UNISON’s bargaining, negotiations and equalities departments are working hard to campaign and negotiate for our members so that they’re able to work and provide vital services in the safest way possible in these difficult times.
There are continuing negotiations across governments in the UK and with employers to demand adequate and safe personal protective equipment (PPE) for all workers, and access to testing for essential workers.
Assistant general secretary Christina McAnea, reporting to the union’s NEC, said: “We are all working in a fast-moving environment and so keeping advice and guidance updated for our members is vitally important.
“We have been keeping the UNISON website updated daily with information as it emerges from the government and with specific additional advice on all key issues relating to COVID-19.”
PPE remains the single most critical issue for UNISON members. The union has set up a PPE Alert on the website asking members from all sectors to report their PPE issues.
The information from this and the care hotline are being used to raise issues directly with government departments in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England, to demand that members are not putting themselves and their families, or the people they care for, at risk because of a lack of safe equipment in the workplace.
The union is also raising this issue with the Health and Safety Executive and highlighting issues in the media on a daily basis.
The main workforce issues for UNISON members remain:
- access to PPE across all sectors for relevant staff and prioritisation for key groups;
- increasing COVID-19 testing;
- getting full pay for staff who have been furloughed;
- impact on benefits eg working tax credit/universal credits on staff taking on additional hours during this crisis;
- access to pay for low-paid and zero-hours workers taking leave or sickness absence due to COVID-19 related issues;
- access to schools/childcare for key workers;
- free parking for key workers.
The union has produced lists of frequently asked questions on the website and this is being regularly monitored and updated.
In the past week, several meetings (by phone or video) have been held between senior union officers and government ministers and senior civil servants from different departments to discuss COVID-19 workforce issues.
Following pressure from UNISON, Public Health England has issued new guidance to include specific advice on PPE in social care and community settings. This has now become advice across the UK.
The union’s work continues across all service groups and we will continue to update advice and information as soon as possible.