Domestic Abuse and Covid-19

Domestic Abuse and Covid-19 – advice and support from the TUC

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) groups together all the UK’s trade unions. Their Education team have produced this advice on the threat posed by domestic abuse as we all face lockdown and isolation.

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The physical workplace can be a place of safety for those experiencing domestic abuse. Now, with stringent social distancing measures in place, that option may be gone.

In only the first weekend of UK lockdown, visits to the national abuse website increased by 150%. Domestic abuse has always been an issue for reps to engage with, but we need you to do this now more than ever.

That’s why today we are launching new guidance on what reps can do to ensure women and their children stay safe during this time. Please take a  look  at our new online domestic abuse guidance for reps

If you or anyone you know may have been affected by domestic abuse, the guidance contains information on how you can seek help.

For further resources on coronavirus, check out our recordings of our recent Coronavirus at Work webinars and our new guidance for unions.

28th April – Remember the Dead and Fight for the Living

International Workers’ Memorial Day Tuesday 28th April-   Join the minute’s silence at 11am

IWMS Selfie PosterEach year, trade unionists across the world mark all those who have lost their lives at work.
This year, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic makes this occasion more poignant than ever. The deaths of key workers in the crisis are avoidable and we must demand that they are all protected. We must make sure we mark this day despite the restrictions we are all under.
UNISON, along with other trade unions and organisations, is calling on all our members to join in a  minute’s silence at 11am Tuesday, 28th April.

What you can do
Whether you are at your workplace, are working from home, retired or perhaps self-isolating, you can still join in on the day:

  • Take a ‘selfie’ with our poster (or perhaps make your own)
  • Post it on your preferred social media and tag us – #unisonsouthend and #iwmd2020
  • You can also email your photo to unison@southend.gov.uk and we will put together an album for our website and Facebook page
  • If you will be in work, why not do a group selfie with your colleagues and encourage other UNISON members (and non-members) to take part? (keep a safe distance)
  • In central Southend, UNISON is arranging a ‘socially-distanced’ event on the steps of the Civic Centre at 11am so that we can have a collective (but safe!) meeting in memory of those who have lost their lives. If you work in the Civic Centre area or live nearby, please join us if you can
  • In the evening, UNISON’s Assistant General Secretary, Roger Mackenzie, will be one of the speakers at an online ‘Stand Up To Racism’ meeting, addressing why so many Covid-19 deaths have been of BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) people, particularly in the health and care sectors. The meeting will be livestreamed at 7pm on the Facebook page for Stand Up To Racism.

 

One of the slogans for International Workers’ Memorial Day has always been ‘Remember the Dead but Fight for the Living’. That idea has never been more relevant as we have seen health’ care and other key workers losing their lives, in the UK and around the world. We all join in the #clapforcarers but we need to fight for them, not just thank them.

We want to make sure we demand the things which will help protect frontline workers who continue to be at risk. That means giving a clear message that they all need the right level of PPE and access to testing, so they can be safe at work and help keep the rest of us healthy. These things have been too long in coming and standards have been sacrificed. So, we will be saying PPE Now! If you post online, use the hashtag #PPEnow .

Many of our members work for Southend Council and we expect the Council to support the minute’s silence. Ask your employer to allow everyone to join the minute’s silence and let UNISON know if they won’t!

Join the minute’s silence for Covid-19 dead 28th April

Remember COVID-19 dead this International Workers’ Memorial Day

IWMD will give us the chance to remember the workers who have died because of COVID-19

Tuesday 28 April is International Workers’ Memorial Day, when we remember all those who have died because of their work – and renew our pledge to fight for the living.

In the year of coronavirus, this day of commemoration has never been more important. And that is why UNISON is asking the country to observe a minute’s silence, to remember all the health, care and other key workers who have already lost their lives to COVID-19.

