#COVID-19 Update for #UNISON Members. 12/01/21


Important Information Regarding this Email:
As our COVID-19 Updates contain issues relating to Workplace Health & Safety, we are now sending them out to all members regardless of their communication preferences. If you have not been receiving these emails in the past, it may because your communication preferences do not allow us to email you. The branch only emails members with news and information that is relevant to your membership and if you would like to review your communication preferences, please visit https://www.unison.org.uk/my-unison/

In This Issue…
Non-Council Members
Council Members
Passenger Transport

Non-Council Members…
Your employer has a duty to keep you safe, wherever you work and whatever work you do. They need to have updated their risk assessments and talked to you about the risks you are facing. If you are shielding, then they need to honour that and if you are vulnerable but not shielding, they must consider what they can do to keep you as safe as possible.

We know that not all our members are able to work from home and that many are still supporting service users daily; however, your safety must be key in all of this and your employer has a legal duty to ensure that.
We would urge all our members to ask their managers what precautions they should be taking and to raise any concerns.

With the high virus rate in Coventry many more people are now at risk of contracting Coronavirus and we want to support all members to ensure that they are as safe as possible.

Council Members…
UNISON raised our concerns today that this lockdown is not being treated as seriously as the one last March.  In the corporate meeting today, which was supported by other Trade Unions, UNISON called for the employer to go back to the full lockdown that was introduced at the beginning of March last year.  

We also stated that this approach to full lockdown should not be any shorter than 3 weeks so that (a) the most dangerous period that Professor Chris Whitty has referred to will have started to pass and (b) it gives management and the trades unions time to assess the new level of risk and discuss what the most appropriate way of delivering services are.

Without this approach, UNISON is concerned that virus levels in the city will rise and that it will further endanger staff, service users, and citizens of Coventry.  We were clear and unequivocal that with the new strain of the virus the risks currently are too great to do anything but follow the most cautious approach by the employer.

We would advise members to carefully consider any requests to work outside their home and raise directly and urgently with the branch any issues that you believe would put youself at risk of contracting the virus.

UNISON reps met with library management to share concerns regarding the continual operation of services from Central Library. They have shared updated risk assessments with us this afternoon and these should also be shared with staff shortly.

We urge members to tell management individually if you have any concerns about your health and safety in the workplace. This can be done as part of your vera review or as a separate conversation. UNISON is happy to support you in this discussion if required.

We have asked for the number of times click and collect has been used, and management has assured us that they will provide the data but also review demand to inform their decision making.

We have made a number of requests, asking that the airflow report is reviewed in light of the new variant of covid. We have also asked that cleaning regimes be shared and a review of isolating of materials.

Management is reviewing staffing numbers to ensure that no more than the absolute minimum are in work to complete tasks. We have requested that management review their decision to continue with services and we will be meeting them on Monday.

Passenger Transport…
UNISON asked for a meeting on Monday last week because we were in tier 4, with the announcement that we would go into full lockdown on Monday evening it became more urgent that we made sure our members were safe and able to work confidently.  After a meeting early Tuesday with UNITE attending also we gained agreement that the service area would look to reduce service users. 

It was confirmed yesterday, after UNISON’s request, that the new risk assessment ensures that no more than 4 pupils will be on a bus and that the manifest should be consistent. There has also been, at our request, a firm commitment to encouraging the use of hand gel and masks where appropriate.

UNISON intends to respond to the new DfE guidance for schools in England on restricting attendance during the national lockdown. There will be a new risk assessment checklist this week.

Maximum class and bubble sizes
We are urging school leaders and headteachers to implement the following measures to protect pupils and staff from the new COVID strain, to reduce community spread and protect our NHS:

• Limit bubble sizes to a maximum of 15 pupils per class or 50% of the school’s usual class size, whichever is smaller, and ensure 2m social distancing
• Staff to remain within their bubble at all times with no crossover working.

Special schools and Alternative Provision
In special schools and alternative provision, it will not be possible, or even appropriate, for every child to receive face-to-face provision every day. We are therefore calling for schools to be given the flexibility to establish which vulnerable learners could be offered time in schools.
Additional guidance for special schools/colleges and alternative provision is on the national website at the bottom of this page: https://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/education-services/key-issues/covid-19-closures/

Early years and Nurseries
The government has decided early years settings should remain open to all children.
UNISON is campaigning for them to be treated in the same way as schools. Support this petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/566718.)
The government is refusing to publish the scientific evidence for the different treatment of early years despite calls from across the sector.
If settings do remain open, we believe that they must;

• Undertake revised risk assessments, taking into account the increased transmissibility of new variant and the move to COVID alert level 5.
• Restrict numbers of children and ‘bubble’ sizes to 8 children, as was the case when settings re-opened after the first wave of the pandemic.

