BreakingNews: National Joint Trade Union Pay & Conditions claims

Dear Member

Please find enclosed details of the National Joint Trade Union Pay & Conditions claims submitted

National Joint Council Pay claim
“A substantial increase with a minimum of 10% on all spinal column points.”
Read full details click on UNISON link below

http://msgfocus.com/files/amf_unison/project_190/NJC_Pay_Claim_2021_-_FINAL.pdf

National Joint Council Conditions claim
“A reduction of the working week to 35 hours with no loss of pay, and a reduction to 34 hours a week in London. Part-time staff to be given a choice of a pro rata reduction, or retaining the same hours and being paid a higher percentage of FTE”
Read full details click on UNISON link below
http://msgfocus.com/files/amf_unison/project_190/NJC_Conditions_Claim_2021_-_FINAL.pdf

When will members be told about the outcome?
Negotiations are just starting and last year it went on until September. Whatever the outcome of the negotiations Barnet UNISON members will be consulted on the offer which will be fed back to the National Negotiators.

End.

 

UNISON SAFER SCHOOLS PLAN February 2021

 

Dear Member

In response to the Government’s announcement to reopen Schools from 8 March 2021 UNISON has issued UNISON SAFER SCHOOLS PLAN February 2021 which sets out 15 point demands to ensure schools are safe for staff and pupils.

Here are some extracts from the plan:

“2. 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.

“ 4. 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.”

“8. As part of re-opening, the DfE should ask the government to prioritise vaccinating school staff.

“9. 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.”

You can view the UNISON SAFER SCHOOLS PLAN by clicking on the UNISON link below

https://www.unison.org.uk/content/uploads/2021/02/26307_safer-schools-plan.pdf

In response to the Reopening of schools from 8 March 2021, Barnet UNISON has organized a ZOOM meeting on

Wednesday 24 February 2021

6- 7pm

To join Zoom meeting

Click on the UNISON link below

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83559121979?pwd=QklXWlJTRkdDSHhEVk5yZTJiSUdvdz09

Meeting ID: 835 5912 1979

Passcode: 348797

Shocking COVID infection rates in Early Years and Nursery sector

These figures provided by the Government fly in the face of their propaganda that “schools are safe” as our branch is only too aware Nursery Schools and Early Years settings were not included in the latest lockdown plans.

The Government made a political decision at the time to ignore the science and force the settings to reopen fully.

Last week they continued their bullying approach to this sector by threatening to cuT their funding unless they all fully reopened.

Does the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson even read his own Departments reports???

Clearly not looking at their own latest figures

“Reported coronavirus (COVID-19) notifications by registered early years and childcare settings.  Updated 25 January 2021.”

Link https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reported-coronavirus-covid-19-cases-by-registered-early-years-and-childcare-settings

Barnet UNISON asking for the NSL Parking Service to be suspended during lockdown.

Barnet UNISON statement:

When lockdown was first instigated in March last year the Parking Service was temporarily suspended not just in Barnet but across a number of London Councils.

We are now in a more critical situation in that this latest COVID strain is clearly more transmissible with 1 in 30 Londoners testing positive for COVID.

The London Mayor has stated “We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die.”

Our members are genuinely fearful that there is a very real and present risk to themselves and a risk to their families. There is increased risk of contracting COVID when travelling to and from work on public transport and it is widely accepted that there is an increased risk for members of the BAME community. Please note a high proportion of the NSL workforce are from the BAME community

Our members working for NSL are at a loss to understand why the Parking Service which is not an emergency service is carrying on as business as usual.

The spirit of the lockdown appears to be trying to limit the mixing and movement of people to only those services which are critical.

Parking Enforcement is not am essential/critical service.

Barnet UNISON will be organising a zoom meeting for our NSL members and will be reporting back to them as to what I have been doing on their behalf.

We are asking that in light of the mounting pressure on our London Hospitals and NHS staff can the decision to keep Parking Services be reviewed as a matter of urgency?

End.

 

UNISON and NEU point out Government Minister is wrong about legal advice on safety

 

IMPORTANT: This is the joint trade union email sent to all Schools and Leaders. 

 

“Dear XXX

We apologise for writing to you at such a difficult time. We know the intense pressure schools are under, both as a result of Covid-19 and because of the repeated sudden changes in Government policies.

However, yesterday the Department for Education (DfE) e-mailed you about recent advice UNISON and the National Education Union (NEU) gave its members on the safety of face-to-face teaching in schools.

This email followed Gavin Williamson saying in Parliament: ‘I’d like to thank both the National Education Union and UNISON for recognising the fact that the action that they took and the advice that they gave their members on Sunday was incorrect and that they have withdrawn that advice”. Gavin Williamson was simply wrong. At no point have UNISON or the NEU said the guidance and advice to members was incorrect.

That advice was issued before 4 January when Government was directing all schools to remain fully open to all pupils. On the 4 January, Government directed the closure of schools except for the attendance of vulnerable children and those of critical workers. Because of this radical change of Government direction, we removed the advice on section 44 from our websites. 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 – far from it. Neither does the removal of this advice from our websites indicate that we do not believe it was the right advice to give at the time.

Contrary to the impression given by the DfE circular, the existence of the new strain of the virus greatly exacerbates the serious risks to the health and safety of those working in schools. It is irrelevant that the new strain of the virus may not cause more serious illness in those children or adults who are infected by it. The increase in risk arises from the fact that the new strain is highly transmissible, between 50-74% more transmissible than pre-existing variations of Covid-19, according to London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The historic data on infection rates among teachers referred to by the DfE fails to capture the greatly increased threat arising from the new strain.