The campaign for a minute’s silence at 11am next Tuesday was launched earlier this week by UNISON, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives, which collectively represent more than a million NHS and public service workers, including porters, refuse collectors and care staff.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said it would be “the ultimate tribute to remember workers who’ve lost their lives and put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe and vital services running.

“Every year, the sacrifice of workers around the world is recognised, but this year has a special significance because of the pandemic.

“Thousands of key staff are on the frontline while the rest of us are in lockdown. That’s why we’ve issued this call for the whole country to take part and remember the sacrifices they’ve made. The best tribute we can all pay them is to stay inside to protect the NHS.”

Thousands of workers across the UK are caring for those suffering from COVID-19 or delivering vital public services that are vital for us all – potentially putting their own safety and even their own lives at risk.

In many cases, these workers know that, by simply doing their jobs, they are putting themselves at risk.

The risks faced by those working in the health and social care sectors has already been acknowledged, but there are also others – those working in childcare, police services and refuse collection, in hostels and rescue centres, in gas, water and electricity, and in transport services among them – whose work and dedication often goes unacknowledged.

Tragically, some of these workers have already died. In some cases, more could have been done to protect them, whether by better enforcement of social distancing, looking after workers with underlying health conditions or provision of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe.

While improvements have been seen in some areas, more needs to be done – specifically in relation to assessing the risks our members are facing and ensuring that all staff who require it are getting the protective equipment needed to do the job safely.

UNISON has never been afraid to demand the highest standards for workers; we have not been afraid to speak out and hold the government to account on providing the right PPE when staff need it, and to hold employers to account who are not doing enough to keep their workers safe.

All of this adds to the importance of observing a minutes’ silence at 11am next Tuesday.

But other things that you can do include:

  • tweeting us, @unisontheunion, your pictures of public service workers, whether of yourself, your colleagues or even those you may not personally know, continuing to do the jobs that are keeping us all safe – although don’t go out especially to get these;
  • if you are having a problem getting the PPE you need to keep you safe, let us know here;
  • email any other COVID-19 safety related issues to healthandsafety@unison.co.uk.

Schools – Don’t forget about Support Staff!

Letter to Government – Don’t Forget about Schools Support Staff on the Crisis!

To: Gavin Williamson
Secretary of State for Education

Dear Secretary of State,

Support Staff and the Coronavirus

As National Secretary of Education at UNISON, I am writing to you to raise concerns about the current support and advice that is being offered to school support staff and other education support workers during the Coronavirus crisis.
Following your letter which was issued last week to Heads and Teachers, we are deeply concerned that this guidance is not clear or relatable to many other key workers who work in schools.
In the background, UNISON has been working closely with civil servants in the Department for Education to try to ensure that guidance being issued from the DfE works for all staff. We havestruggled at times to get our message across, but I recognise that they are very busy and
trying their best. In the circumstances UNISON has taken a pragmatic approach and not sought to undermine the Government at this time of crisis.
Sadly, far too many messages have excluded 50% of the workforce – school support staff and other education support workers. This was reflected in a speech you gave last week praising the contributions of heads and teachers and which you have now re-iterated in your letter to them.
You are right they are crucial – but so are support staff. In many schools and local authority hubs most staff working are support staff. Other schools are being totally run by heads and support staff. Support staff are putting themselves at risk by working directly with pupils, many of whom will have parents carrying out key worker roles which increases their risks of
exposure to the virus.
The most vulnerable pupils still in school usually respond best to their teaching assistants, and the nature of the care provided often means social distancing between support staff and pupils is impossible to implement, particularly in SEND settings.
We still await guidance around the use of PPE which the DfE has said it will provide. We know that there are videos on the use of PPE for NHS staff that explain what PPE is necessary inwhat situations and we believe this advice should be made widely available.
Many support staff have volunteered to ive up their Easter holidays, yet there has been no guidance on how this will work from your department and there are other issues that specifically affect support staff that have not been addressed.
Finally, I note that you have regularly spoken to Heads and teachers’ unions – but again not support staff representatives. UNISON’s top priority throughout has been, and will continue to be, to work jointly to support schools and their staff in their leading role in the fight against this
pandemic. In these circumstances we believe our different perspective should also be considered.
I would welcome your thoughts on why you and your department have so far ignored school and other education support staff and their  representatives and what can be done to address this.
Support staff are now questioning whether we are all in it together after all.
Yours sincerely
Jon Richards
National Secretary
Education

National Advice for Schools Workers

National UNISON Covid-19 Advice for Schools Workers-

UNISON has now provided updated information for schools workers on the national website.  This can be found here.

