#COVID-19 Update for #UNISON Members. 12/01/21

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Important Information Regarding this Email:
As our COVID-19 Updates contain issues relating to Workplace Health & Safety, we are now sending them out to all members regardless of their communication preferences. If you have not been receiving these emails in the past, it may because your communication preferences do not allow us to email you. The branch only emails members with news and information that is relevant to your membership and if you would like to review your communication preferences, please visit https://www.unison.org.uk/my-unison/

In This Issue…
Non-Council Members
Council Members
Libraries
Passenger Transport
Education

Non-Council Members…
Your employer has a duty to keep you safe, wherever you work and whatever work you do. They need to have updated their risk assessments and talked to you about the risks you are facing. If you are shielding, then they need to honour that and if you are vulnerable but not shielding, they must consider what they can do to keep you as safe as possible.

We know that not all our members are able to work from home and that many are still supporting service users daily; however, your safety must be key in all of this and your employer has a legal duty to ensure that.
We would urge all our members to ask their managers what precautions they should be taking and to raise any concerns.

With the high virus rate in Coventry many more people are now at risk of contracting Coronavirus and we want to support all members to ensure that they are as safe as possible.

Council Members…
UNISON raised our concerns today that this lockdown is not being treated as seriously as the one last March.  In the corporate meeting today, which was supported by other Trade Unions, UNISON called for the employer to go back to the full lockdown that was introduced at the beginning of March last year.  

We also stated that this approach to full lockdown should not be any shorter than 3 weeks so that (a) the most dangerous period that Professor Chris Whitty has referred to will have started to pass and (b) it gives management and the trades unions time to assess the new level of risk and discuss what the most appropriate way of delivering services are.

Without this approach, UNISON is concerned that virus levels in the city will rise and that it will further endanger staff, service users, and citizens of Coventry.  We were clear and unequivocal that with the new strain of the virus the risks currently are too great to do anything but follow the most cautious approach by the employer.

We would advise members to carefully consider any requests to work outside their home and raise directly and urgently with the branch any issues that you believe would put youself at risk of contracting the virus.

Libraries…
UNISON reps met with library management to share concerns regarding the continual operation of services from Central Library. They have shared updated risk assessments with us this afternoon and these should also be shared with staff shortly.

We urge members to tell management individually if you have any concerns about your health and safety in the workplace. This can be done as part of your vera review or as a separate conversation. UNISON is happy to support you in this discussion if required.

We have asked for the number of times click and collect has been used, and management has assured us that they will provide the data but also review demand to inform their decision making.

We have made a number of requests, asking that the airflow report is reviewed in light of the new variant of covid. We have also asked that cleaning regimes be shared and a review of isolating of materials.

Management is reviewing staffing numbers to ensure that no more than the absolute minimum are in work to complete tasks. We have requested that management review their decision to continue with services and we will be meeting them on Monday.

Passenger Transport…
UNISON asked for a meeting on Monday last week because we were in tier 4, with the announcement that we would go into full lockdown on Monday evening it became more urgent that we made sure our members were safe and able to work confidently.  After a meeting early Tuesday with UNITE attending also we gained agreement that the service area would look to reduce service users. 

It was confirmed yesterday, after UNISON’s request, that the new risk assessment ensures that no more than 4 pupils will be on a bus and that the manifest should be consistent. There has also been, at our request, a firm commitment to encouraging the use of hand gel and masks where appropriate.

Education…
UNISON intends to respond to the new DfE guidance for schools in England on restricting attendance during the national lockdown. There will be a new risk assessment checklist this week.

Maximum class and bubble sizes
We are urging school leaders and headteachers to implement the following measures to protect pupils and staff from the new COVID strain, to reduce community spread and protect our NHS:

• Limit bubble sizes to a maximum of 15 pupils per class or 50% of the school’s usual class size, whichever is smaller, and ensure 2m social distancing
• Staff to remain within their bubble at all times with no crossover working.

Special schools and Alternative Provision
In special schools and alternative provision, it will not be possible, or even appropriate, for every child to receive face-to-face provision every day. We are therefore calling for schools to be given the flexibility to establish which vulnerable learners could be offered time in schools.
Additional guidance for special schools/colleges and alternative provision is on the national website at the bottom of this page: https://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/education-services/key-issues/covid-19-closures/

Early years and Nurseries
The government has decided early years settings should remain open to all children.
UNISON is campaigning for them to be treated in the same way as schools. Support this petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/566718.)
The government is refusing to publish the scientific evidence for the different treatment of early years despite calls from across the sector.
If settings do remain open, we believe that they must;

• Undertake revised risk assessments, taking into account the increased transmissibility of new variant and the move to COVID alert level 5.
• Restrict numbers of children and ‘bubble’ sizes to 8 children, as was the case when settings re-opened after the first wave of the pandemic.

Section 44
In parliament last week Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, said that UNISON and the NEU had accepted that the advice we gave members about their health and safety rights was ‘incorrect’.
We believe it was the right advice to give at the time and we made this clear in our response to the government. After the government directed the closure of schools, NEU and UNISON removed the advice from our websites because the situation had changed.
But this emphatically does not mean we believe face-to-face work with full or near-full classes in schools is safe in the current circumstances. UNISON and the NEU have written to schools, setting the record straight and responding to messages coming out of the Department for Education. Members’ individual rights under health and safety law have not changed – see our health and safety guidance.

However, unlike last week, the risks facing members may differ between workplaces and therefore we are now asking them to speak to their branch first if they have serious health and safety concerns about being in the workplace.
Petition: Shut all nurseries and early years settings during lockdown

Urgent call for the government to close all nurseries and early years settings considering the new lockdown to protect early years staff.

Please sign the petition…
https://petition.parliament.uk/

UNISON Coventry City Branch

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

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