July Newsletter

Southend UNISON Newsletter July 2021

Follow these links to individual articles:

Council Cuts
UNISON Financial Assistance
Disabled Members’ Officer
Black Members’ Education Weekend 2021
National Conference Report

or download a pdf here


Council Cuts and Restructures

Picture of civic centreSouthend Council aim to save £1 million a year by restructuring ‘business support’ services across the organisation. This affects 157 existing posts and threatens to cut 28 jobs. The plan is to centralise roles which are considered to be ‘admin’, hoping to make savings by cutting across specialisms.

UNISON is supporting members who face uncertainty and the threat of redundancy and will give everyone the individual representation they need. We are also questioning the impact of the proposals. ‘Admin’ and support jobs aren’t just filing or paper shuffling – they’re a vital support for front line services.

We wonder what will happen in your team when your ‘admin’ colleagues are removed and put into a generic ‘business support’ team? We bet we all have to shoulder the added tasks that they can no longer do!

Restructures and cost savings aren’t a victimless crime! They can cost our members their livelihoods but they also make it harder and more stressful for the staff who are left to deliver the services our community needs.
If you want to help defend all our jobs and services for the future – join us!
https://join.unison.org.uk/

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Financial Assistance: National Welfare Support

members welfareIf you are a UNISON member and you are experiencing financial difficulties, whether due to coronavirus or other circumstances, our national welfare scheme ‘There for You’ can offer you support, including one-off grants.

You can find details of the benefits and how to apply at our ‘There For You’ web pages – There for You (UNISON Welfare) | Member support and services | UNISON National

School uniform grants
COVID-19 response fund
Other financial assistance
UNISON benefits calculator
UNISON budget planner
Help with debt

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Disabled Members Officer: What I do and  UNISON’s Disabled Members’ Conference

My name is Jill Henson, I am a Business Support Officer in the Department for People, based, usually at any rate, at Civic 1. I am the branch Disabled Members Officer. I am myself disabled, I am Spina Bifida (happy to expand on what that actually is and how it affects me if you wish to ask me; but won’t dwell on it here).

In my role, I focus on issues relating to disability and work to improve policies and practice relating to disabled members within workplaces. I support members in attending Absence Review Meetings, in accessing appropriate equipment and other support to enable them to carry out their jobs and in ensuring that reasonable adjustments are being made by the employer. A great resource for members and their managers alike is the government’s Access To Work service: https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work 

As we all know, the last 15 months has been a very challenging time, but it has also forced managers to be more flexible in their approach to how and where work can be done. This has really helped us as disabled members, as we don’t have the travelling time and all the energy that undertaking and planning this involves. Sickness absence has actually reduced for us – on a day when you’re feeling a little below par and would not be fit enough to travel to the office, we can still sometimes work from home, which is beneficial to both the individual and the employer.

UNISON’s Disabled Members Conference happens once a year and is a space to discuss and vote on issues relevant to disabled members and feed them into the wider union. You can find Conference information here – https://www.unison.org.uk/events/2021-national-disabled-members-conference/

Any disabled member can put themselves forward – get in touch if you are interested – it would be brilliant to get our branch represented at this year’s conference. But don’t delay too long! We will meet all expenses and assist in getting time off to attend. Email unison@southend.gov.uk with a subject of Disabled Members Conference

by Jill Henson, Disabled members officer

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Black Members’ Education Weekend 2021

At the Five Lakes Resort, Colchester Road Essex CM9 8HX
Starts 4.30pm on 12 November Ends 2.00 pm on 14 November 2021

  • Black members logo
    This weekend is open to any Black Member in the Eastern region who is involved in their branch or the Self Organised Group – or thinking about getting more active. There will be a range of workshops during the weekend including:

• Tim Roberts – Regional Secretary
• Thompson Solicitors – Race Discrimination workshop
• Developing future leaders in UNISON
• Developing your confidence and strategies for progression
• Anti Racism – Organising Black workers in the workplace
• Impact of long Covid – resources for Black members

The Eastern Region Black Members Self Organised Group Annual General Meeting 2021 will be held during the weekend.

This event is free for members. Your branch will pay your registration fee, your travel costs and any additional expenses you incur due to childcare or facilitation costs. If there is sufficient demand then a crèche will be provided. Partner rate of £120 is available where you wish to bring your partner and you are sharing a room. The member is responsible for this cost not UNISON and will be asked to pay the hotel direct to secure the booking.

What to do next?
Contact your branch and ask for approval to attend. Complete the application form and then send it to your branch to authorise. Please return your completed form by Friday 23 July 2021 to easterneducation@unison.co.uk. Any problems, please contact Andrea Shute on easterneducation@unison.co.uk or 01245 608905.

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National Conference Report by Claire Wormald

Virtual rostrumThis year’s national UNISON conference was held online for the first time. Our Branch Secretary, Claire Wormald attended as a delegate and reports on some of the key debates:

• Motion 72: the Branch Resources Review

This branch had mandated a vote against, as we felt what this motion proposed was insufficient, incomplete and we felt all our branches deserve better.
Over 20 people wanted to speak for and against as the decision would impact on the resources for branches and therefore on the ability of the union to organise around cuts and job losses. The review of branch resources had been requested 2 years ago as branches are doing 80% of the work with less than 23% of the funding from national subs. This formula had never been reviewed despite fragmentation and privatisation increasing the number of employers we have to deal with. Over 20 years, our branch has gone from 1 to 118 employers to deal with just as facility time has been cut.
Branch activists were reporting burnout due to the constant tidal wave of case work & ‘restructures’ with ability to push the organising agenda on the edge of a precipice, so this was a heartfelt and passionate debate.
The vote to move conference business was placed early on and was carried, due, many believe, to the gremlins in the electronic voting system. The motion was passed – if we are lucky the 0.5% increase in branch funding this motion offered might buy a few more UNISON lanyards but not much more!

• Motion 25: Securing an Equal and Sustainable Post Pandemic Settlement:

A lively debate with amendments calling on the unions to come out fighting, saying that members cannot carry the financial can for this crisis and that we need to strengthen union solidarity. Another amendment highlighted the importance of the unions being part of an international movement on climate change, with the global south suffering due to the richer countries emitting 50% of CO2 and the global south 7% . This makes the decision by Johnson to reduce the foreign aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% even more despicable as this country adds to the underlying issues creating the poverty and thus the need for aid.

• Motion 59: Tacking climate change:

Another really interesting motion which made me realise how little as a branch we do about this (although we did join in the climate strikes called by Greta Thunberg). We need to get some green reps (yes they exist!) and start organising workers to put pressure on the COP26 summit this autumn in Glasgow and of course influence the council locally.

• Motion 27: No back to normal for disabled workers:

After years of saying no to requests of reasonable adjustments to include working from home employers are now realising this is doable. Disabled members reported back great advantages to this, but also were clear this is not an excuse for the employers not to provide reasonable adjustments back at work and that equipment must be provided for the home environment.

• Motion 6: Trade union recognition for outsourced workers:

A lack of union recognition leads to lowering of pay and worse conditions. It notes the recent fire and rehire tactics emerging in some areas despite the fact that these companies are being supported with public money – but using tactics like this to squeeze profits out of workers. There have been some wins over this recently including Norfolk street cleaners.

by Claire Wormald, Branch Secretary

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Test of TOC

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