Report of UNISON West Midlands International Forum March 2021 – Unions in #Chile and #Colombia

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UNISON is involved in a wide range of fields – one of which is international solidarity work. It is really important that trade union activists and members support other workers in different parts of the world, many of whom are organising under very difficult and dangerous circumstances.

A regional international forum is held 4-5 times per year to discuss different solidarity campaigns and to coordinate our work.

For the March meeting we welcomed speakers from the Chile Solidarity Network and Justice for Colombia.

There were common themes with both speakers – trade unionists and campaigners suffering repression from the state. For example, Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist with regular murders and threats.

The speaker on Chile talked about how mass protests in 2019 had been massive, with millions on the streets against attacks from the government. There are still remnants of the General Pinochet regime which came to power in the 1973 coup against a democratically elected left-wing government. The coup was backed by the CIA and later Pinochet became close friends with former UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Tens of thousands of trade union activists were tortured, killed and some simply ‘disappeared’ never to be seen again causing huge grief for their families.

Likewise, in Colombia people take great risks by being trade union activists and fighting for workers rights. Both speakers were very inspiring – bad situations were detailed but it was also reported that despite everything workers, communities and their organisations find ways to organise and fight back and have been able to score victories.

To read more about the campaigns visit the links below

https://justiceforcolombia.org/

https://chilesolidaritynetwork.com/

If you would like more information about our international work, or to get involved please contact paul.hunt@unisoncoventry.co.uk

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

#Coventry City #UNISON Welfare Update

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ARE YOU STRUGGLING TO PAY YOUR WATER CHARGES?

@BigDiffScheme If you are a Severn Trent Water customer and require assistance, apply for help today via:

THE BIG DIFFERENCE SCHEME

  • You could receive up to 90% off the average Severn Trent water bill through the Big Difference Scheme
  • If you are eligible for income based free school meals it’s likely that you will qualify for the Big Difference Scheme

The Big Difference Scheme is funded by Severn Trent Water, which offers significantly reduced water charges to some households on a low income.
Apply now: www.bigdiff.co.uk

Download the Leaflet > Severn_Trent_Big_Difference.pdf

UNISON is proud to have its own welfare support and we are always here help members in times of need. For more information, please call us on 02474 550829

Lateral Flow Tests and Vaccinations…

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The number of people taking lateral flow tests over the past few weeks has started to drop significantly. We are clear that whilst lateral flow tests are a secondary part of risk management, they are important for identifying those who may be asymptomatic but still able to pass the virus on. We would urge all front-facing workers to consider getting tested on a weekly basis at least for their peace of mind.

We know that many social care staff and vulnerable staff have now been invited to be vaccinated. We know that people have concerns about the safety and content of the vaccines but we would encourage people to get vaccinated. Coventry City Council have helpfully produced the following guidance:

The government has launched the SHARE checklist to tackle the spread of false information about coronavirus and vaccinations.

Recently there has been a lot of false information about coronavirus and the new vaccines designed to tackle it and it’s not always easy to spot. The SHARE checklist is an easy tool to pass on to people in your community to help them know what to look out for before they like, comment or share information they come across online.

If you are looking for information on vaccination safety, please see the NHS guide on Why vaccination is safe and important.

The independent fact-checker Full Fact is also working to fact check and correct misinformation about vaccines and coronavirus and regularly updates its website to tackle the latest false information.

#Coventry City #UNISON Branch Annual General Meeting – Update

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As we all know, the past year has been completely different to any other year and therefore our AGM will be held via teams rather than our normal in-person meeting.

At the AGM you will hear reports from the senior representatives in the branch and you can ask questions and discuss how you would like the union to work over the coming year.  Whilst sounding very formal we ensure that the reports focus on the work that we do and the challenges we face across the branch.

Due to changes in the way the branch has had to operate, we also need to adjust our rules in order for us to have online meetings and allow electronic participation in the union.  It is of vital importance that as many people attend as possible because we need 150 people to agree to our rule changes.  These will be available with the AGM report on the branch website http://www.coventryunison.co.uk prior to the AGM meeting.  

If we do not get enough people to our AGM, then we will have to call another meeting shortly afterwards to get an agreement on our rules.

There has never been a more important time to be involved; it is not too late to consider being a contact for where you work or a steward.  Why not get involved and add your voice to our branch?

