First Branch Meeting of 2021

Happy New Year! – Good Riddance to 2020!
Barnet UNISON holds first Branch Meeting of 2021

Barnet UNISON Emergency Branch Meeting 6th January
Barnet UNISON should have increased its zoom account so that more than 100 people could join!!!

Our apologies to all those trying to get onto the call but couldn’t because we only had a capacity of 100. We will be holding another meeting and we will increase the capacity!

We believe the intention of this lockdown is to stop people circulating more than necessary in order to radically reduce the rates of infection. Therefore any work being undertaken which is not absolutely necessary will contribute to the spread of the infection and puts us all at risk.

The Government’s message is being interpreted in all kinds of ways which means, for example, that School A only has a handful of children attending and School B has 60 children attending. We want to help you ensure the wider community stays safe by stopping the more generous interpretation of what the Government is saying.

Key messages from the meeting:

  1. If your workplace feels unsafe or the work you are being asked to do is not critical then please do contact the UNISON branch:
  2. Almost all of those workplaces which have moved quickest to successfully challenge practice which is dangerous and contributes to the rising infection rates have had a rep / health and safety rep and a WhatsApp group. These have enabled colleagues to clarify their views and alert the branch in an organised and collective manner. If your workplace does not have any of these in place then contact the branch to set them up.
  3. Where there are a couple or more colleagues in a particular setting, or carrying out similar duties, who want to have an online meeting to clarify more quickly what stance they want to take, should contact the branch. We have the facility to set up a zoom meeting for your area of work if this will help you.
  4. All risk assessments – site ones and personal ones – have to be revisited in light of the new situation. If they are not being revisited then you cannot be assured your work environment is safe.
  5. We will support anyone who does not feel safe at work.
  6. We are asking for an urgent review of PPE guidance. We believe the FFP2 and FFP3 masks should be issued for people to wear as these actually do offer much greater protection from inhaling COVID particles. This is particularly important for those who have to work with COVID positive residents in our community.

The levels of COVID infection rates means that the NHS is on the brink of breakdown. This means anyone who becomes critically ill may not get the care and attention they could have expected during the summer and further risks people being exposed to life changing disability or death. Both of these outcomes are significant not just for the individual concerned but for their family and friends. This is the context against which we have arrived at our position.

We began the meeting with one minute silence in memory of our members who have died during this pandemic and those who have suffered bereavements.

We acknowledged that the lockdown probably would not have happened by Monday had the trade unions – notably the education trade unions – begun organising their members to send in section 44 letters stating that their workplaces were not safe.

Locally Barnet UNISON had a zoom meeting for nursery workers on Sunday 3rd January and half an hour after the end of the meeting the head teachers of the maintained nurseries were announcing closure of those sites due to receiving letters from staff expressing their concerns and stating they would not be attending their place of work.
Nationally at the same time the NEU held an online meeting with an attendance of 400,000 to get the same message across to its membership.

Those who participated in those actions can be proud of the role they played in getting the Government to act more swiftly to protect all of us.