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UNISON Newsletter June 2021

Page 1 of June newsletter

Download a pdf here   or follow these links to individual articles:

UNISON wins extra ‘Covid’ leave day for all SBC staff

Since last year, UNISON has been raising the issue of employers recognising they need to do something to thank all staff who have been working through the Covid pandemic.

Our members have had many different experiences during Covid. This has ranged from juggling childcare and work or taking on a new role to support the changing needs of the pandemic through to carrying and taking the risk of working face to face with the public. All of us have worked to keep the public services this community relies on going.

The Council was not initially interested but we have kept plugging away and now we have won an additional one-off day’s leave for all staff. It’s the least we deserve.

All staff will benefit from this  – so if your colleagues are not in  UNISON ask them to join! There are more battles ahead, whether it’s over safety during the pandemic or making sure we can fight the cuts that are coming down the line from government. The more people who are in the union the better we can stand up for staff and services on all the issues, big or small.

Pass on the link here  join.unison.org.uk or ask your colleagues to email the branch for a membership form at unison@southend.gov.uk

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Employers’ Offer – Local Government Pay Insult

How do you think this government will reward all those public sector workers it spent months clapping for?

In 2020 we asked UNISON members what pay rise you felt local government workers deserved and the answer was 10% .

The employers’ latest offer was just 1.5%! This is an insult! It shows a blatant disregard for our hard work and sacrifices throughout the pandemic.

The employers also rejected the other part of the claim which included a 35 hour week, a homeworking allowance and a minimum 25 days annual leave for all.

UNISON has rejected this ‘offer’ and is calling on the local government employers to enter into urgent negotiations.

Councils need more funding from Central Government. They can afford it – they’ve thrown billions away on the failed track and trace system and schemes like ‘Eat Out to Help Out’. Now we need to see money being spent on public services, including on staff.

We urge every UNISON member to contact your MP, asking them if they support a fair pay rise for local government using this link: http://bit.ly/UNISONContactMP

There’s more information on the pay claim and publicity to use here:  http://bit.ly/Councilpay

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UNISON Black Members Self-Organised Group meeting

All Black members in Southend UNISON are invited to the next meeting of our Black Members’ Group. This is on Friday June 18th from 12.30-1.30pm. We held the first Southend Black members’ meeting in March and it became clear that Black members are facing a number of issues in the workplace. UNISON would like to provide a space to discuss those issues and encourage members to help and support each other in tackling them.

If you would like to attend then please contact the UNISON office on unison@southend.gov.uk for details of how to join the meeting. Let us know if there are specific issues you’d like to raise.

We hope to see as many Black members as possible at this meeting!

Louise McDermott and Gloria Lawton

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Point of View: Stop the Police Bill

As UNISON’s Equalities Officer, I spoke to a recent Southend rally against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Here’s a summary of what I had to say:

“If this law is passed, police would be able to put harsh restrictions on anyone protesting. They already have powers where there could be serious public disorder or disruption, but the new law would criminalise even peaceful protest if it causes ‘annoyance’ or is ‘disruptive’. Protests are designed to be noisy and visible so of course they are going to annoy someone!

Every one of UNISON’s protests in Southend, over library closures, care homes or our pay and pensions rallies, could have been illegal under this bill!  Without protest we would never have got the vote for women, stopped the poll tax or repealed unfair laws like Section 28. Protest gives an essential voice to minority groups, starts debate and empowers citizens. Recent protests like Black Lives Matter have highlighted issues, and brought changes in areas we never thought possible.

This Bill also has stings in its tail which would take us back to the bad old days of ‘stop and search’ and make life even harder for the travelling community, already marginalised and discriminated against.

We do not want the Home Secretary or the police to be able to say who can protest in this country.

The establishment is running scared because they have seen what the power of protest can do and they don’t like it one bit. We must keep the momentum going. That’s why I say KILL THE BILL!”

Louise McDermott, Equalities Officer

Read more about why UNISON says we should oppose the new Police Bill here: http://bit.ly/UNISONBill

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Local Government and Schools Pay Campaign

Employers offer 1.5% pay insult

Pay Claim Graphic

Council and school workers have kept the country going, and after a decade of cuts, it’s time for a decent pay rise. But the Goverment and our employers have offered a slap in the face – just 1.5%!