We are delighted to announce, Labour MP for Coventry South, Zarah Sultana will be speaking at the meeting.

The AGM will take place on Friday 12th March 2020 starting at 5.30 pm. A web link to the meeting has been sent by email to all Members. Please contact the Branch if you have not received this.

Hopefully, we can see as many of our members as possible attend the AGM this year.

Domestic Abuse – A message & info from #Coventry City #UNISON

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Domestic Abuse… Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading, and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer. It is very common.

Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation, and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence)
  • Psychological and/or emotional abuse
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Financial or economic abuse
  • Harassment and stalking
  • Online or digital abuse

Members who are suffering from domestic abuse may well be finding that lockdown is increasing their isolation and their abuse.  UNISON has produced a leaflet which we have attached that talks about domestic abuse and the support you can expect.

Domestic_Abuse_Leaflet.pdf

For services, here is a list:

Coventry Haven
Coventry Haven help women and children who have experienced or are experiencing domestic abuse by providing safe housing and a range of support services. You can find out more by calling 02476444077 or via
www.coventryhaven.co.uk

Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre
The Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre provides support, information and advocacy to female victims and supervisors of sexual violence. You can find out more by calling 02476 277 777 or via www.crasac.org.uk

Galop
Galop is the national lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans charity intended to help raise awareness and combat same-sex domestic violence and abuse. You can find out more by calling 0800 999 5428 or via www.galop.org.uk/domesticabuse

Men’s Aid
Men’s Aid help provide practical advice and support to men who have been abused. You can find out more calling 0333 567 0556 or via www.mensaid.co.uk/

National Domestic Abuse Helpline
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge. It gives support, help and information for women experiencing domestic violence. You can find out more by calling 0808 2000 247 or via www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk

Valley House
Valley House offer support for people who are over 16 years of age and suffer from domestic abuse. You can find out more by calling 0800 328 9084 or via www.valleyhouse.org.uk/domestic-abuse-coventry/

Mental Health Matters…#mentalhealthmatters

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The branch is concerned that members may be struggling with their mental health through this lockdown and who may have been struggling with other concerns for some time. 

We have seen increasing rates of sickness absence and members struggling with their anxieties.  We don’t want anyone to struggle alone and we are here to help where we can; we aren’t trained counsellors however and below are several ways you can access professional support.  

UNISON’s national charity There For You can be contacted to seek support on – 02071215620

As we said last week many employers may also have their own support services that staff can access to get support.

Here is a list of organisations in Coventry that may be able to help you or a family member:

Mental Health Support Organisations

Samaritans Call 116 123 free 24/7

Safe Havens Safe Havens in Coventry and Warwickshire provide out-of-hours mental health support for people who are feeling distressed and overwhelmed.  

PAPYRUS Free service for young people. Call 0800 068 4141 9am-10pm Mon-Fri /2pm-10pm weekends or visit www.papyrus-uk.org

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) Call 0300 111 5065 9am-9pm Monday to Friday or visit www.uksobs.org

MIND Coventry and WarwickshireHelp and support for mental health problems. Call 024 7655 2847 or visit www.cwmind.org.uk

Change Grow Live Coventry Free and confidential drug and alcohol service for adults, families and affected others. Call 02476 010241 9am-5pm Mon/ 9am – 8pm Tue/ 9am – 5pm Wed-Fri or email coventry.info@cgl.org.uk

Compass: Substance misuse service for children and young people in Warwickshire Call 01788 578 227 or email: compass.warksypsduty@nhs.net.  Office hours are Mon-Thurs 09:00 to 17:00 and Friday from 9am to 4.30pm. Visit: https://www.compass-uk.org/services/warwickshire-cypdas/ for more information

The Recovery and Wellbeing Academy: Free courses and workshops to help people in their recoveryCall 0300 303 2626 or visit www.recoveryandwellbeing.covwarkpt.nhs.uk

The KaleidoscopeSuicide Bereavement Support Services call 0121 565 5665 or visit www.kaleidoscopeplus.org.uk

Veterans’ Mental Health TIL Service Call 0300 323 0137 24/7

RISE: Emotional wellbeing and mental health services for children and young peopleCall 0300 200 2021 8am – 6pm Mon-Fri or visit www.cwrise.com


It Takes Balls To Talk: Campaign to encourage people to talk about mental health issues. Visit www.ittakesballstotalk.com