UNISON president Josie Bird opened the virtual special local government conference on Sunday with a call for delegates to observe a minute’s silence, to remember all those who have lost their lives during the pandemic.
Summing up the seismic impact that COVID-19 has had on staff, Ms Bird said: “The last 15 months have been a time that none of us has experienced before – and no one would wish to again.
“I’m sure that we will all have had our own experiences of death, grief, illness and certainly isolation. We can relate to and share the thoughts and feelings of the many thousands of people across the country who have been through the same thing.
“We share the feelings of grief for the people who have died during the pandemic.”
Ms Bird paid tribute to local government workers’ crucial role keeping the country going during a year like no other. She added: “COVID-19 has had a massive effect on our working lives, and in some cases some of those changes are likely to be permanent.
“But the pandemic has also shown the extent to which the country relies on public services and local government workers in particular.
“Schools and social care have rightly featured prominently in the public consciousness. But less prominent, but just as important, has been all the other work that takes place across local government.
“Areas such as refuse collection, bereavement services, and all the other so-called back office services that have kept the infrastructure of our communities running smoothly and have been critical during the pandemic.
Ms Bird highlighted the important role delegates’ contributions play as a way of demonstrating and celebrating the importance of local government workers during ‘the most difficult of times’.