Pay & COVID Workforce Issues Update

Pay 2021 

The SJC Steering Group met with COSLA last week to discuss pay.  To say we were disappointed by that meeting would be an understatement.  

COSLA asked us to talk through our claim, which we did, despite having already done so when we presented it on the 16th December.   

Their response was to tell us that they had no mandate to make any offer at this stage and would come back to us once the Scottish Government’s budget had been finalised in March.   

We have written to all Council Leaders to outline our concerns with this approach. We will keep you updated.   

Workforce Issues Group Update 

The Workforce Issues Group met on the 18th February 2021 and covered a number of issues: 

1.    Schools return – It was noted that the Scottish Government had announced an additional £70m for local government to fund the mitigations necessary to facilitate the safe re-opening of schools.  This money is solely for this purpose and does not address the wider LG funding gap which continues to exist. 

Representations were made by several participants re the suitability of face coverings and face masks. 

The inconsistency of approach across different local authorities was discussed.

Please also encourage members to sign up to the Big Blethers taking place over the coming weeks and submit questions on their concerns in advance – this is their opportunity to express those concerns and get answers to them direct from the decision makers.  

Details here: https://professionallearning.education.gov.scot/learn/events/2021/february/public-health-blether-school-support-staff 

A copy of the e-mail issued to all UNISON members in education earlier this week can be read here: https://www.unison-scotland.org/education-elc-re-opening-monday-22-february 

2.    Vaccinations – We pressed COSLA and Scottish Government officials re vaccination prioritisation for all staff working in ASN settings.  They responded that they were limited to the JCVI prioritisation list and that there were issues re supply.  Colleagues who had attended CERG that morning indicated that they understood LAs could apply a liberal approach and encouraged this.  We will update when we have more. 

3.    Forthcoming Elections – we received a presentation from the Chair of the Electoral Management Board for Scotland, Malcolm Burr, on the safety measures being put in place to address our concerns about worker safety in the conduct of the forthcoming parliamentary elections.  It was heartening to hear from SOLACE representatives that they shared the concerns expressed and had these uppermost in their minds in the planning and preparations they were putting in place. Malcolm stated that a number of measures were being undertaken including: 

  • Expansion of postal voting to reduce the number of people turning up to polling stations. 
  • A complete review and risk assessment of all polling stations, polling places and counting places to ensure they can be, and are, adapted for the mitigations that will be necessary to protect workers during the conduct of the poll. 
  • A reduction in the number of electors allocated to each polling station (to 800) to reduce the numbers that will turn up to each. 
  • A review of polling places to ensure that where they host multiple polling stations that there are separate entry/exit points for each station and where not expanding the number of polling places. 
  • Emergency proxy voting to account for those who might have to self-isolate after the postal vote application deadline to ensure they don’t breach Covid isolation rules by turning up to a polling station. 
  • Provision of PPE, additional cleaning materials, social distancing and screens for all polling stations and counting places.  This will all take additional staff, which we flagged. 
  • Directions provided to all returning Officers stating that there should be no overnight counting of ballots – given the additional mitigations that were being out in place for the count they needed to take account of the fact that the whole process will take much longer than normal and they don’t want people doing it when they are tired. 
  • Restrictions on the numbers allowed in to the count, to only those with a statutory right to be there, and only allowing entry to those who attend a safety briefing in advance. 
  • Additional use of the police and ‘Covid Marshalls’ to help enforce mitigations. 

We asked that risk assessments were shared with local TU reps in advance and this was agreed.  We will be requesting  risk assessments from the local returning officer’s and we will flag up further concerns as members raise these with us.

It was also agreed that Malcolm Burr would give us another briefing closer to the elections so that we could raise any issues at that time. 

Expansion of asymptomatic testing 

Asymptomatic testing has now been expanded to cover close contacts of people who test positive for COVID.  As well as being asked to isolate for 10 days, these individuals will also now be asked, as a matter of course, to get tested as well. And if they then test positive, their contacts will be traced, so that more chains of transmission can be broken.  

More information here: https://www.gov.scot/news/close-contacts-to-be-offered-testing 

To UNISON members in Education

You will be aware of the Scottish Government’s intention to push on with the full re-opening of Early Years and P1-P3 education services from 22 February. 

The UNISON Stirling branch remains concerned about the pace and breadth of the plans despite the reassurances offered by the Scottish Government and the wider societal pressure to reopen schools and nurseries.  

