Blog: Keeping the lights on

From the start of the Coronavirus crisis, the whole nation has united behind our key workers, acknowledging, celebrating and supporting the massive contribution that UNISON makes in critical public services like our NHS, social care and schools.

Yet it’s not only those sectors where public service workers are helping to keep our communities going – far from it. Every single UNISON member is playing a vital role – including the thousands of workers in the energy sector who are quite literally keeping the lights on and our homes warm.

I am so proud of the dedication and commitment our energy members have shown over these past weeks to support us all. Energy is a complex industry, with UNISON members sitting at the very heart of it. And they’ve remained operational and serving the public throughout. From the largest Liquefied Natural Gas Terminal in Europe on the Isle of Grain to the UK’s Gas and Electricity control centres managing the safe flow of power. From network engineers responding to Gas and Electrical disruptions across the country to the thousands of customer service advisors dealing with customer concerns and enquires.

Their work hasn’t been without challenges. How do you mobilise literally thousands of workers at the many Energy customer contact centres to be able to work from home in the space of a few days? How do you keep people safe while carrying out essential repair work on our gas and electricity distribution and supply system? All of these questions and more have had to be answered to ensure that we can all function at this difficult time. From the NHS ward to the parents trying to home school their children, meeting the nation’s energy needs remains vital.

Across the UK, UNISON reps and members in the energy sector have been working with employers to work out solutions to the many big problems we face. Often solutions have been possible and ways forward have been found, but we’ve been clear too, that when there are disagreements, we will stand shoulder to shoulder with our members – especially when it concerns health and safety. The safety of our members is our top priority and our bottom line.

So UNISON has been engaging with the Government, the HSE and the energy regulator to make sure our members concerns are addressed. We’ve been challenging them on a range of issues including the availability and deployment of PPE, the use of furlough in the workplace, what is and isn’t essential work and how safe distances can be maintained in energy workplaces.

We won’t stop raising concerns and we will not stop challenging Government and employers to keep our members safe.

So to our energy members, and all UNISON members wherever you work, I want to say a huge thank you or the incredible work you are doing. You are there for all of us during this very worrying time – and UNISON will always be there for you.