UNISON International Relations Newsletter

The UNISON International Relations Newsletter provides updates on UNISON’s international work, reports on international matters affecting workers and trade unionists, and keeps BIROs informed of related developments, publications of reports and briefing documents, as well as upcoming nationwide events relevant to the union’s international work.

Talking about Palestinian rights:

A UNISON guide for activists This new briefing aims to provide activists with a better understanding of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, with a particular emphasis on human and workers’ rights and public services. It provides a background to UNISON’s policy on Palestine and the key information activists need to discuss the situation and campaign from a public service trade union perspective.

Download the ‘Talking about Palestinian rights’ briefing  

Save the Date: UNISON International Seminar 2022

UNISON’s International Seminar will take place from Friday 25 March to Sunday 27 March 2022 at UNISON Croyde Bay in Devon. The seminar will help branch international relations officers (BIROs) gain a better understanding of UNISON’s international policies and how to implement them in the branches. They will also learn more about the role of the BIRO.

We will send you further details when registration for the seminar opens in January.  

Turkey: Send a solidarity message to Gonul Erden

Gonul Erden is the former president of the Turkish health workers union SES. She was arrested on 25 May along with seven other current and former leaders of the union for alleged membership and leadership of a terrorist organisation. The eight accused were initially released on bail, but Gonul was rearrested and returned to prison after the prosecutor appealed the decision. Trade unionists in Turkey are regularly arrested and accused of terrorist offences for defending workers’ rights.

Gonul is a great friend of UNISON and was a guest at our national delegate conference in 2018. We know that messages of solidarity from UNISON branches to Gonul will mean a great deal to her whilst she is in prison. Please send your message to i.relations@unison.co.uk and we will forward it on to our colleagues in Turkey.  

Palestine Webinar Solidarity with MAAN members at Ta’aman Foods

Monday, 20 December 2021, 4.30pm Hear from MAAN leaders and members of the Ta’aman workers committee about the  struggle of Palestinian workers at Ta’aman Foods, located in the industrial zone of the Mishor Adumim in the occupied West Bank.

Join the webinar at 4.30pm on Monday, 20 December.

Read more about the recent strike and MAAN’s work to organise Palestinian workers in the settlements, which is supported by the UNISON International Development Fund.  

Electronics Watch Webinars

Electronics Watch, with the influence and support of UNISON, has committed to do much more to focus on and build its capacity to support electronics workers to form and join trade unions of their choosing and to collectively bargain better pay, terms and conditions with their employers.  And with their innovative public sector affiliation model that uses the power of public buying to influence anti-union employers you really can make a difference through your workplace by encouraging your employer to affiliate to Electronics Watch. 

Between all the seasonal (hopeful) celebrations, why not listen to these excellent Electronics Watch webinars to understand more about the power of public procurement.  We recommend them in this order: Freedom of Association, Climate Justice and Modern Slavery What is Freedom of Association, challenges to organising in global supply chains How to remedy violations of Freedom of Association For those who really find this fascinating, two other webinars exist on the YouTube site focused on these issues, along with many others. 

We really hope this inspires you to encourage your branch to raise this with your employer. For support to do this, please contact i.relations@unison.co.uk.    

UNISON’s International Affiliations: Palestine Solidarity Campaign  

PSC is the largest movement in the UK campaigning for Palestinian rights.  For many years PSC has worked closely with UNISON to further our work.

UNISON’s NEC international committee encourages all branches to affiliate to PSC and support their vital work, campaigning for Palestinian rights and an end to the occupation. Affiliation costs just £25 and you will receive campaign information, resources and can have a say in the direction of the organisation at the PSC AGM.  

Pre-Budget Lobby

The STUC are organising a pre-budget lobby outside the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 8th December. 

Local Government funding will be a central focus of the STUC’s pre-budget lobbying so it would be good to get as many council workers, with accompanying flags and placards, at the demonstration as possible. 

The plan is to assemble at 11.30a.m with speeches kicking off around 12.15.  Further information will be circulated nearer the time.

Green Survey

A ‘green’ survey organised by UNISON UK in conjunction with Leeds University is now online here: https://leedsubs.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_7Utl9m2Zr6gwyRE

The survey asks how climate change and moving towards a greener economy might affect workers and communities. Even if you are not sure about some of these topics researchers still want to hear from you to help make sure that all views are heard.

The survey has been designed by researchers at the University of Leeds and UNISON is participating to learn more about what members know about climate change and how they are being involved.  

It will take 15 minutes to fill in. Your details will be confidential and responses will be anonymous unless you want to be contacted again with further details of next steps in research. There is space at the end to leave contact details if you wish. 

LG Update 04 August 2021

Further guidance will be provided to businesses to help them adopt measures to mitigate risks, including ensuring good ventilation; maintaining good hand hygiene; practising respiratory hygiene; getting vaccinated; and continuing to engage with Test and Protect. 

Beyond Level 0 

Further detail about measures announced . 

Further guidance will be provided to businesses to help them adopt measures to mitigate risks, including ensuring good ventilation; maintaining good hand hygiene; practising respiratory hygiene; getting vaccinated; and continuing to engage with Test and Protect. 

