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

PRESS RELEASE – Coventry Trade Unions build support for 20 September Climate Day of Action

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Actions against Climate Change have escalated across the world, including the huge international movement of students, led by Greta Thunberg, which have led the way.  Trade unions across Coventry have pledged to support and join the protests planned in Coventry on Friday September 20th,  at the start of a week-long Climate Action Week. 

The UK government has a target of net zero carbon emissions by the year 2050 but is not expected to reach that target. It is right that this massive global crisis has been met by protests and strikes of school students, young people and many others around the planet. These demonstrations have shown the anger that exists and the desire for action and change.

Coventry TUC, with Coventry City UNISON, will be coordinating trade union support on the day. Unions will be urging members to show solidarity with local environmental activist organisations such as Coventry Extinction Rebellion and Coventry Climate Action Network (CAN) as well as organising their own protests in their workplaces or, where they can, join the activities in the City Centre.

The recent TUC Congress, representing over 6 million workers across the UK, voted to support a 30-minute protest to coincide with the 20 September activities. In support of this it was agreed that local unions will call on members to gather in Broadgate at 12.30pm on the Friday September 20th to join with climate activists and demonstrate their support for urgent action on Climate Change 

Jane Nellist, President of Coventry TUC said:

“The future of our planet is at risk. The evidence is clear – since 1988 just 100 companies have been responsible for 71% of all emissions internationally. Governments must act to change that. The planet is more important than profits for the rich!

To stop climate change, we urgently need a society run in the interests of people and the environment. 

We wholeheartedly support the campaigns to achieve this and urge all trade union members and communities to participate in whatever way they can.”

Chris Burrow, for Coventry City UNISON, one of the unions initiating the support, said: 

Every Coventry Worker needs Trade unions to fight the huge threat caused by climate change.

In local workplaces this summer the effects of climate change have been widely felt by Coventry workers. Despite the increase in heatwaves we still have no maximum workplace temperature. 

All workers, whether office based or outdoors, have the right to work in decent and safe conditions whatever the weather. Workplaces should have safe temperatures for work, and protection available against extremes of weather.  

Climate Change is a workplace issue in Coventry as well as a global issue everywhere that stems from a profit driven economic system. That is why we are making this one of our very highest campaign priorities’.

ENDS

Global environmental crisis and 20th September protests – Coventry City Motion passed on August 15th

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Global environmental crisis and 20th September protests

Motion passed at Coventry City UNISON August branch committee

This branch notes

The existence of a global environmental crisis. Extremes in weather are increasing. The 10 hottest years on record in this country have taken place since 2003 and reflects the process of global warming.

The UK government has a target of net zero carbon emissions by the year 2050 but is not expected to reach that target. The global crisis has been met by protests and strikes of school students and young people around the planet.

Popularised by Greta Thunberg, these demonstrations have shown the anger that exists for the future of the planet and the desire for action and change. A Global Strike has been called for 20th September.

The branch further notes

That climate change is a workplace issue. The recent heatwave exposed once again the lack of a maximum workplace temperature. All workers, whether office based or outdoors, have the right to work in decent and safe conditions whatever the weather. Workplaces should have safe temperatures for work, and protection available against extremes of weather.

The branch believes

That climate change is caused by a profit driven economic system – capitalism. Under this system profit will always come first, before the needs of the planet, and ordinary people around the world.

This branch resolves

  • To support and take part in protests on 20th September and to contact other trade unions in the city, school student groups etc to co-ordinate and to organise lunch time protests where we have members.
  • To encourage and facilitate discussion amongst our membership about how the climate crisis can be stopped as well as calling on Coventry City Council @coventrycc to declare a Climate Emergency.
  • To support changes to the law regarding a maximum workplace temperature, and to build up our union organisation in the workplaces by encouraging more Health and Safety reps to ensure that all workers are carrying out their duties in safe conditions.
  • To forward this to other bodies of our union and the wider labour movement as appropriate, as well as public communications.

