The branch is continuing to support members with queries about Covid-19, working conditions, PPE, pay issues, self-isolation, social distancing and shielding.
There are many different scenarios and variations of advice required depending on each member’s circumstances. This advice has also changed throughout the pandemic as both Public Health and the Local Government Association’s joint advice with trade unions has changed.
UNISON is continuing to negotiate, challenge and shape employers’ positions. This is done most effectively where we are recognised (and therefore have most influence), and harder when we are not.
It has been important to have the best possible positions adopted by WSCC. This directly determines the working environment where thousands of our members are, at the council and in schools. It should also influence wider public service providers in the county, particularly those with a contractual relationship with the council. The council has written to all its contract providers asking them to mirror council provisions.
Adopting LGA advice
We have recently liaised with WSCC so that it has now adopted the Local Government Association’s advice in full. This is important particularly in regard to how to treat staff who live with someone in the ‘vulnerable’ category who cannot work from home. Members may have spotted this change made to the advice issued to staff by the council. We are expectant that this should change things for the better in schools and then academies thereafter.
We would encourage members to talk to colleagues who are not in UNISON to let them know about the branch’s role and involvement. UNISON’s influence is of course also brought to bear at a regional and national level. Employers sometimes do immediately adopt the best position UNISON could ever hope for – but often this is not the case!
Advice for schools members
We have unfortunately found the WSCC Schools service to be slow and unresponsive at times. This can mean that changes in positions on how staff should be treated within WSCC maintained schools are slow to be updated and communicated to schools members. As stated above, WSCC has changed its position to provide for full pay for staff who cannot work from home and must socially distance themselves because they live with a vulnerable person.
If you work in a school and you are being forced to work, even though social distancing cannot be maintained in the school and you live with someone who is vulnerable, please contact the branch or your rep and we will support you to resolve this.
A rep in each workplace
It is increasingly important that UNISON has a rep in every workplace. This helps us solve local issues much faster and generally means there are better outcomes for teams and individual members. Perhaps your team could elect a UNISON Rep to get better plugged in to the branch and branch advice? More details are available here.
As well as improvements to the collective positions of employers, the branch has had a number of wins for individuals, and we give you some examples below.
- A member with a pregnant partner who after taking advice from us and discussing this with his Head teacher was allowed to work from home
- Halting unnecessary sickness absence meetings; a member in a Stage 2 sickness process has had her employer agree to keep her on full pay even though her entitlement to full pay has been exhausted
- Postponing some restructures and TUPE transfers, where meaningful consultation with trade unions and members would be impossible. This is keeping some members in jobs at the current time.
We also have of course had a number of situations where the employer has been more resistant to change, and grievances have been lodged and where appropriate legal advice is being sought.
If you need advice from the branch, please get in touch.