The UNISON Stirling branch is therefore continuing to pursue discussions with Stirling Council over how this will be managed including the need to maintain robust risk assessments and the associated mitigations. The national guidance on the two metre rule should be strictly adhered to and rooms/work areas must have signage stating how many adults are permitted. This means that the capacity of services will be reduced. Guidance on ventilation and the maintenance of “bubbles” must also be strictly adhered to across the city. 

The Scottish Government have now confirmed that testing will be rolled out to everyone in stand-alone Early Years Establishments. We are pushing for the quick implementation of this. 

Those who are clinically vulnerable should not be pressurised to attend the workplace. Those in the extremely clinically vulnerable group (shielding) should not attend the workplace. 

The UNISON Stirling branch asks that members raise concerns on any of the above matters with their workplace steward or directly with the branch. The branch will give clear advice under health and safety regulations and Section 44 of the Employment Act on an individual and collective basis where necessary. We will raise matters on your behalf with local and senior management in Education and resist any breaches of agreed mitigations.  

We will do all we can to protect members at this time. 

Annual General Meeting 24 Feb

As you will be aware your UNISON branch AGM will be held a bit differently this year. Like most things we have gone virtual and the meeting will be held on the 24th February 12-2p.m, Papers and Teams link will be sent the day before (23rd February) to those who confirmed attendance.

As you will be aware your UNISON branch AGM will be held a bit differently this year. Like most things we have gone virtual and the meeting will be held on the 24th February 12-2p.m, Papers and Teams link will be sent the day before (23rd February) to those who confirmed attendance. To confirm attendance please

please reply by email to The Branch Secretary, Lorraine Thomson, thomsonl34s@stirling.gov.uk to confirm attendance and include your; name, workplace and current e-mail. AGM papers will be attached to the Teams video link once attendance is confirmed the day before the AGM. Should any member not attending the AGM wish a copy of the AGM papers please e-mail the branch directly.

Please reply by no later than 9a.m on Tuesday 23rd February 2021, to allow us to send out the relevant papers and your link to the meeting.

You will have already received either an email and a letter about this. If you haven’t then please get in touch with the branch asap so that we can facilitate your participation in your branch democracy.

We are delighted that our new General Secretary Christina McAnea has agreed to come along and address our meeting to set out not only the unions key priorities but also how we face the challenge of the COVID pandemic. Christina is not only the first female General Secretary  but also the first Scottish General Secretary, she has a long track record of fighting on behalf of our members and a track record of winning those fights.

We look forward to seeing you at the AGM

COVID Workforce Issues Update Feb 2021


COVID Workforce Issues Update Schools New

Schools Reopening Guidance

The Scottish Government guidance for the phased re-opening of schools, as announced by the First Minister on Tuesday 16 Feb, has now been published and can be found here:  https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-schools-reopening

Schools 

1. The supplementary guidance on the phased reopening of schools has been delayed and we now anticipate that being published on Today morning. 

2. The technical guidance for schools was published on Friday afternoon and can be found here: 

https://education.gov.scot/improvement/covid-19-education-recovery/cerg-guidance

3. Coronavirus (COVID19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues – advice on mitigations to minimise transmission during phased return to in-person learning. 

In support of the advice which was published on 3 February, the advisory sub-group has considered its existing advice on the mitigations required to ensure a safe return to in-person learning for staff and pupils, and has identified some key areas where the advice should be strengthened. Where no amendment has been made, the existing advice still stands. 

This advice is subject to continued reductions in prevalence and community transmission of the virus, no significant changes in the evidence, and reassurance that appropriate infection prevention and control mitigations are in place both within schools and ELC settings, and in the wider community.   

Link to the full guidance is below but the key messages are: 

