The statement below will go out as an email to all members this afternoon.
Dear UNISON Member
This is our latest update on COVID-19.
Firstly, we have been informed by most of the employers who recognise our union that they have today updated their own advice to employees. If you have any questions or concerns therefore, we would direct you to that guidance in the first instance.
Where such guidance does not exist, or where you have concerns that cannot be resolved by speaking to your manager, then please speak to your workplace rep in the first instance. If you do not have a rep, then we can be contacted on either 0161 794 7425 or 0800 0857 857. We are strongly encouraging all workplaces to elect a rep or a point of contact for reasons that were set out in the email we sent this morning.
We continue to hear of workers being asked to come into work unnecessarily, and where we are made aware of this, we are dealing with it as our top priority. Stronger guidance on this does appear to have been issued to staff today, but if that is not the case in your workplace, or the guidance is either not been followed or not strong enough, then please challenge it with our support. We remind members that under section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, you are protected from having to place yourself in the way of unreasonable harm or danger.
One area that we are working hard on is to try and secure testing facilities and appropriate PPE for those members who remain in the workplace. This is difficult due to the shortage of them, but we are doing our best and would again remind members that if you do not have the correct PPE – whether it is your employers fault or not – this needs to be factored in to how you are required to work, and, if you cannot work safely without it, you should not be made to do that particular task.
Beyond our first priority – which is to try and help you to stay safe – we are working to ensure members do not suffer any detriment to pay or terms and conditions as a result of Coronavirus. Most employers have now confirmed that to be the case (check local guidance if unsure and contact us if necessary), but we have some employers who operate commercially who have not done so. You will be aware of our success in protecting care workers from previous emails. I can confirm we are also working hard to extend the same protection to all our members.
As we move forward into a situation where the vast majority of our members are working from home, we will step up our efforts to make sure that employers are observing their duty of care to our members. Working from home does not mean working unsafely, without breaks and in a way that damages your mental health or restricts your ability to properly care for children or loved ones. The Council has referenced this in guidance to staff today and our intention is to build on this with the Council and other employers.
Finally, the pandemic has undoubtedly had an impact on how we operate as a union branch. I write that as somebody who is now working early in the morning and in the evening – as well as some of the day, in order to spend some time with my children, while my wife completes her full-time job. We held a successful branch officers meeting on Zoom earlier and will aim to replicate this frequently, with all workplace reps involved as often as possible.
Please take care. We will continue to send out updates as often as we can.
All the best,