Message from Bolton Branch Secretary Andrea Egan

We are now at the end of week 2, of Covid-19.

The office is still operational, Monday – Friday 9am until 5pm. Whilst you can no longer ring the dedicated land line, please see the following advice. Please be advised that outside of working hours the office phones will be switched off.

These are challenging times, the greatest challenge we have ever had to face. However, we are endeavouring to continue to do our best to support you to face this pandemic –whether you are in a workplace, working from home or absent through self-isolation, caring responsibilities or illness.

For the group of our members who are identified as key workers and who are taking risks to get to your place of work, my first response is to say thank you!

I want to acknowledge that we know many of you are still working in situations that are riskier than they should be. We are making steady improvements with employers, and we are challenging where we need to. We are doing everything we can to push for the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and the testing you need. This unfortunately is against a backdrop of a complete lack of both. Sadly, even our NHS staff don’t always have access to it!

At this moment in time, I would like members to access our website where we are putting all the information from Unison nationally about PPE. If you believe you have not got the correct PPE then please get in touch, and we will speak to your employers.

If after speaking to us, you still don’t feel you have been provided with PPE in line with UNISON’s guidance, then we will support you to remove yourselves from dangerous situations. You have the right to do so under section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, but as with everything, such steps are best taken after discussion with your colleagues and consultation with your union. Unity is always strength.

As we increasingly see many members working from home, we are stepping up our focus on safe home working practices and expecting employers to put measures in place to protect you. We have seen some good corporate guidance from a number of employers, but not all. Even where there is good advice, if it is not being adhered to by some managers on the ground, then we need to challenge this.

We are proud that we have been able to protect the wages and terms and conditions of many of our members, but we know that there is more still to do in the private care sector.

What is clear, is that many public services are being and will be stood down in the coming week. Schools will start to cluster, and schools will seek volunteers to run the cluster school. As the Easter Holidays will be outside of many school workers contracts, then this is additional hours and Bank Holiday pay should be paid accordingly.

In the Council, staff who are currently at home, without work, will receive a skills audit to seek support from employees about what other skills and experience they have which might assist in work areas that need to be covered. The unions have worked with the council and agree we are in unprecedented times and we are confident that where necessary our members will assist to fight the challenges this pandemic throws at us and support the people of Bolton. If you are concerned however please speak to your steward.

Our message to any care worker who is being left out of pocket as a result of following Government guidance is – keep a record of any losses – because as soon as we sort this out, we will be expecting you to be compensated.

You can access immediate support through UNISON’s There For You

One silver lining to this very dark cloud is that we are seeing a greater recognition of the value of public servants – last night my neighbours were clapping and banging pans in appreciation of those who are holding society together. People are ready to listen to what we have to say.

The best way any group of workers can have a strong voice is to come together, be in a union, elect a representative and engage with us through that representative on a frequent basis.

We never tire of talking to reps and we always get a better outcome for members when somebody doing the job in question is in the discussion. So, if your team doesn’t have a rep, think about electing one. You won’t regret it!!

Andrea Egan
Branch Secretary
Bolton LG Branch