

The last year has proved how vital it is that we have active members engaged in their workplaces and their unions.  We have a variety of rewarding roles within UNISON and if you want to get involved, there is no better time.  We will train, support, and help new reps so if you want to get active, why not get in touch for a chat about what we can do together to help members in your workplace.

For more information on the sort of roles available, please visit
http://www.unison.org.uk/get-involved/

UNISON Coventry City Branch

Call us on 02476 550829
email us at office@unisoncoventry.co.uk

Message from UNISON West Midlands – Branch Education Team – #Learning Opportunities for #UNISON Members

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If you are interested in any of the courses simply go to our website www.learninunisonwm.org.uk and once you have registered you can apply online. Or if you prefer you can contact the Regional Education Team and we can advise you of other ways to apply. 

UNISON understands that this is a difficult and challenging time for our members. We want to help as many members as possible learn new skills that will help them in both work and their personal lives. The support of a UNISON courses or learning resource could play a vital role in helping you to take the first step to a better future and year for us all in 2021.

Best Wishes

UNISON West Midlands

Regional Education Team

No to Trade Union Victimisation. Coventry City UNISON Stands in #Solidarity with Louise Lewis and demands her Reinstatement!

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Coventry City UNISON notes with complete dismay and anger the suspension of Louise Lewis, NEU representative at North Huddersfield Trust School and also Vice President of Kirklees NEU.

Louise has been following union advice and government guidelines in trying to secure proper and timely risk assessments from the school in relation to Covid. On 1st October, she was escorted from the school building, having been told the school had lost all confidence in her and she now faces disciplinary action.

This was on the day of a spot check visit by the Health and Safety Executive. We believe Louise has been targeted for legitimate trade union activity which included raising questions about safety during the current pandemic.


This branch recognises that this action is a direct attack on union organisation, as well as basic health and safety requirements, at a time of acute crisis. This branch reaffirms its solidarity with Kirklees NEU and Louise and agrees to do whatever it can to support her immediate reinstatement and dropping of all charges

Please sign the following petitions!

https://www.change.org/p/kirklees-council-workplace-bullying-at-nhts

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/reinstate-neu-rep-louise-lewis-north-huddersfield-trust

Government Threatens Your Pension Pay – act now!

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Dear Member

You may recall our previous advice about the Government passing legislation at very short notice introducing a cap of £95,000 on public-sector exit payments.  As this amount includes your lifetime pension pay, this will impact on members with long service, moderate pay who take early retirement.

We have now been alerted that the Government is now proposing further changes to your pension scheme which would also reduce the financial benefit the scheme offers.

The branch will submit a consultation response on your behalf.  However, we ask that you, as our member, submit an individual response, so that the Government receives a clear message that further cuts to pay are not acceptable.

Please use the model letter attached below, copying and pasting it to the Government email address provided. 

Thank you for your support.  We are stronger when we work together.

UNISON – We Won’t Look the Other Way!

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UNISON is aware that the COVID crisis and restrictions have played a part in the increased incidents of domestic abuse.

Whilst the majority of people experiencing domestic abuse are women we are aware that men can be in need of support too.

We are sharing the experience of one of our members who, with help, has changed her life and left her abusive partner.

Your branch welfare officer, Chris Burrow, can also be reached on 02476 521126.  He would like to remind you of UNISON’s ThereForYou charity, which can support members with domestic abuse issues including providing financial assistance.

 
My Story…A real-life experience of domestic abuse from one of our members.
My marriage was abusive and the majority of that abuse was coercive control.  He has both physical and mental health problems and I was his carer as well as being primary carer to our children and the only earner in the household. 

For many years I made excuses for his behaviour but over time his treatment of me just got worse.  I spent much of my time at home feeling like I was walking on eggshells just waiting for the accusations and blame that were sure to come.  As the children got older and didn’t need me to take them to friends’ houses or to the park anymore then my reasons for leaving the house reduced to going to work, doing the shopping and any errands my husband wanted me to do for him.  I would cling onto the little moments of happiness, the fact that I loved him and he needed me, and not think too far ahead and so the days, months and years passed.

Family gatherings (including Christmas) could quickly switch from being wonderful to traumatic because of how unpredictable he could be and I was always on high alert to subtle changes in his mood.

I remember going to see my GP (during a period of sick leave from work due to home life stress) and being told that my husband was being abusive.  At the time I just thought “that’s not helpful because I still have to live this life” but it was helpful because it acknowledged what was happening and contributed to me recognising the abusive behaviour.  What would have helped even more would have been signposting me to services like Coventry Haven who gave me considerable support later on.  It took me a long time to accept the reality that I was living with an abuser but once I did it was a stepping stone to being able to leave.  Although, to begin with, I wasn’t sure that leaving would ever be possible I did begin to dream of a life of my own. 

Eventually, with the help of family and friends I was able to leave and we now have our own home where we feel safe.  One of the people who supported me was my line manager.  She helped me to process what had happened and to make decisions about how to change my life.  I have now, two years on, found belief in myself and am enjoying a life where I make the choices I want to make.

UNISON recognise the impact that domestic abuse has on our members’ lives. Support and understanding from your employer can make all the difference if you are a survivor, or if you are trying to escape.

We take the lead in negotiating workplace policies to support and assist staff experiencing domestic abuse, in a confidential and safe way.

If you need help, we are here for you; please get in touch with us confidentially so we can help. 

UNISON Coventry City Branch
 
Call us on 02476 550829
email us at office@unisoncoventry.co.uk