URGENT Schools Advice!

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This advice applies to all primary schools, special schools, SEND and early years settings in England.special schools, SEND and early years settings in England.

In UNISON’s view, it is unsafe for you to attend the workplace at present if your school is fully opened to all pupils.

Our advice is that you should decide to advise your head teacher or employer that you will not be attending the workplace but will be available to work remotely from home or only being in school supporting provision and the learning of key worker and vulnerable children if necessary.

Here is a letter for to send to your head teacher or employer:

Your model letter

When sending this letter, you will also be asserting your legal right to be protected against any detrimental action by your employer, including to your pay. This right is explained in full in the model letter.

Our advice applies for at least the first two weeks of term, the same period for which secondary schools and some primary schools have already been instructed by the government to move to remote learning.

UNISON is issuing this advice after careful consideration of the advice which was apparently given to the government by the SAGE advisory group and the current position on infection rates.

Safety in schools

We understand that SAGE has advised the Government that schools should move to remote learning in order to help reduce the rate of spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The advice given by SAGE has only been adopted in relation to secondary schools and to primary schools in some Tier 4 areas.  Given the overall increase in infection rates, however, we believe it is unsafe for schools to reopen in any area at present.

Infection rates are far higher than at the end of last term. This increase has been promoted by the new variant of the COVID-19 virus which was not properly understood at that time.  These developments mean, in our view, that the risk assessments in place in schools at the end of last term cannot now be relied on by employers to demonstrate that workplaces are safe in these changed circumstances. We are calling on all employers in all schools, whatever age group they serve and whatever the local tier of restrictions, to review their risk assessments and safety measures before asking employees to return to the workplace.

Face to face provision

We accept that schools may need to provide face to face provision for vulnerable students and the children of key workers and are also expected to open for some exam groups.

This should happen after risk assessments have been reviewed and appropriate measures taken to ensure safety, including for necessary social distancing and limits on group sizes.

We are advising members that they should agree to make themselves available to attend the workplace to support these students on a rota basis. The model letter you can send to your headteacher/employer makes clear you are making yourself available to work from home or to support with this limited in-school provision.

Petition to make schools safe and protect communities

Along with the teachers’ union, the NEU, we have launched a public petition calling on the government to use this period of remote learning to establish how quickly the new variant of the virus is transmitted, and to establish measures to keep schools more “COVID secure”.

Sign the petition

Next steps

UNISON’s national schools committee meets on Monday 4 January to decide next steps and we will keep you updated via email. Please also follow our Facebook page for the latest information.

In the meantime, please use the model letter to notify your head teacher or principal of your position.



UNISON Coventry City Branch

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

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

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

Save Union Learning!

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The government has decided to scrap Union Learning Fund from March 2021. In 2019–20, the ULF was worth £12m. It supported more than 200,000 learners in workplaces across England – both union members and non-members.

This decision will effectively end union-brokered skills training and will undermine key government skills and retraining priorities at a crucial moment for our economy. UNISON and her sister unions believe this decision is counterproductive and must be reversed.  

Please sign the petition to stop the government attack on our education.

https://covunisonlearning.wordpress.com/

Solidarity Message sent to Tower Hamlets UNISON this week

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Dear Tower Hamlets UNISON

We are writing on behalf of Coventry City UNISON branch to express our support and solidarity for your campaign against the imposition of Tower Rewards. It is an outrage that you are having to take industrial action to fight against this, when public sector workers have given so much to keep services going during the Covid-19 crisis.

It is even worse when you consider that this is a Labour council carrying out these attacks – we would like to see all Labour public representatives up and down the country, whether MPs, MEPs or Cllrs to publicly express their solidarity with Tower Hamlets UNISON members and to help the union defeat these plans.

We will publicise your campaign amongst our members to ensure they are kept up to date as no doubt other branches will be facing similar attacks in the future.

Black Lives Matter

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UNISON is proud to support and to have, in a small way, assisted the Black Lives Matter movement here in Coventry. 

The horrific death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the reality of police brutality in both the US and UK and the continued hostility of some politicians, the far-right and sections of the media have demonstrated that the scourge of racism remains deeply engrained in our society and that a lot remains to be achieved. 

UNISON has supported, participated in, and spoken at the inspiring protests here Coventry. We stand in solidarity with them. We are keenly aware that black people have been disproportionately hit by COVID-19.

Locally we have witnessed the death of Darren Cumberbatch who died after police restrained him. As reported by the Coventry Telegraph ‘An inquest jury ruled last June that the actions of police officers – including baton strikes, other physical strikes, multiple punches, stamps, tasers, and handcuffs – were a contributing factor to his death’, yet only last week, a whole year later, did any review findings get released. 