You can also download UNISON’s Frequently Asked Questions for Schools Workers in England as a pdf here.

If you have further questions or need UNISON’s advice on your situation or the situation in your school, please contact Southend Branch on unison@southend.gov.uk or by phone on 01702 215980 (leave a message).

National Advice for Social Care Workers

National Advice for Social Care Workers

UNISON nationally has issued advice for social care workers – follow the link below to read this.

Coronavirus advice for social care workers

Southend UNISON will also do everything we can to support our members locally. You can reach us on unison@southend.gov.uk or by phone on 01702 215980 (leave a message). 

If you or your colleagues are union members but do not receive emails from UNISON, please email us at unison@southend.gov.uk to enable us to ensure we can keep in touch with you.

Please keep in touch with your union over these issues, whether with good stories about how we are coping safely or your concerns and worries, so we can collectively support each other in what are unprecedented times.

UNISON Action on Sickness and Stress

UNISON Action on Sickness and Stress

More and more of us face formal sickness processes at work, with the stress of knowing our jobs could be on the line through no fault of our own.

Southend UNISON stewards recently  took part in 2 days of training looking at how best to support  members when they are faced with a formal sickness absence process.

Sickness training delegates
Southend activists on the Sickness Process training course

In Southend branch we know these processes are becoming more and more common. We find cases also more often relate to stress and anxiety, often due to the volume of work and lack of management support or to  long-standing underlying health issues which employers are failing to address with ‘reasonable adjustments’ as set out in the Equalities Act.

UNISON nationally and as a branch has highlighted how the massive cuts in local government funding since 2008 were bound to store up trouble as staff workloads have doubled as the workforce has been axed.

It’s coming home to roost now with increased sickness figures relating  to stress are increasingly being reported.

Find out more about stress at work and what you can do to  protect yourself and make our workplaces safe – see UNISON’s advice here!

Find out more about ‘reasonable adjustments’ to support your disability/health issues on the Worksmart site  here

Contact your steward or the branch if you  have questions, ideas or need our help.

Southend Unison at Winter Pride!

On Saturday 29th February, Southend Pride will be holding their annual Winter Pride event.

Southend Unison will be supporting, with a stall. All members are welcome to come along on the day to help out or just to enjoy all that this event offers.

Winter Pride is a great family day out which raises the visibility of the LGBT+ community and promotes diversity and inclusion. Southend Unison are proud to support Southend Pride in these aims, and looks forward to seeing members at this event.

21st March – Book your seats to UN Anti-Racism Day demo in London

PLEASE NOTE – Due to the ongoing Coronavirus crisis the 21st March demonstration has been postponed and the coach from Southend has been cancelled until we know what new arrangements will be. The fight against racism continues – follow Stand Up To Racism.

Southend UNISON has arranged coach transport to London on Saturday 21st March to join the annual ‘UN Anti-Racism Day’ demonstration.  Seats are free to UNISON members , £10/£5 to non-members and can be booked here. The coach is expected to leave from Shoebury at around 9am but detailed timings will be given nearer the date.

Stand Up To racism demo flyerThe demo is organised by Stand Up To Racism and aims to bring together all those who oppose the politics of racist scapegoating and division. Following the Windrush scandal, the rise in hate attacks and the ‘mainstreaming’ of racist ideas and propaganda, it’s more important than ever that we make our voices heard!