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“How To Reopen Schools Safely”
Speakers: Jon Richards (UNISON), Kevin Courtney (Joint General Secretary NEU) GMLB speaker to be confirmed, NASUWT speaker to be confirmed
Meeting ID: 865 5758 8815
Meeting ID: 817 5493 1410
The NJC UNISON side met remotely on May day to take a position on the revised offer received from the national employers of 2.75% and an increase on the basic green book leave entitlement from 21 to 22 days but with no corresponding increase in the long service leave so effectively it meant bringing forward one of the days previously awarded at five years’ service. We are aware the majority of London Councils do not use the Green Book scheme having agreed more generous local provisions.
The meeting was held on a video-conference system which has been approved by Head Office as a tool that protects security and participation. London Region was fully represented with Sean Fox, Clara Mason and Mary Lancaster in attendance.
Prior to the meeting we had sought views from Branches via the regional office, apologies for the shortness of time and thanks to the 25 Branches who responded out of the 33 consulted. Of these 17 supported a recommendation to Reject and 8 supported a recommendation to accept the revised offer.
The meeting received an update from the negotiating team on our efforts to further engage the national employers in joint approaches to central government to source more funding to allow a greater increase. Particularly at the current time when workers in local government are performing vital roles to keep people safe and to provide key services. While the National Employers accepted this the view they had taken was that pursuance of such funding was a matter for the political leadership of the devolved nations rather than part of the negotiations, they also reiterated that the current offer was their final offer and that there had been no appetite to offer a reduction in the working week although they would be happy to enter into “without prejudice” discussions on this as part of the ongoing challenge to meet increased national living wage levels in future years.
We received feedback from the regions which was mixed almost unanimously they expressed a view that the offer was insufficient but there were differing views on whether members would have an appetite for action in the current climate. Some thought it would strengthen the feeling while others were concerned people would be frightened of another economic downturn leading to more cuts.
There was a lengthy discussion on whether consultation was feasible in the current lock-down and a consensus emerged that was reflected in the bulletin issued on 4th May 2020 to Branches. In short this meant that we would go back to the employers and would not accept their offer as being final until approaches had been made to government to seek additional funds. Our concern was to ensure we did not consult members on an offer that would weaken the argument for more money to reflect our contribution to the Covid 19 response.
The full statement can be found at https://www.unison.org.uk/news/article/2020/05/lg-pay-statement/ there is also a blog from Jon Richards at https://www.unison.org.uk/blogs/2020/05/blog-njc-pay/
The only other item discussed was the NJC Guidance on Covid 19 and we explored a number of areas where updated or further guidance might be developed. This included of course the need for robust advice on the eventual relaxation of the lock-down in order to keep members safe. Officers also highlighted they were running some press items on the inadequacy of the Public Health guidance on shielding particularly where workers were living with someone who was shielding. There were concerns that some authorities were adopting these weaker Public Health guidance in preference to the far clearer and safer NJC Circulars issued jointly.
See https://southeast.unison.org.uk/news/article/2020/04/milton-keynes-council-criticised-risking-health-vulnerable-staff/ regarding one Council and https://www.unison.org.uk/news/2020/05/frightened-workers-self-isolating-protect-vulnerable-loved-ones-shouldnt-punished/ regarding UNISON’s National campaign for a more protective and supportive furlough scheme.
Branches having issues with regard to the non-adoption of the NJC provisions by employers who are part of the NJC were asked to make their Regional Office aware of these examples. Generally members of the NJC welcomed the circulars issued to date and the point was made that they demonstrated the role of the NJC being about more than simply pay.
Sean Fox, Clara Mason, Mary Lancaster
* National Joint Council
Barnet UNISON has submitted the following report which sets out our list of demands for full Trade Union engagement in the transition from Lockdown.
“It is really important at this time that workers trust that their employer ensures the workplace is safe. COVID 19 has brought risks to our members’ lives in a way many of our members have never faced before. Therefore, it is important not just to say the workplace is safe, BUT to demonstrate that is safe by being transparent and open and ensuring risk assessments for every work place are easily available for the workforce to read. On Tuesday 5 May 2020, we submitted our report to Barnet Council Chief Executive as the first step to work to ensure all our members are safe at work. We will report back on the negotiations over the coming days and weeks.” (John Burgess, Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON)
Some of our proposals set out in the report are:
1. The Council to inform and consult with the Trade Unions in a full and timely manner on the transition from Lockdown. By engaging with the Trade Unions the Council can receive our support in the process, and help build workforce support for changed ways of working such as working from home, social distancing measures and deployment of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
2. The Council to ensure that protective measures are in place for workers most vulnerable to Covid-19, pregnant women, new mothers and employees sharing households with people requiring shielding.