  • while vaccination is being rolled out, non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as physical distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, face coverings and zero-tolerance to symptoms are the main public health tool against COVID-19. It is important, therefore, to focus on how to encourage and support widespread compliance with these interventions, including clear, unambiguous guidance on the required behaviour. 
  • a combination of physical distancing approaches that prevent crowding (e.g. classroom distancing, staggered start times), especially in older age groups, along with hygiene and safety measures (e.g. handwashing, cleaning, ventilation) have a role in limiting the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in educational settings. Measures should be adapted to the age group and the setting. It has not been possible, thus far, to assess the effectiveness of individual measures
  • there are already a number of mitigations in place to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in schools and ELC settings in Scotland, and these all continue to apply to the new variant (B.1.1.7). Advice from the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), published in January 2021, on Mitigations to Reduce Transmission of the New Variant SARS-CoV-2 Virus, concluded that a step change in the rigour of application of mitigations is required, given the increased transmission risk associated with the new variant. 
  • schools and ELC settings should therefore place very high priority on reinforcing the mitigations designed to reduce the risk for staff and pupils as set out in the existing guidance on reducing the risks from COVID-19 in schools and any supplementary guidance associated with the phased reopening of schools; and the equivalent guidance on ELC settings, Childminding settings and School-Aged Childcare. Risk communication, community engagement and ongoing learning about implementation good practice, are crucial components of an effective response. 
  • Scottish Government, Education Scotland and local authorities should provide appropriate support to schools and ELC settings to enable them to implement the mitigations fully, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff, children and young people, taking into account local circumstances and the practical constraints faced by different schools in terms of issues such as building design.   
  • as an additional protective measure, 2 metre distancing should be put in place at the current time for secondary-aged pupils, in addition to continuing to be in place for staff in secondary schools 
  • physical distancing requirements in primary schools remain unchanged: 2 metre distancing between adults not from the same household should be maintained. There should also be 2 metre distancing between adults and primary aged children whenever possible.  
  • in line with the strengthened advice on 2 metre physical distancing in secondary schools, it will be also be necessary to ensure 2 metre distancing on school transport for secondary schools, recognising that this may not be possible in the case of school taxis or planes. 
  • it was noted that local authorities and schools, as they begin to return on a phased basis, will start routinely to offer at-home testing using lateral flow devices to:  all primary, secondary and special school staff in local authority, independent and grant-aided schools; all ELC and childcare staff based in local authority, independent and grant-aided schools; all senior phase pupils in local authority, independent and grant-aided secondary and special schools. This offer will be extended to regulated day care of children services which are non-school based, in the weeks following the start of the programme.  

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid19-advisory-sub-group-on-education-and-childrens-issues—advice-on-mitigations-to-minimise-transmission-of-covid-19-during-phased-return-to-in-person-learning/

1. We received a presentation from Public Health Scotland on the data around transmission amongst young people and between young people and adults in the context of schools re-opening.  You can read more on this here: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/children-and-school-settings-covid-19-transmission 

2. There is more info on the risks related to the spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern in the EU/EEA here (with specific ref to school settings on p14):  https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/COVID-19-risk-related-to-spread-of-new-SARS-CoV-2-variants-EU-EEA-first-update.pdf 

LG Finance 

A few articles on this: 

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/scottish-government-budget-plans-slammed-23443917?fbclid=IwAR2yLO-D0jDCvbFbekf3vp-WtB0Hj4PHVUlQgNMu-jq0zXsexr38rlTsvOc

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/north-lanarkshire-council-leader-blasts-23467359?fbclid=IwAR138aFq7jYZ9eu72dpNyjkpsZS9vpzYo4q5Mnp7QU1DoDzwbsshEjwIcKM

UNSION Newsletter Feb 2021

It’s probably fair to say that this newsletter possibly find’s you after facing off against January Blues that were worse than the usual ones.

It’s probably fair to say that this newsletter possibly find’s you after facing off against January Blues that were worse than the usual ones.

The post-Christmas news of the more restrictive lockdown measures although not surprising, hit most people’s morale hard.

It is however important to remember that as the days start to stretch that wee bit longer that we are getting closer to effective distribution of the vaccine. We want you to know that as your trade union, UNISON’s fight for workers’ rights has not stopped.

It hasn’t been stopped by a decade of an anti-union Tory government and it won’t be stopped by COVID-19. If anything, UNISON is stronger than ever because we have welcomed so many new members.

This February, there are a couple of key items we need to make you aware of.

AGM24th February 12:00 – 14:00

Plug the Gap Campaign – We need your help

Health & Safety Fortnight + Free UNISON H&S training

AGM

Firstly, your UNISON branch AGM will be held a bit differently this year. Like most things we have gone virtual and the meeting will be held on the 24th February 12-2p.m, Papers and Teams link will be sent the day before (23rd February) to those who confirmed attendance.

You should have already received either an email or letter about this. If you haven’t then please get in touch with the branch asap so that we can facilitate your participation in your branch democracy.

We are delighted that our new General Secretary Christina McAnea has agreed to come along and address our meeting to set out not only the unions key priorities but also how we face the challenge of the COVID pandemic. Christina is not only the first female General Secretary  but also the first Scottish General Secretary, she has a long track record of fighting on behalf of our members and a track record of winning those fights.

A further series of emails and letters will go out with details on joining instructions and AGM papers so please keep an eye out.

Plug the Gap Campaign

Our campaign to Protect our council services is gathering pace.