Support UNISON’s claim for a fair increase – 10% pay rise for local government workers.

We urge every member to email your councillor

Local councillors can voice their support and raise this issue directly with local government employers. It takes one minute using our tool here:  Email your councillor

Our claim is fair

10% would pull the the lowest paid to above £10 per hour – ​lifting them above the ​real ​living ​wage of £9.50 per hour (outside London).

Staff working in local government have seen up to 25% wiped from the value of their pay, after ten years of savage local authority cuts and pay restraint.

Local government workers have kept the country going during the COVID crisis, facing daily risks to do vital work and keep communities safe.

UNISON is clear – it is time for fair pay for council and school workers ✊

On 14 May 2021 the local government employers made a pay offer of 1.5%.

UNISON’s NJC committee – council and school staff elected by members – will meet on Friday 21 May, to decide on our formal response, as well as next steps for the negotiations and the campaign. We will keep this webpage up to date.

 

Use Your Vote in NEC Elections – Southend Nominations

NEC2021graphic

Elections for UNISON’s National Executive Council (NEC) take place from 4th May to 27th May. Look out for your ballot paper arriving in the post.

The NEC is a body made up of ordinary union members who are elected to run the union between conferences.

You will get a vote for seats representing our Region (Eastern), for your Service Group (Local Government, Community etc) and for national seats representing young workers, Black workers and disabled members.  Some of these seats are reserved for low paid and women members to ensure fair representation across the union.

Please make sure you read what the candidates have to say and vote for those you think will represent you best. Your vote can make a difference!

Southend’s Nominations:

Southend’s Branch Executive Committee looked at the requests for nomination that candidates sent us and agreed to nominate a number of them. Our reason for supporting these candidates is set out below:

“Southend branch has nominated candidates standing on a ‘Time For Real Change’ platform in the elections for UNISON’s governing National Executive Committee (NEC) for national, service group and regional seats.

They want to represent the needs of the grass roots rather than just going along with UNISON’s paid top officials and to shift union resources from the centre towards our local branches as we face the challenge of further Government cuts to funding, services and our rights.

These candidates all have a track record of standing up for members and services over pay, jobs, safety and discrimination.”

The candidates the Branch nominated include the following from our own Region:

Candidate portraits

April 28th – International Workers Memorial Day

Remember the Dead and Fight for the Living!

IWMD

Today, Wednesday 28th April is International Workers Memorial day 2021.

#IWMD2021 #IWMD

UNISON supports the minute’s silence at 12 noon to remember workers across the world who have lost their lives doing their jobs.

The Covid pandemic makes this particularly relevant. Workers in health and front line services of all sorts have put their safety on the line for all of us – often without proper protection. No one should have to suffer unecessarily because of poor conditions, inadequate health and safety, ruthless and penny-pinching employers or failure by government.

There’s information from the national Trades Union Congress here https://www.tuc.org.uk/wmd

and from UNISON here https://magazine.unison.org.uk/2021/04/12/workplace-safety-affects-us-all/

Covid-19 Mass Meeting for Schools and Early Years Members 27th January

Covid-19 – Schools and Early Years Mass Meeting:

UNISON is holding a mass national on-line meeting for schools and early years members in England on Wednesday 27 January at 5pm. We will talk through the issues facing schools and early years workers right now and will be answering members’ questions throughout the meeting.

Southend UNISON urges our members in schools and early years to attend this meeting.

The meeting is on-line and you can find details, including of how to join up  on the national website here.

The latest Covid advice can be found here.
National Schools Meeting

Sign our Early Years Petition

-Keep Early Years Safe and Funded

Early Years Petition

After the chaos of the return to school after Xmas, primary and secondary schools are now closed to all but vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers. However the ‘Early Years’ sector including nurseries,  is still fully open despite the impact on transmission of the Covid virus.

UNISON and the NEU have set up a petition to demand that Early Years is restricted like all other areas of education and that the government fund the sector properly until it is safe for them to open fully again.

Sign the petition here: Keep early years safe and funded (actionnetwork.org)
Write to your MP: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/earlyyearsletter/
Tweet at your MP: https://act.newmode.net/action/national-education-union/makeearlyyearssafe

#makeEYsafe #makeearlyearssafe #protectcommunities

URGENT Schools Return Advice:

Important – National January Advice for Schools

Unsafe school picture

This advice applies to all primary schools, special schools, SEND and early years settings in England.

