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.
Sarah Feeney (she/her)
UNISON Coventry City Branch
Following the government’s announcement of mass testing in schools in the New Year, UNISON’s National Schools Committee secured a meeting with the Department for Education (DfE) and NHS Test and Trace, to take place on Tuesday 22 December. The government also announced that secondary schools and other schools with secondary-age pupils will move to online learning (except for the children of key workers and vulnerable children) in the first week of the winter term (4 January). The aim is to allow mass testing of all pupils and staff in those schools during the opening week.
UNISON believes this is hugely ambitious and that announcing this on the last day of term is jaw-dropping and gives schools very little time to plan. We think that most schools will not be able to deliver this.
Taking this into account and looking at the materials that the DfE has provided so far, the committee’s initial position is:
• We support mass testing in schools to try to stop the spread of the virus (on a sensible timetable)
• Any testing site in a school must be fully planned and risk assessed with union engagement
• Staff should only undertake the testing duty if they volunteer, and if they are comfortable with their competence after appropriate training – in line with Department for Education guidance ‘Supporting pupils at school with medical conditions’.
• Staff involved in the testing programme should have correct PPE, appropriate clinical oversight and clear guarantees around any potential liabilities
• The work of staff volunteering to participate should not be passed to other current staff, who are already overworked.
• Any additional staff time must be fully paid at the appropriate rate
• Due to the reported high percentage of false negatives generated by the ‘lateral flow test’ being proposed it should only be used as an additional measure. Bubbles and self-isolation, alongside all additional other safety measures, should be retained for the foreseeable future.
• Staff asked to take a test themselves as part of a mass lateral flow testing programme where cases have not been identified may do so voluntarily, but it should not be compulsory. UNISON encourages staff to participate fully in the testing programme.
Next Following our meeting with the DfE we will issue guidance for UNISON members for next term. In the meantime if you are being asked to do anything that contradicts the above points contact us for advice.
UNISON Coventry City Branch
Call us on 02476 550829
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