UNISON’s campaign is calling for:

  • Securing the long-term financial stability of local government: calling for further investment in local government to protect jobs and pay for the future.
  • Rewarding local government workers: for the vital services that local government workers provide to our communities.
  • Shaping local government for the future: looking at how roles have changed because of the pandemic
  • Consolidation of the Living Wage: Delivery of full consolidation of the living wage for across Scotland

We need your help

1.    Watch and share our campaign video: Plug the £1bn funding gap

The Scottish government must fund local councils properly to keep communities safe and rebuild the country ​following the pandemic.  We have launched a campaign, #PlugTheGap, to call on the Scottish government to find additional resources for Scotland’s councils to avoid devastating harm to services that have already suffered ten years of budget cuts.

Our governments must #plugthegap in funding. Please join our campaign to protect council services.

2.    Ask your MSP to demand that the Scottish government acts to protect essential council services

Write to your MSP using our automated email page –  Sign up to support our campaign, read the letter and if you agree, we can send it for you. Or edit the letter yourself and we will send it.

When you email your MSP/MP don’t hold back. Be sure to (politely as possible) let them know how the land lies.

Let them know about the service you still deliver either on the frontline as key workers or working form your makeshift home office.

On the front line tell them about the hazards you have faced at work or during your commute to it. If you are working from home, we want you to let them know how difficult it is to maintain your work while juggling home schooling and caring and worrying about the ones we love.

Most of all tell them why more than ever its vital that MSP’s back the UNISON campaign to properly fund essential council services. You could suggest that if they fail to do so, you will remember their choice when you make yours at the ballot box in May.

Our template letter can be accessed here  and has everything you need to get you started. https://action.unison.org.uk/page/70180/action/1

Please encourage your colleagues to join. If they are not members, ask them to take part. If you would like to get involved in this campaign, please get in touch with the branch

3.    Get involved in our #PlugTheGap campaign

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @unisonscot. Post and retweet our social media cards with #PlugTheGap  

Health & Safety Fortnight + Free UNISON H&S training

Finally, we wanted to let you know about our Health & Safety fortnight. As you will see from the earlier articles, a strong team of trade unionists is needed now more than ever to keep our workplaces safe. During H&S fortnight we will be running free training for UNISON members that will accredit our normal members to carry out vital safety inspections on behalf of the branch.

If you are interested the sessions will take place over Zoom. The sessions are relaxed and informal. Dogs, Cats, goldfish, hamsters, etc. and children are welcome to attend/ make noise/ run around in the background.

The training is only 2 hours (including a break) and will take place on the following dates;

  • February 16 @ 15:30 – 17:30 – Spaces Remaining – Be quick
  • February 23 @ 18:00 – 20:00 – Spaces Remaining

To book your place just drop an email to the Branch Secretary using the details below.

If these dates don’t suit, then don’t worry. – We know how difficult it is to find a minute.

Simply get in touch and tell the branch a time that is more convenient and we may be able to gather other interested members and run a session at that time with some notice.

Your UNISON branch are here for you, just as we always have been. Our contact details are below if you need to get in touch with workplace issues.

By banding together as workers, we can get through this virus. By working together we will stare down those in power that want to see us poorer and our council services cut.

We hope to see you at your AGM, and perhaps one of our H&S training webinars.

Thank you for your continued support in 2021. Can I take this opportunity once again to thank all our members and please continue to stay safe, fit and healthy.

Show Racism the red card

EQUALITY TRAINING
We have worked with 580 adults across Scotland as part of inclusive digital workplace sessions. These workshops have ranged from introductions to identifying the many forms racism can take in the workplace, to more intermediate level sessions on intersectionality and challenging structural systems of oppression.
FOOTBALL ACADEMIES
With at least three incidents of racist abuse reported by Scottish football clubs in the past month, the rise in social media abuse highlights the ease of which anonymous individuals can target people for their ethnicity, religion or nationality without fear of repercussions. We are thrilled to be working with Livingston captain Marvin Bartley on upcoming educational films on online abuse and taking the knee.
For a little Monday morning lift… we received a donation just before Christmas. A pupil from a school in Edinburgh we had visited asked his friends to, instead of giving him birthday money this year, to donate to Show Racism the Red Card. Read the full story here.
  HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
With more than 2,200 incidents of racist bullying recorded over the last three years – representing just those that have been reported and recorded – the demand for anti-racist educational support is as high as it’s ever been.   We want to help. We are working with young people and teachers over Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom. Last year following our workshops, 81% of participants indicated they were more confident identifying and challenging racism.   Help us to share our Creative Competition to schools and councils – this is a great, free initiative that teachers can use to introduce anti-racism while learning-from-home. The deadline is 7th May 2021.
Creative Competition 2021
We also have an exciting opportunity to join our team on an initial 21hrs per week contract. As a charity, we don’t have an ad budget therefore we rely on our supporters to share this across their relevant networks. We would be truly grateful if you could help us promote this new role.

