As staff and students return to the classroom, the feelings are one of a mixture of relief and anxiety. Relief for parents that their children can be reunited with friends and resume their education, and anxiety over what the increased exposure to others will mean for their household and the wider community. For UNISON’s many school-based members, I’m sure these feelings will be echoed. You can read our latest advice for schools and early years members here.
Recent reports suggest that many NHS staff are still suffering emotionally following the first peak of the Covid-19 crisis, and cases are on the rise again. You have all worked so hard through this, which is why UNISON wrote to the government at the end of August, asking for an immediate raise for all NHS staff of at least £2k. We won’t stop there and are asking NHS members to support this campaign, as parliament returns, with two days of campaigning activity next week. You can add your voice to the campaign on our dedicated portal, and we will amplify your voices during a 2–day digital campaign between 16-18 September. If you’re a social media user yourself, then please tag @UNISONSE in your social media posts on this and use the hashtag #OneTeam2K.
Hearing Boris Johnson’s press conference earlier this week, we hear once again a Prime Minister that over promises, under delivers and continues to fail the country on so many levels over the pandemic. His promises of being ‘back to normal by Christmas’ were premature, and we are likely to be under tight restrictions for months to come. The sharp rise in cases is of real concern, but following months of Government mixed messages and U-turns, is it any wonder that cases are on the rise? Unsurprisingly, the government are appearing to blame the public, for the increase in cases, the shortage of tests and the failures of the test and trace system. But, please, still go to the pub!
Of course, the majority of our members have been at work throughout the crisis, whether on the frontline or working remotely. But as the furlough scheme is phased out, and large-scale redundancies announced daily, we cannot escape the fact that many UNISON members are entering the autumn with real concern over their job security. Our regional education team will be running ‘Time to change’ – a series of webinars to support members through the coming challenges. We are here to support all members, during the pandemic and beyond, so please encourage your members to sign up.
As you should be aware, our entire education programme has moved online until March 2021, and the new programme is now available, both for activist education and member learning. I am delighted that the first cohort of our newly recruited Health & Safety reps, have started their online training this week, and the next course, starting 9 November, is now booking.
As the union continues to support members working on the frontline of the crisis, this week, we have launched a Covid-19 workplace exposure questionnaire, in association with Thompsons solicitors. We encourage all branches and members to engage with this survey to inform us of the situation in workplaces better and to improve workplace safety. There has never been a more critical time to focus on Health and Safety at work, which is why we have been actively recruiting Health & Safety reps across the region and the wider union for some months now. We need your help with this now more than ever.
Keep yourselves, colleagues and your families safe.