Schools update…

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Most schools have opted to break for the summer rather than continue with catch-up. A reminder for all TTO employees that you can be asked to work over the summer break but cannot be forced to. If you agree, you should be paid for these extra hours.

Schools will have been planning staffing for next year.  Any member on a temporary contract for more than two years should contact us for support in getting their contract made permanent.

The local authority has advised schools to continue with their current risk management arrangements unchanged up to the end of the term.  If your school is not following this advice, let us know.  There is a snag as NHS test and trace will not be supporting schools with contact tracing.  This is being queried with the DfE.

It’s too early to say what the position will be in September, but we intend to continue talking to LA about this over the Summer.
UNISON’s national Schools Committee agreed in late June that the government needs to: 

• Re-introduce previous rules on face coverings and reduce bubble sizes to prevent further disruption
• Give schools the funding and logistical support to implement stronger preventative measures, including improved ventilation and smaller bubbles to stop further transmission of the virus in September  
• Keep current measures on bubbles and self-isolation for close contacts in place for at the least the first half of the autumn term until there is clear evidence that there is not another transmission spike in schools. 
• Increase testing capacity at school so that pupils can be tested on-site. Ongoing concerns about the accuracy of the rapid lateral flow tests, mean they should not be used as a ‘green light’ for close contacts or as an alternative to self-isolation.

UNISON is saying this because cases are rising rapidly, hospitals are near to capacity and admissions are rising, the risk of long COVID particularly for younger workers who aren’t fully vaccinated, and the risk to those who are still clinically vulnerable.

Keep in touch during the break as we expect further developments.

Update for #Coventry City #UNISON members on #Pay claim 2021 / 2022

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The pandemic has exposed to even more people who the real key workers are in society. Ordinary people, across the public and private sector, have kept society functioning.

#UNISON, alongside the other trade unions, submitted a pay claim of 10% in local government. To put that into context – our pay has dropped by up to 18% in real terms since 2010. So 10% would go towards the money that we have lost out on.

The employers have come back with a measly 1.5% pay offer. This is at a time when the Retail Price Index measure of inflation for May 2021 3.3%, so another real term pay cut!

UNISON correctly rejected this offer as being an insult and far below what we are worth. Today the employers have come back with an increased offer – of an extra 0.25%, taking it to 1.75%. This is an absolute disgrace and nowhere near what our members need. It is in reality a pay cut in real terms.

After everything that has happened – we are worth more than this. Some may ask, is the money there? The facts speak for themselves – £37 billion on the track and trace system and £2 billion in Covid contracts for Tory donors just for starters.

Council workers deserve a proper pay rise. Its as simple as that. It is not just council workers though – teachers and health workers to name just two other groups of workers are not getting what they need or deserve. We just co-ordinate our campaigning with other sectors who are also under attack. Keep an eye out for further updates, or visit the local government section on the UNISON website.

Update for Coventry City UNISON @coventryunison Members & Stewards – #Learning & #Education

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As your union learning reps [ULRs] our role is to support and encourage members to engage in learning. Improving your skills & training will help you move on to a better job and cope with change at work. Continuing with your education is a productive way to keep your mind active and your spirits up. It is important that we keep well and look after our mental health.

 

UNISON learning offers free and discounted online courses to all members. We regularly promote and update information about learning, funding and educational opportunities on our branch learning website. Follow the link for the latest posts; https://covunisonlearning.wordpress.com/2021/07/21/courses-for-stewards-and-activists/

 

If you have any queries about workplace training, learning, further education or are interested in becoming a workplace ULR, contact branch ULRs at the branch office on 02476 550829 : email us at office@unisoncoventry.co.uk

Letter from #Coventry City #UNISON to the Leader & Chief Exec @coventrycc ref Working Arrangements for Council Staff.

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Dear Cllr Duggins and Martin

UNISON would like to raise our concerns with you about the email sent to all staff yesterday entitled ‘Returning to the Office’. There has been no discussion with trades unions on this and with the Director of HR being on leave this week we would question what the urgency of this to happen from next week would be?

The employer has not shared any updated risk assessments with us and our previous discussions with the employer had left us in the belief that the approach would be far more cautious than every team having a presence. Many teams have adapted perfectly well to working from home and many staff feel far more secure and safe working from home. Whilst appreciating that many frontline services have been working for several months in the workplace not all staff are required to do so. With the rising COVID rate and not all staff yet vaccinated we believe that the risks outweigh the benefit signficantly.