Delegate Report from Stand Up to Racism Trade Union Conference – 23 February

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The TUC/Stand Up to Racism Conference, held in London on 23 February, will hopefully be a well-aimed launchpad for a hectic period of activity as the trade union movement unites with anti-racist campaigns to drive back the ‘hostile environment’. Many speakers, including representatives of a wide array of unions, contributed to the discussion about how to deflate the fascist and other far right goons trying to latch onto the growing sense of chaos in the British establishment.

Over 200 trade unionists from a wide range of trade unions packed plenaries and workshops. The main focus was on building a big union turnout for #WorldAgainstRacism marches planned on 16 March (see below for details).

A set of Plenaries and focused Workshops gave delegates the opportunity to hear a wide range of contributions from trade unionists about their experience and responses to racism from across the country. There was a strong emphasis on the need for practical responses and on how to organise responses and activity in the workplace to deal with deep seated institutional racism compounded by the impact of austerity.

At a session on PREVENT there was a useful update on the reasons why government policy has demonstrably demonised people who are Muslim and also failed to deal with the issue of violent extremism. The vast majority of cases reported to the authorities have proved to be not actionable with only 5% taken forward for further intervention.

A major concern was expressed that PREVENT has caused major damage to the relationship between professionals such as teachers and social workers and Muslim people they are supposed to support, while also conflicting with safeguarding and other training that people have already received to deal with the concerns that may present to frontline staff about any person who is using a public service. It was also pointed out that the issues leading to ‘violent extremism’ are far wider and deeper than issues that can be resolved by a public service professional working in a workplace. Often a clumsy ‘intervention’ based on limited knowledge or paranoia can cause far more damage than good and only adds to the feelings of alienation that an individual can feel.

A second workshop on how trade unionists can get involved in building Love Music Hate Racism events was also very useful. The discussion gave some good pointers to building local networks between union branches and musicians. It was pointed out that music is a means for communication in a language we can all understand. Some of those in the room were involved in the music business and argued that more artists need to get on board. Love Music Hate Racism have organised a two-week campaign to promote a positive message between 8-22 March. 118 live music venues have agreed to promote the campaign with the logo ‘We are the beautiful resistance’ and the social media hashtag #beautifulresistance. Watch this space for activities in Coventry or email campaign@lovemusichateracism.com for more information.

We rounded off the day with speakers from #NEU #FBU #RMT#CWU #TUC, an update from a US activist building a march in Washington DC for UN Anti Racism Day as part of the international coordination, and a speaker from the Youth Strike For Climate. A key message from the final plenary was that fighting racism cannot be left to individuals. Trade Union branches and other labour movement bodies need to get more directly involved. Trade unions have brought together their communications teams to have a major social media day of action on 11 March to build the demonstrations on 16 March using #Unions4Unity. People have been asked do something on this day in your workplace. For example we can get together colleagues and take selfies to show active support and share pictures and events on social media with the unions’ hashtag, along with the internationally agreed #WorldAgainstRacism and #NoRacismNoFascism

The problem of racism may be sourced to wider issues in society and the climate of hostility originates from central government and the establishment. This problem is reflected in every locality and within management structures in every workplace. We therefore need to talk about the issue in the workplace and counter racism in all its forms in effective ways. This needs us all to become more effective at listening from people and responding to support them and learning from their experience.

National Demonstration – United Against Racism & Fascism – Transport leaves Coventry Fairfax Street (Swimming Baths) @ 9am.

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PRESS RELEASE – Coventry Libraries – An Express service to nowhere?

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Coventry City UNISON condemns the Proposals for Libraries in the public consultation which was undertaken by the library service from 19thNovember to 23rdDecember 2018.

The proposals were to;

  • Remove all hard copies of newspapers and magazines;
  • Open Central as an express model from 9-11 and on Sundays;
  • Remove overdue charges for late return of books for children ages 8-16;

What an express model would look like for service users was not detailed.