Section 44
In parliament last week Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, said that UNISON and the NEU had accepted that the advice we gave members about their health and safety rights was ‘incorrect’.
We believe it was the right advice to give at the time and we made this clear in our response to the government. After the government directed the closure of schools, NEU and UNISON removed the advice from our websites because the situation had changed.
But this emphatically does not mean we believe face-to-face work with full or near-full classes in schools is safe in the current circumstances. UNISON and the NEU have written to schools, setting the record straight and responding to messages coming out of the Department for Education. Members’ individual rights under health and safety law have not changed – see our health and safety guidance.

However, unlike last week, the risks facing members may differ between workplaces and therefore we are now asking them to speak to their branch first if they have serious health and safety concerns about being in the workplace.
Petition: Shut all nurseries and early years settings during lockdown

Urgent call for the government to close all nurseries and early years settings considering the new lockdown to protect early years staff.

Please sign the petition…

UNISON Coventry City Branch

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

COVID-19 Update for UNISON Members in #Coventry #Libraries


UNISON has been working hard supporting colleagues in discussions with management around Library staffing, VERA’s, reasonable adjustments, and more. As a result, as Libraries move toward stage 3 of opening. Management have reviewed their VERA process and updated their guidance to staff. UNISON would like to reiterate that any member with health or other concerns should request a VERA and a meaningful discussion of the issues with management. We will be happy to support this process if required. Do not delay in contacting the branch for advice and support if you have any concerns.

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


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.




National Library Campaign Update


This is a general heads up. After the fantastic 2,500 strong National Demonstration for Libraries, Museums and Galleries, we are now planning a series of regional marches starting in Warrington which faces drastic library cuts. The local campaigners are looking at dates, depending on when the council plans to press forward with its plans. Please be prepared to pull out all the stops to support this initiative. We want all public sector campaigns to rally around this issue.


On Saturday, November 5th, the National March for Libraries, Museums and Galleries drew a good crowd, estimated between two thousand and two thousand five hundred people in press reports.

Initiated by local trade union branches representing public sector workers in the cultural services and library campaigners, the march drew library staff, members of the public, workers in museums, galleries, archives and the arts, trade unionists, authors and illustrators. It surpassed the organisers’ expectations.

On a bright, crisp autumn morning, supporters including campaigners from Warrington, Swindon, Coventry, Merseyside, the North East, Wales and elsewhere gathered near the British Library to hear speeches from Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell, Warrington, Swindon and Coventry campaigners, authors Philip Ardagh and Alan Gibbons and others.

A lively march weaved its way through central London to Trafalgar Square where speakers included the legendary Ralph, eleven-year-old Barnet campaigner, poet Steve Tasane, Clara Paillard, President of the PCS Culture Sector, Kathleen Smith from Bromley Unite, Barnet Unison members striking to save local libraries, poet and broadcaster Michael Rosen, Douniazed Zaouche from the French trade union, the CGT, Paula Peters from the disabled campaign group DPAC, Zita Holbourne from Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, Sara Wayid from the Museums Association, Sarah Kasab of Unite, a representative of the Durham Teaching Assistants, Bob and Roberta Smith, Cathy Cassidy, Sian Berry of the Green Party, Corinne Sweet of the Writers’ Guild and Megan Dobney from the South East Region of the TUC .

For years the Department of Culture Media and Sport has hidden behind the funding arrangement for the cultural sector which leaves councils in charge, but operating within nationally determined funding and strategic planning. This allows central government to step back and say, mischievously: “Not down to us, people. It is all the responsibility of those wicked councils.”

Added to this, cuts have fallen disproportionately on the shoulders of the large metropolitan councils, most likely to be run by the Labour Party. Saturday’s demonstration, while not absolving councils of responsibility, reminded the public that it is the government which sets overall funding and which has failed consistently to provide leadership. Ireland and New Zealand face the same severe economic conditions, but have made far fewer cuts, partly because, particularly in the case of libraries they have national plans.