We believe that the arbitrary approach laid out in the communication to all staff is not productive and in fact we have received multiple emails and calls of concern. Further the discussion around more flexible working that are occurring, again without trade union input in staff panels, seemed to be of the consensus that a far more flexible approach to home working would be taken.

UNISON would therefore request an urgent meeting on this matter. We would also expect full risk assessments to be shared with us and a proper discussion about the rationale for all teams to have a presence clearly explained.

We would request that until this has happened, we do not proceed with plans to have all services in. We are sure that we do not need to remind anyone of the duties to consult around health and safety and the recent failure of COVID precautions in a city centre premises.

Yours sincerely

Sarah

Sarah Feeney (she/her)
Branch Secretary
UNISON Coventry City Branch

Commission on Race and Ethics Disparities – Coventry City #UNISON Branch Committee – 13/04/21

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The Commission on Race and Ethics Disparities government report came out 31st March 2021 in response to the protests at the murder of George Floyd and the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The report covers health, education, crime and policing and employment and was chaired by Tony Sewell. 

It concludes, institutionalised and structural racism does not exist in the UK because things have moved on and improved–we are in [quote] “the era of participation” .

It recognises that racism does exist in various forms but there was no evidence that it is to blame. Sewell argues that inequalities are due to other factors such as, socio-economic, cultural, religious, family influence, geographical, individual responsibility and attitude – and that the root of disadvantages suffered by black communities is “broken families” and “father absence”.

The disproportionate number of deaths from Covid amongst Black communities/workers is largely due to low paid, high-risk jobs, most of which are public facing, on zero, part-time contracts and workers and their families living in over- crowded poorly maintained housing. We know that Black workers are stuck in these jobs and living conditions, unable to move on, because of institutionalised and structural racism. The report denies there is a direct link between over-crowded housing, the deaths of Black workers on the frontline during the pandemic, the Grenfell fire, the Windrush scandal and racial discrimination because, “outcomes such as these do not come by design, and are certainly not deliberately targeted”.

The report claims there is no evidence to suggest that Black communities suffering systematic racism has a negative effect on mental or physical health, on housing, employment, income or education because otherwise this would be reflected in overall mortality figures which in these communities is lower.

Sewell argues, we should not focus on race and racism because poverty and poor education because it also affects white people.

Academics, organisations named as contributors have claimed they were not contacted by the Commission, unaware and horrified to discover they were listed. Others have said they have been misinterpreted, it is based on outdated research and distanced themselves from the report.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/07/uk-public-health-expert-michael-marmot-criticises-no-10-race-report-shortcomings

Report introduction and recommendations 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-report-of-the-commission-on-race-and-ethnic-disparities/foreword-introduction-and-full-recommendations

National #UNISON Members Meeting – #Schools Reopening…

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This coming Monday 22nd February the Prime Minister is due to announce the government’s roadmap to fully re-open schools in England – expected to be from 8th March.

UNISON is to hold an on-line meeting to discuss this and any accompanying guidance from the Department for Education. See below for more informaton.

Wednesday 24th February @ 5pm

Schools opening to all pupils – online meeting for members

#UNISON Update – Safer #Schools Plan…

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UNISON’s recommendations for safer re-opening of schools in England

The government announced on 27 January that it hopes to re-open schools in England on 8 March. UNISON believes that school re-opening should only happen when the science says it is safe, when school risk assessments have been updated, and when appropriate safety measures have been introduced. 

We must ensure that schools do not become ‘vectors of transmission’ again. It is vital that the Department for Education (DfE) allows for a staggered approach so that a sudden re-opening does not increase local transmission rates. We believe a phased return and the ability to have flexible rota systems would help to make schools safer.

In a noticeable change in policy, the DfE has constructively engaged with UNISON and other unions in the last few weeks. We are hopeful that this new relationship will result in improved guidance that will make the full return to schools safer.