Some baseline measures will remain in place: 

  • it will continue to be the law, subject to exceptions, that face coverings must be worn in indoor public places and on public transport 
  • Test & Protect will continue to contact-trace positive cases. To assist with this there will be a continued requirement for indoor hospitality and similar venues to collect the contact details of customers. Anyone who is required to self-isolate will, if eligible, continue to have access to support 
  • we will work closely with local incident management teams on appropriate outbreak control measures 
  • we will continue to use travel restrictions, as and when necessary, to restrict the spread of outbreaks and protect against the risk of importation of new variants 
  • for now, we will continue to advise home working where possible, recognising that some staff will start to return to offices in line with staff wellbeing discussions and business need. we will encourage employers to consider for the longer term, as the Scottish Government is doing, a hybrid model of home and office working – which may, of course, have benefits beyond the need to control a virus 
  • we will, for a limited period, keep in place a gateway process through which organisers of outdoors events of more than 5000 and indoor events of more than 2000 will have to apply for permission. This will allow us and local authorities to be assured of the arrangements in place to reduce risk 
  • we will continue to issue appropriate guidance to assist individuals and businesses to reduce the risk of transmission as much as possible, such as rigorous hygiene, including regular hand washing. 

More information can be found here https://www.gov.scot/news/scotland-to-move-beyond-level-0 and here https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-update-first-ministers-statement-3-august-2021-1 

Asymptomatic Testing Programme Update 

Please view a letter that has been sent to local authorities asking that they include communications around on-return asymptomatic at-home testing in their plans for return to schools in the coming weeks.  

An update on the asymptomatic testing programme is also included. 

Revised Schools Guidance

Following the First Minister’s statement today the revised schools guidance can be found here: Coronavirus: reducing risks in schools guidance

To allow time to monitor the impact of a new policy on self-isolation for U18s, and to take account of the unique features of the school environment at the time of return, the guidance advises the continued application of most of the existing mitigations for a period of up to 6 weeks; for example, the position on physical distancing in schools should effectively remain the same, despite the wider changes to these requirements.

As with previous versions, the guidance will be kept under constant review, and if data and evidence suggest that any specific mitigations can be removed at an earlier stage advice will be provided to that effect.

Updates on LG Pay, Long Covid and Mitigation in Schools

We understand that the Cabinet secretary for Finance has agreed to a joint meeting with COSLA Leaders to discuss the funding situation for local government and that meeting is due to take place this Wednesday.

LG Pay Negotiations Update 

We understand that the Cabinet secretary for Finance has agreed to a joint meeting with COSLA Leaders to discuss the funding situation for local government and that meeting is due to take place this Wednesday.  Thereafter COSLA Leaders are due to meet on Friday, at which point it is likely they will take a view on affordability with respect to improving the pay offer following the discussions with the Cabinet Secretary.  This is the final week of the Scottish Parliament sitting before the summer recess and we have asked Mark Griffin MSP to see if he can get an urgent question laid on this issue to add additional pressure on the Scottish Government.  We will keep you abreast of developments. 

TUC webinar: Long Covid and the workplace  

The TUC is hosting a webinar discussing the results of its survey of Long Covid in the workplace, current policy relating to the condition, the related campaign priorities and what unions can do to support workers experiencing symptoms.  It’s open to all TU activists, reps and officers with an interest in the issue.  It is being held at 7pm on the 30th June and you can register here: http://msg.unison.org.uk/c/1nhZGBmZ1Qq0KNsxs5tm9 

Mitigations in Schools post-summer 

Please find attached an advice note regarding planning for mitigations in schools post-summer holidays, including in respect of the schools asymptomatic testing programme. This has been developed with input from members, including unions, of the Covid Education Recovery Group (CERG) and draws on advice from the Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues.  

The approach reflects the current uncertainty around the Delta variant and the position post-summer, and the advice received that removal of some key mitigations in school environments is significantly easier than reintroduction.  

As referenced in the note, separate advice on ELC settings is expected to be produced and issued shortly. The ELC guidance is expected to reflect important key differences in the situation faced by schools and ELC settings, including that many ELC settings will be operating over the summer while local authority areas progress through different protection levels, and that some current mitigations result in capacity issues that will have a bearing on decisions that local authorities need to take about placements ahead of the next academic term.  

Download or View the document below:

Voting has opened for the NEC election

Voting has opened for the NEC election    
The ballot papers have been sent out for one of the most important elections in UNISON’s democracy – for seats on the union’s national executive council.

It’s not just about voting yourself. General secretary Christina McAnea asks everyone to spread the word – to friends, family, colleagues, anyone who’s a UNISON member – to exercise their democratic voice.  
News from UNISON  
Human rights: UNISON demands due diligence in supply chains The union is part of a civil society coalition demanding a UK law that holds companies and public sector bodies to account if they fail to address both human rights abuses and environmental damage.

A ‘failure to prevent’ law would increase protection for workers, communities, human rights defenders and the environment.  
Christina McAnea walks the Memorial Wall General secretary Christina McAnea has visited the National Covid Memorial Wall, along the South Bank of the Thames in London. The mural consists of thousands of red and pink hearts, each one commemorating 150,000 people who have died of the virus.  

Calling her experience “incredibly moving and very emotional”, Ms McAnea says the wall – and the messages that have been written on it – “really brings home to you that every single death is the death of an individual who was loved.”  

Coming up   Health: International Nurses’ Day 2021 The theme for this year’s celebration of the nursing community, on 12 May 2021, is A voice to lead – a vision for future healthcare. UNISON wants branches and members to join its live event and share their stories.