We believe that there should be no complacency. It is great that Coventry City Council has made some strong statements in support of Black Lives Matter and that Council staff have been invited to include a positive statement on email signatures for example. Yet huge issues must be addressed. It is still too often the case that colleagues who are not white British origin end up in the lower-paid and/or temporary jobs, miss out on promotion, and are the first to be selected for redundancy or redeployment. This is institutional racism. It has not been resolved. It must stop. 

In our Trade Unions, too few non-white British origin people are stewards or officers, many do not join in the first place and many fundamental issues are yet to be addressed. This can and must change. In the US trade unionists organised solidarity with protests and built the mass campaign for Black Lives Matter. The fight against racism is a fight for every trade union activist and member, not a select few. 

Equality is a high priority in our negotiating and campaigning work. People have the right to be treated with dignity and respect at work, to do their job to the best of their ability, free from discrimination and harassment.

In these challenging times for all, we can take inspiration and hope from the growth of a new generation of anti-racist fighters who are now demanding action, not words or more enquiries.

As trade unionists, we also believe that a fight against racism will create more energy and enthusiasm for a fight against attempts to cut jobs and services to pay for the post COVID-19 economic crisis. Racism in our society comes from the top. Just look at the grim track record of Boris Johnson. Racism is engrained deeply in a history of rapacious greed by those who seek to govern us. We can unite to build solidarity between black and white people and build a better future for us all.

#BlacklivesMatter #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd

For more info on local campaigns visit Stand up to Racism Coventry on Facebook

SUTR Coventry Facebook

See the Coventry City UNISON statement on our website Statement

Coventry City UNISON statement – #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd

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Like millions of people around the world, we have looked on with revulsion and anger at the brutal racist murder of 46 year old George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA.

His last words of ‘I Can’t Breathe’ are not only heart-breaking but reminiscent of previous acts of murder and violence against black people in the US.

We condemn the actions of President Donald Trump in mobilising the National Guard against protestors and stand in defence of the democratic rights of ordinary Americans to protest peacefully and hold demonstrations. 

In this situation we send our solidarity and support to union members in the United States who are standing in solidarity with protestors and against police violence.

Minneapolis has a proud union and history and Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1005 representing bus drivers have refused to transport police officers to the demonstration in an act of incredible solidarity.

As one bus driver and trade unionist commented

“As a transit worker and union member I refuse to transport my class and radical youth to jail. An injury to one is an injury to all. The police murdered George Floyd and the protest against it is completely justified and should continue until their demands are met.”

Another example are tech workers at Facebook who have taken action against what they see as inaction by Mark Zuckerburg regarding inflammatory posts being published on the platform. 

Racism is an everyday reality for many Americans. There are have been already over 100,000 Covid-19 deaths in the US and over 40 million are claiming unemployment benefit. The scourge of racism, extreme exploitation and economic injustice go hand in hand in the richest country in the world.

There have already been protests here in the UK, and we stand in solidarity with them. BAME people have been disproportionately hit by Covid-19 and locally we have seen the death of Darren Cumberbatch who died after police restrained him. 

Coventry City UNISON are committed to showing solidarity against racism and all forms of division. 

Solidarity to protests around the world. An injury to one, is an injury to all. 

#JusticeforGeorgeFloyd

Climate change – an open letter to Cllr George Duggins, Leader, Coventry City Council

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Dear Councillor Duggins,

Climate change – An Open Letter

UNISON is writing to you to ask for your support for the Global Climate Action taking place on Friday 20th September.

Around the world people are committing to take action against climate change and in support of a sustainable future, popularised by Greta Thunberg.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) recently passed a motion supporting a 30 minute protest and locally unions are organising for this to happen. 

UNISON, with other unions, are calling for members to gather at 12.30 in Broadgate and we would urge the Council to help publicise this and to join the Global Day of Action, and make it clear staff are being encouraged to attend and to ensure attendance is facilitated by managers, subject to service needs. We would also encourage you to consider ‘sounding the alarm’ in Council Buildings at some point on Friday morning, to remind people of the protest and raise awareness of the situation facing the climate.

UNISON would also ask, on behalf of young people who may wish to join in the demonstrations, that the council work pro-actively with schools to allow students to show their concerns about their future without fear of reprisal.

UNISON looks forward to your response and would be happy to meet discuss this email.

Yours Sincerely

Sarah

Sarah Feeney

Branch Secretary

UNISON Coventry City Branch