It is because of the new strain that infection rates and the R number have dramatically increased since December. It was precisely because of the “increase in risk associated with the new variant” that SAGE recommended closing schools as part of a strategy of strengthening control measures at its meeting on 22 December. That is why the Government finally decided to close schools to most pupils; and that is why school staff faced a greater risk of catching Covid-19 than they did before. This is, or should be, obvious to the DfE and Government.

In that light, is completely inadequate for the DfE to assert that the existing controls in school “create an inherently safer [sic] environment for children, young people and staff” and that the “way to control this virus is the same, whatever the variant”. Members who work in schools have a right to work in a safe working environment, and workers who reasonably believe they are facing serious and imminent danger have the right to leave the workplace. The effect of those rights must be fundamentally reassessed owing to the greater risk of transmission posed by the new variant of Covid-19. The same applies to the existing control measures adopted in schools.

We only summarise the relevant legal provisions below. The key point is that all these legal duties must now be viewed in circumstances where Covid-19 is much more transmissible than it was before owing to the new strain.

  • Schools owe duties under s 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their employees. This includes a duty to provide work systems and work environments which are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health. Schools owe similar duties to others, who are not in their employment, under s.3 of the Act.
  • Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers must undertake a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to health and safety affected by the conduct of the employer’s undertaking. The risk assessment must be reviewed whenever there is a “significant change in the matters to which it relates”. The new strain of Covid-19 triggers this duty.
  • Employers must establish appropriate procedures which enable employees to leave or stop work if they are exposed to serious, imminent and unavoidable dangers.
  • Measures for controlling risks to health and safety must be adopted in accordance with a hierarchy of measures set out in Schedule 1 to the 1999 Regulations. The primary duty is “avoiding risks”, followed by “evaluating risks which cannot be avoided” and then “combating the risks at source”. All these duties point towards avoiding face-to-face teaching and teaching on-line given the high risk of transmission posed by the new strain.
  • While there is a duty to provide suitable PPE to those who are exposed to risks to health and safety, this is only intended as a last resort, where a “risk has not adequately been controlled by other means”.
  • Schools owe duties to assess risks and to protect employees against exposure to biological agents, such as the new strain of Covid-19, under the COSSH Regulations 2002.
  • Employers must inform and consult with safety representatives under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations 1977 (and the linked regulations where no union is recognised) on all matters to do with health and safety. This should include consultation on the appropriate steps to take in light of the risks posed by the new strain of Covid-19.
  • Finally, under sections 44 and 100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, employees are protected from detriment or dismissal where there exist circumstances of danger which they reasonably believe to be serious and imminent, and they leave or propose to leave, or otherwise refuse to return to their place of work. There are also protections under these provisions for those who take appropriate steps to protect themselves or others in circumstances which the employee reasonably believes amounts to a serious and imminent danger., These rights remain very relevant to those engaged in face-to-face work in schools, especially in light of the new strain of Covid-19. Employees must not be subjected to any disadvantage, such as deductions from pay, where they exercise these rights.

We hope that that this makes our position clear and corrects the impression given by the e-mail from the DfE.

Finally we would like to show our appreciation for the work of our sister head teachers unions NAHT and ASCL during this difficult period. We have shared this letter with them and know that they are as exasperated with the Government as you are.

 

 

Mass Testing in Schools –  UNISON update 23/12/20

UNISON’s National Schools Committee and representatives of UNISON’s FE committee met with Department for Education (DfE) and NHS Test and Trace officials on Tuesday 22nd December to discuss the Government’s plans for mass testing of school staff and pupils in secondary schools and colleges in England in January.  Amongst a host of issues the committee highlighted concerns about the reliability of the proposed tests, numbers and roles of staff that would be involved, potential increased workloads, full training, availability of appropriate PPE, face coverings  and  the roll out of the programme to Primary  and Special  Schools.

In particular the committee made clear that whilst we support the use of mass testing in schools, that due to concerns with the high rate of false negative lateral flow test results , this test should not be used as an alternative to self-isolation of close contacts and bubbles following conformed Covid cases.  The British Medical Journal, World Health Organisation,  Royal Society of Statisticians and Royal College of Pathologists have all warned that these tests can miss a substantial proportion of cases and should not be used alone to identify the infection.   Additionally, government figures from a mass testing pilot in Liverpool in over 5,000 people without symptoms showed that up to half of positives were missed, which included up to 30% who had high viral loads and so had a higher risk of infecting others.  Recent press reports have also suggested that  some of these community based pilots may be suspended whilst further analysis is carried out.

Therefore UNISON calls on the DfE not to rush ahead with  programme in January, but to work with schools on a sensible timetable.  It is also vital that the Department amends its mass testing guidance to make clear that  schools should use testing only as an ‘additional’ measure to identify potential asymptotic cases and not  as an alternative to self-isolation of all close contacts and bubbles. DfE communications should also explain that the lateral flow test cannot confirm that an individual has not been infected with Covid-19, as this could lead to a false sense of security by people who test negative, which could lead them to unintentionally spread the virus.

We also call on the DfE to advise schools to continue on-line learning in January  beyond the first week currently proposed.  Full re-opening should only commence when schools and local public health authorities  are  satisfied that  local infection rates are at levels which make it safe for staff, pupils and communities  to return. We continue to call on government to rapidly expand the provision of laptop and internet access to ensure that all pupils have access to online learning.

UNISON’s schools committee previously agreed that:

  • We support mass testing in schools to try 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 reported high percentage of false negatives generated by the ‘lateral flow test’ being proposed it should only be used 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  will encourage staff to participate fully in the testing programme, subject to the above points

 

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