What was not consulted on, either by staff or the public, was to introduce single staffing in four libraries – Aldermoor, Caludon Castle School, Canley and Coundon.

UNISON have a major concern over the safety and wellbeing of the staff and users of the libraries if they were single staffed.

This in a time when a Coventry Violence Summit was called on Monday 28thJanuary as victims of serious violence has increased by 17.4 per cent from 2017 to 2018. There has also been an increase of 16.7 per cent in knife crime.

These current levels of violence have been branded “unacceptable” by Martin Reeves.

What does the council see as the purpose for a library? It’s hard to see in the proposals.

The proposed annual cost saving alone of £319,000 for libraries is less than the ‘clean up’ costs for the Godiva Festival at £460,000. The Godiva festival is a wonderful thing for Coventry, and so are libraries which are open and available all year round.

Libraries should be at the Heart of our community, not marginalised and under resourced.

People use then for all sorts of reasons and especially in times of austerity they are more valuable than ever.

The Libraries Taskforce set up by Central Government said;

Libraries are open to everyone. Their staff understand their community’s needs and are trusted to provide reliable guidance and support on a wide range of issues when people need help. They provide a vital role in helping public services reach out into communities.

They bring people together in vibrant community hubs which host local events and provide a shared sense of place for their users – something that is ever more important in an increasingly digital age”.

This is yet another nail in the coffin to a vital asset when we have been awarded the City of Culture 2021. Our Libraries can and should help to further develop the immense cultural and diverse asset which our members and the people of this great city deserve.

Follow @coventryunison on twitter.

 

ENDS

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PRESS RELEASE – Sickness absence at Coventry City Council – ‘Mental Health Matters’

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UNISON welcomes the opportunity to respond to the comments made in the Coventry Evening Telegraph by Councillor Mutton, Cabinet Member for Resources, about sickness absence at Coventry City Council.

We too are very concerned at the upward trend in sickness absence in the organisation. Just a few weeks ago UNISON highlighted the issue of mental health in the workplace and held open meetings on Mental Health in the Workplace, which were well received. The aim of these meetings is to record the issues that affect our members’ mental health and well-being and to begin to address them with our employer.

We have raised questions about this matter with the employer over a number of years, not least as they apply to the Equality Act and the Health and Safety at Work Act. The employer has a duty of care to ensure employees are kept safe at work in all aspects, including health and well-being.

They also have a duty to ensure that those employees are properly supported in order that they can carry out their roles. We have also raised issues about bullying, harassment and cultural issues of discrimination many times with the City Council.

We know that the vast majority of absence is genuine. We also know that austerity and cuts to Council budgets have had a devastating impact on the workplace as employees are asked to take on more work with less staff which simply cannot continue.

Public Service should be respected and embraced. Our members often go above and beyond the call of duty.  That needs to be recognised. For too long our members have been undermined by austerity. To excel, we need to become an employer of choice. Therefore it is important that our members are valued employees regardless of whom they are. The Council could embrace Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. We are at our best when everyone feels valued.

Message ends.

Please phone 02476 550829 or email sarah.feeney@unisoncoventry.co.uk  or richard.harty@unisoncoventry.co.uk with any enquiries.

Mental Health in Coventry City Council – Update to Council Staff

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Meetings identify significant issues around Mental Health & Wellbeing in Coventry City Council

UNISON has held two meetings with staff in recent weeks to discuss the impact of mental health on the workplace, how issues have been with by the employer and what other steps might have been taken to address them.

We wish to thank all those who attended the meetings.  Staff gave the union a big insight into the depth of the issues and concerns that people have.  For some this may not have been easy.  We really appreciate the input we have received.

UNISON will now be considering the information we have received, identifying any common themes, and making arrangements to establish a working group with members.  The working group’s task will be to come up with specific actions for the employer which could improve Mental Health & Wellbeing in the workplace.

Together we can be better. Join UNISON today to help us fight to end discrimination.

Download this statement – hotline281118

Thanks

Coventry City UNISON