  • In UNISON’s view, it is unsafe for you to attend the workplace at present if  your school is fully opened to all pupils.
  • Our advice is that you should decide to advise your head teacher or employer that you will not be attending the workplace but will be available to work remotely from home or only being in school supporting provision and the learning of key worker and vulnerable children if necessary.
  • Here is a letter for to send to your head teacher or employer: 

Your model letter

  • When sending this letter, you will also be asserting your legal right to be protected against any detrimental action by your employer, including to your pay. This right is explained in full in the model letter.
  • Our advice applies for at least the first two weeks of term, the same period for which secondary schools and some primary schools have already been instructed by the government to move to remote learning.
  • UNISON is issuing this advice after careful consideration of the advice which was apparently given to the government by the SAGE advisory group and the current position on infection rates.

Safety in schools

  • We understand that SAGE has advised the Government that schools should move to remote learning in order to help reduce the rate of spread of the COVID-19 virus.
  • The advice given by SAGE has only been adopted in relation to secondary schools and to primary schools in some Tier 4 areas.  Given the overall increase in infection rates, however, we believe it is unsafe for schools to reopen in any area at present.
  • Infection rates are far higher than at the end of last term. This increase has been promoted by the new variant of the COVID-19 virus which was not properly understood at that time.  These developments mean, in our view, that the risk assessments in place in schools at the end of last term cannot now be relied on by employers to demonstrate that workplaces are safe in these changed circumstances. We are calling on all employers in all schools, whatever age group they serve and whatever the local tier of restrictions, to review their risk assessments and safety measures before asking employees to return to the workplace.

Face to face provision

  • We accept that schools may need to provide face to face provision for vulnerable students and the children of key workers and are also expected to open for some exam groups.
  • This should happen after risk assessments have been reviewed and appropriate measures taken to ensure safety, including for necessary social distancing and limits on group sizes.
  • We are advising members that they should agree to make themselves available to attend the workplace to support these students on a rota basis. The model letter you can send to your headteacher/employer makes clear you are making yourself available to work from home or to support with this limited in-school provision.

Petition to make schools safe and protect communities

  • Along with the teachers’ union, the NEU, we have launched a public petition calling on the government to use this period of remote learning to establish how quickly the new variant of the virus is transmitted, and to establish measures to keep schools more “COVID secure”.

Sign the petition

Next steps

  • UNISON’s national schools committee meets on Monday 4 January to decide next steps and we will keep you updated via email. Please also follow our Facebook page for the latest information.
  • In the meantime, please use the model letter to notify your head teacher or principal of your position.

If you have any issues concerning Covid in your school, the advice above or any other concern, contact the UNISON branch at unison@southend.gov.uk

Urgent – Help Protect Redundancy Benefits

Local Government Redundancy Benefits Under Attack-

Urgent stampAre you in the Local Government Pension Scheme? – We need your help to lobby Government by Friday! :

  • Your payments and pension on redundancy are under  immediate  threat!
  • We have until this Friday 18th December to respond to the government
  • Every member can help – Download the model letter here
  • Add your details and email the letter to LGExitPay@communities.gov.uk (you will get an email saying the consultation is closed but as long as you’ve replied by 18th December it will count!)
  • Let UNISON know you’ve responded

The government are adding more changes to their ‘pension cap’ policy which will cut both redundancy pay and any early pension you are entitled to in the case of redundancy. This will not just affect the highest-paid but potentially every pension scheme member. The employer is making you go early – and you’re then being penalised for all your long service and years of pension contributions!

Their original policy penalised you if your redundancy pay plus the employer’s payment to support your pension came to £95k (even that limit affected many low-paid members) but now they’re going even further so most people will lose out.

This will condemn even more workers to lower benefits  just when they are older and will find it  harder to find a job at all, let alone with decent pay and conditions. It’s being rushed through at a time when government cuts are leading to job cuts across councils.

These are our rights – it’s in your terms and conditions that you get more than the legal minimum in redundancy pay and we’ve all spent years paying in to the pension scheme which helps protect our pension income if our employer makes us redundant.

Urgent stamp