Campaigners are now seeking meetings with the Culture Ministers and are actively discussing a series of regional demonstrations to further raise consciousness among the public of the havoc wrought by the failed ‘austerity agenda.’

The North West region is taking responsibility for staging the first such march and is scheduled for Warrington in the New Year. As speaker after speaker insisted, this was a qualitative gear shift in campaigning.

The campaign has only just begun.

This film gives a sense of the march:




“I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that society has found one more way to destroy itself.”
                                                                                    Isaac Asimov    
Dear Mr Reeves 
The Midlands TUC Creative & Leisure Industries Committee (CLIC) has been disturbed to hear of the proposed cuts to the libraries and museums of Coventry. The Midlands CLIC is made up of unions from across the cultural sector including BECTU, Equity, MU, NUJ, PCS, Unison, NUT, UCU and WGGB. Our purpose is to campaign in support of arts and leisure provision across the region and for an improvement in the terms and conditions of workers in the sector. 
” A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.”

                                                                       Henry Ward Beecher. 
Industrialists like Sir Alfred Herbert in Coventry, who built the economic prosperity of the Midlands, understood the importance of culture, particularly libraries, galleries and museums, to the quality of life in the region and also to the economy and the quality of political discourse. Educated and informed democratic citizens are essential to the successful functioning of our democracy, just as an educated workforce is crucial to the regions economic success. 
Formal education in schools, colleges and universities, is directed, controlled and measured. Libraries, galleries and museums complement formal education by allowing individuals (especially those of limited means) to stimulate their brains and their imaginations according to their own preferences, in other words, to be intellectually free. 
In a prosperous, innovative and dynamic city, as presumably Coventry aspires to be, publicly funded libraries, museums and galleries are not an ‘optional extra’ to be discarded as soon as money gets tight, they are at the defining heart of our shared civic spaces, and without them what does the civic space of Coventry entail? Only the emptying of bins and the cleaning of the streets? 
Of course Coventry City Council needs to empty the bins and clean the streets, but it also has to provide the shared civic spaces that give cultural identity to the City by enhancing education and public discourse, and attracting individuals and families to want to live and work in the city, thus attracting businesses and inward investment. The statutory provision of essential services must not be used as a reason to cut cultural civic spaces; it is only our shared cultural experiences that give the pragmatic day-to-day realities of life meaning.
“The only thing that you absolutely have to know… is the location of the library.”

                                                                                   Albert Einstein 
The shrinking of the budgets and services of the cities libraries, galleries and museums, also disproportionately impact on the poor and disadvantaged. People like Sir Alfred Herbert understood the privilege inherent in the access to learning and culture that their wealth gave them; they sought to spread those benefits throughout society, so that both rich and poor could have access to that advantage. 
It is widely recognised that rapidly escalating inequality in the UK is having terribly destructive and divisive effects on our society as a whole, not just on the poor. (See: The Spirit Level: Why more equal societies almost always do better. by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.) The inevitable result of economic inequality is cultural and educational inequality. Restricting access to books, art and culture only to those who can ‘afford’ them, exponentially exacerbates inequality for only modest savings. This ultimately costs untold millions because of the negative effect cultural poverty has on health, crime and social cohesion. 
Coventry is currently preparing a bid to be City Of Culture 2021; simultaneously Coventry City Council is seeking to close or outsource libraries, cutting staff and budgets at the Herbert Gallery & Museum and decimating Cultural Services across the city. The idea of Coventry as a ‘City Of Culture’ is an important one but not just for 2021. 
We urge Coventry City Council to end the diminishing of public cultural facilities and services in the city. By doing so you would make a public statement about the type of city you are aspiring to build. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss how the Midlands TUC could help Coventry City Council fulfil its cultural duty to the citizens of the city and look forward to hearing from you in due course. 
Signed by

Lee Barron, Regional Secretary Midlands TUC

Chris Jury, Chair, Midlands TUC Creative & Leisure Industries Committee

Save Our Libraries – Please display Our Flyer and sign the e-petition to Coventry City Council


Flyer Save Our Libraries

Please see our Library Campaign Flyer via the link at the start of this message.

Please sign the e-petition to @coventrycc Coventry City Council to save our local libraries http://epetitions.coventry.gov.uk/2015/02/against-library-closure/