3. Covid-19 Risk Assessments to be in place relating to specific worksites and work tasks. The Council should consult and obtain agreement with the Trade Unions on these Risk Assessments. No worksites or tasks to be engaged until such Risk Assessments are in place following agreement with the Trade Unions. Risk Assessments to be accessible to all Council employees.
4. Increased stringency and frequency of cleaning of workplaces and equipment during the transition from Lockdown.
5. Social distancing to be in place at work sites, with clear guidance given to workers. Buildings should not be open to the public without strict and enforceable social distancing measures in place, following consultation and agreement with the Trade Unions.
6. To reduce the risk of infection the Council should consider and implement changes to the layout of workplaces, adjusting working patterns, alternating sections of the workforce on sites, and staggering travelling times. The Trade Unions to be consulted with on any such changes.
7. In line with Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 the Council will not submit any worker refusing to work in an unsafe workplace to Disciplinary or other punitive measures. It recognises workers have the right to withdraw from and refuse to return to an unsafe workplace, and that they have legal protection from dismissal, disciplinary or any other detriment for raising a health and safety issue.
8. PPE must be provided where necessary, and no-one should be asked to re-use PPE inappropriately.
9. Employees to receive instruction on the safe use, maintenance and cleaning of PPE as necessary.
10. Equalities Impact Assessments to be in place for the transition from Lockdown. Across the UK Black and Ethnic Minority workers have suffered disproportionate harm from the impact of the virus. The Council must seek to prevent this disproportionate impact and comply with its public sector equality duty.
11. The Council to inform workers about the availability and criteria of Covid-19 testing and to support workers in obtaining such testing when criteria are met.
Click on link below to read the UNISON report.
1. The guidance restates the DfE‟s blanket line that scientific evidence “indicates” that school staff do not need PPE – what exactly is the scientific evidence which the DfE referring to? Will they publish this scientific evidence in full?
2. Risk assessments should be carried out for staff as well as for pupils. Local unions and health and safety representatives can add help and expertise to this process and should be fully involved.
3. The onus of the guidance unreasonably places pressure and the risk onto members of staff.
4. It will be impossible to provide the care that some children and young people need without close hands-on contact. Risk assessments need to be carried out and the appropriate PPE supplied in these circumstances.
5. The guidance states PPE is only needed in residential care if pupils develop symptoms. No account is taken of the hazards faced by school staff in terms of spitting, scratching or biting, exposure to other bodily fluids or when performing clinical procedures.
6. There is no reference to the safe disposal of waste or PPE including masks and gloves.
7. The guidance rightly highlights the paramount necessity of strict hygiene, but does not mention soap or the provision of hand sanitiser. UNISON members have raised concerns about lack of soap and having to bring their own sanitiser to work. UNISON has already raised concerns with the DfE over previous guidance suggesting some cleaning items may be rationed.
8. There is no recognition of the complexity of the issues being faced by schools with vulnerable young people – for instance what about the risk of children attending who live in crowded accommodation either in a hostel, B&B or where a large family are sharing?
9. The guidance recognises that classes should be kept to small sizes but there is no definition of what a small size is. What happens if there is an outbreak and it leads to staff absences? For pupils with SEND there may be a one to one ratio. It is common practice in SEND settings to have 8-10 students to a ratio of 5 staff.
10. The guidance recommends that soft or cuddly toys are not to be shared by students – how is this to be managed in a SEND or early years environment?
11. Social distancing is impossible to fully maintain in schools. There is no reference to the built environments that schools work in. Some schools are small with narrow corridors and passage ways.
12. Any redeployment of staff across special schools will be unsettling for the pupils who are familiar with individual teachers/teaching assistants/ learning support assistants. It could also add to the risk of spreading the virus.
Recommendation UNISON recommends that the Government’s advice is urgently revised to take full account of the needs of pupils and staff, including realistic expectations of what is achievable. It should also take into account the duty of care that the DfE and schools have to their pupils, staff and the communities in which they operate. Ofsted have identified sufficient risk to issue their inspectors with PPE in order to safely undertake emergency inspections. PPE is vital for staff who are working on the front line – without the undertaking of risk assessments for staff and the appropriate provision of PPE then some schools could be unsafe for staff, pupils and the wider community.
To read full statement click on link below
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Barnet UNISON Branch ZOOM meeting “COVID19: Your Health and Safety Rights at Work”
After five weeks of lockdown and ongoing media speculation about when lockdown will end Barnet UNISON has secured Simon Hester former Health and Safety Executive Inspector as our Guest Speaker for our first ZOOM Branch Meeting on Wednesday 6 May at 6pm.
To join the Barnet UNISON Zoom meeting click on the link below.
Meeting ID: 880 6399 1632