Belated May Day greetings. A massive thank you to everyone supporting members through redeployment, dealing with furloughed staff and the urgent advice to members over safe working and access to appropriate PPE. I’d also like to extend my thanks to UNISON regional staff who are working incredibly hard behind the scenes to offer continuity and support, advice and assistance during these incredibly difficult times.
As the nation joined trade unions this year on Workers’ Memorial Day, to honour those key workers who have lost their lives to Covid-19, UNISON launched ‘PPE not Promises’ – highlighting the reality that a minute’s silence and clapping on our doorsteps once a week, is not enough to protect workers whilst Covid-19 continues to spread through our communities. Care homes have become the new frontline in the battle against this virus, with care home deaths tripling in a week across the South East region.
Whilst many of those who are still employed can work from home, so many of our members are exposed to the virus daily. The speculation and leaks this week on the Government’s plan for returning the country to work, is desperately lacking in detail, and devoid of any obvious regard for safety of workers. Thorough and comprehensive risk assessments will be necessary to ensure that workplaces are safe to return too, and that all members are kept safe from harm. This is the biggest challenge since the Health & Safety at Work Act became law, and trade union Health & Safety reps are needed now more than ever before, in every workplace up and down the country.
Over the coming weeks and months, we need to work together to recruit a new army of Health & Safety reps across the region. Today, on our website, we have launched a new recruitment initiative, Protect your colleagues when lockdown ends. We hope that we can work together to grow our base of Health and Safety reps. Online resources are being produced to get new activists up and running as soon as we possibly can.
Under normal times, we would have just returned from the UNISON South East ‘BIG Weekend’, which of course has been postponed until later in the year. We had a popular workshop planned, on creating digital video content, and today, we’re asking if you can help us to create a new recruitment video. Whist our tips won’t replicate the full course, it would be fantastic if you could help us to make this short video, for new NHS staff who are joining during the most difficult of times.
The strength of the union and its activists to get us through the toughest of times, as we currently are, leaves me in no doubt that when we do meet in person again, we’ll be bigger, better and stronger than ever before.
One thing is certain, the world of work has changed irrevocably forever, but the need for trade unions and UNISON is now more important than ever before.
I hope you have a enjoyable bank holiday weekend. Stay safe and well.