Covid Update February 21

LG Funding 

The Local Government finance circular, containing the provisional funding allocations to each local authority arising from the draft budget, has now been published and is attached for your information. UNISON Scotland will need to step up our Plug The Gap campaign in the next few weeks if we are to maximize the opportunity to influence the inter-party discussions that will be taking place before the second and third readings of the budget in parliament. 

COSLA Update 

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer gave an update on current issues.  Whilst he said they are pleased that the number of new cases is now reducing, and the ‘R’ number is now below 1, there remains significant pressure on the NHS.   

The Deputy DMO referred to the announcement of the new measures to tackle the virus and the advisory group guidance on the phased return of in-person learning in schools.  He said that they are continuing to learn about the virus and are trying to balance a number of issues at the moment – in relation to schools the balance is between ensuring the health and well-being of children, which is being impacted by being out of school, and the risks associated with bringing people back to schools. 

He said that the transmission rates in and between different age groups was being closely examined but they are confident that the rate of transmission from young people to adults is lower than adult to adult transmission.  We raised concern that whilst that may be the case the very fact that people will be brought back to schools will lead to more people travelling to them on public transport, more people congregating around school gates etc which could increase transmission and is a significant concern of our members.  He understood that concern and said that’s why they are not moving to bring all pupils back at the same time.  He stated that transmission rates will be ‘reviewed forensically’ to ensure that all appropriate actions are taken. 

UNISON raised concerns about communication and messaging and cited the results of the survey that our EIG colleagues recently completed which clearly show how worried our education members are for their safety.  He took this on board and COSLA are also looking at how this can improved. 

We also raised with COSLA an issue that has arisen in a couple of areas regarding the calculation of average pay for casual workers under the SJC Circular and the different method of calculation under the furlough scheme.  They will come back to us on this and I’ll report back when I have any further information. 

Relevant info: 

  • New measures to tackle the virus
  • On school testing – they have put together a brief fact sheet on the schools/ELC testing programme which I have attached for your information.  Also attached are the instructions for use that participants will be provided with when collecting test kits from schools. 
  • On vaccinations – I attach a copy of the letter outlining the vaccination provision for staff working with children with additional support needs. 
  • APSE State of the Market Survey – Local Authority Sports & Leisure Services 
  • I have attached APSE’s state of the market survey which focuses on Local Authority Sports and Leisure services which I thought might be of interest. 
  • Today is Time To Talk day! 
  • This is a day that mental health charities encourage people to pick up the phone and talk to others.  As the pandemic continues and more of our members are experiencing pressure, stress and loneliness please encourage them to reach out and talk.  You can find tips and resources to help on the Time for Change website here. 
  • Every Life Matters – Review and Action Plan 
  • The report of the first two years of Every Life Matters – the national suicide prevention strategy – has been published.  The action plan in it contains a number of actions for local authorities and COSLA so thought it worth sharing
    • See below for all attachments

The partial reopening of schools and ELC

As you may have hears the Scottish Government has announced the partial reopening of schools and ELC

Below is from the BBC

Scotland’s youngest pupils are likely to return to the classroom full time from 22 February as schools start a phased reopening.

The move will include all pupils in P1-P3 as well as pre-school children.

There will also be a part-time return, but on a very limited basis, for senior secondary pupils to allow them to complete work for national qualifications.

A final decision will be taken on the partial reopening in a fortnight.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-55904466

Attached is a copy of our recent survey of members and below a copy of our media release in response to the announcement.

These vital services are currently being delivered to many children and UNISON members have worked hard at creating environments safe for children and staff.   It will help no one if further opening up of schools and nurseries brings a greater risk of infection. Councils and Scottish Government need to be making sure that the measures in the jointly developed guidelines are delivered on the ground.

Lorraine Thomson, Chair of UNISON Scotland Education Issues Group said

“Employers must ensure that risk assessments are taking place, that staff are aware of these assessments and are trained so that they can work safely. Proper implementation of appropriate mitigations is the only way to keep staff, children and the wider community safe.

UNISON reps have been working throughout the pandemic supporting members in education. Ensuring that their health and safety is a priority. Members who see that guidelines are not being followed should contact their branch to ensure that appropriate action can be taken.”