UNISON has outlined several key measures for schools below that we believe the DfE should implement before schools fully re-open: 

  • Allow schools to use a rota system/blended learning when schools re-open. 
  • Split classes into smaller groups to keep bubble sizes as small as possible. If necessary, give schools additional funding to hire extra staff and space to accommodate them. Small bubbles, rotas, and a phased return would help to ensure 2m social distancing. 
  • Keep staff and pupils within one bubble (except for emergencies) to reduce the risk of cross-transmission and wider closures. 
  • Subject to a risk assessment, provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including medical-grade masks, for staff administering first aid, medical care or personal care activities where social distancing cannot be maintained, for example in some special schools and nurseries.
  • Staff and pupils in secondary schools should wear face coverings in all areas of the school, including classrooms. There should be an urgent review of the international evidence for face coverings for pupils in primary schools. Stocks of face coverings, including clear face coverings that facilitate lip-reading, should be made available. 
  • Review the quality of face coverings and recommendations, noting the banning of home-made masks in schools in France
  • Mass testing can be used as an additional tool, alongside the full maintenance of all other preventative measures such as isolation of contacts of those with symptoms. Home tests must be backed up by access to more reliable PCR tests.
  • As part of re-opening, the DfE should ask the government to prioritise vaccinating school staff. 
  • Provide additional national guidance on ventilation in schools and support local reviews of ventilation in all schools prior to wider re-opening. This guidance should include advice on minimum safe temperatures for classrooms. Classrooms and other school areas with unsafe ventilation should not be used.
  • Clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) and clinically vulnerable (CV) staff should continue to work from home on full pay until risk from the virus has significantly reduced. 
  • The DfE should issue urgent guidance requiring that all outsourced staff in schools, such as catering and cleaning staff, must receive full pay when they are required to self-isolate, without any impact on their sickness absence record.
  • School staff should not be expected to take on tasks that are beyond their job description or that they are not fully trained and renumerated for. It is unfair to depend on support staff to take on additional work when they have already gone the extra mile to support pupils throughout the pandemic.    
  • UNISON fully supports catch-up programmes, but they must be properly resourced by the government, with full consideration of the existing financial, administrative, and workload pressures that schools face. Any catch-up programmes should not result in additional workload pressures on already overworked school staff. 
  • Apply public transport rules on social distancing and face coverings to all school transport. 
  • Provide additional funding to cover any additional costs incurred by schools to implement these measures. Schools will need additional financial support to re-open safely.

Nursery classes and early years
Although nursery classes have not been formally restricted to vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, many nursery classes have restricted the number of children in classes.

As pupil numbers increase, schools will need to continue to risk assess the impact of increased numbers, particularly around expanding bubbles.

We recognise that social distancing is impossible in an early years settings. When CEV and CV staff are no longer at high risk from community transmission and they choose to continue to work at their early years settings, consideration should be given to finding these staff alternative roles where social distancing can be applied.

Testing Q&A…

Please see the document below for a list of questions and answers relating to COVID-19 testing within schools

Testing_Q&A.pdf

Growing Our Union – A message to our Members.

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Growing our Union… It’s not just personal benefits that a union provides. You too can be part of the movement that gave the world weekends off, the national minimum wage, workplace pensions, the right not to be sacked for being pregnant or sick and many more legal rights. 

These achievements have only been possible because people came together to work collectively, for the benefit of millions.

Make sure your friends and colleagues know about unions

UNISON is a large union, with around 1.3 million members. That’s a lot of people to have on your side when there’s trouble. But it could be more.

Across the economy, trade union membership is quite low – and most workplaces will include workers who aren’t members of any union. But the more union members there are at work – the higher our ‘union density’ in the jargon – the stronger our voice and more able we are to protect one another.

And what’s true in individual workplaces and councils, NHS trusts, other public bodies is also true of society as a whole.

The first and most obvious way to grow the movement is to ask people to join. Most people who aren’t in a union give one simple reason: “Because no-one asked.” So let’s ask them. It’s easier than you think.

There’s a saying in union circles that “like recruits like” – in other words, potential members are more likely to be recruited by colleagues they know and trust.

So talk with your colleagues about the union: be honest and be prepared to listen to their concerns and issues.
Please spread the word and help UNISON to grow stronger.

Ask members to call us on 02476 550829 or join online at http://www.joinunison.org

UNISON #Learning & #Education Update

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UNISON Learning & Education… It is important that during this pandemic we keep well and look after our mental health. Engaging in learning, improving your skills and continuing with your education is a great way to keep your mind active and your spirits up.

UNISON learning offers free and discounted online courses to all members and we regularly post information about learning, funding and educational opportunities on our learning website. 

Visit https://covunisonlearning.wordpress.com/ for the latest information about a Grief and Bereavement Training and Support to Carers course. These sessions are 2.5 hours and delivered by the charity Cruse.

Any queries relating to workplace training, learning, or further education or if you are interested in becoming a Union Learning Rep in your workplace, contact the Branch office on 02476 550829 or email: office@unisoncoventry.co.uk