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GMB members briefing: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We know that many of our members are concerned about the current pandemic and we want to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to ensure our members are protected at work and do not face any detriment if they have to self isolate or are diagnosed with a case of Coronavirus.
Keep checking this page as we will be updating as often as we are able…
Update 14th May 2020…

Our reps have been continuing to work hard to ensure that risk assessments and safe systems of work are in place right across workplaces in Sandwell and we continue to challenge employers to ensure your safety and wellbeing is a priority following the Governments announcement on returning to work this week.

Today we held our first virtual members meeting. We received lots of questions and positive feedback and will be running another meeting soon. Please download Microsoft Teams to your phone, tablet or computer to take part.

 

Following the Governments announcement that schools should plan to extend their opening from 1st June, GMB, along with sister education Unions have been challenging the Government and have set out 6 key tests that should be met before schools open.

These tests and further information can be found on the GMB Website 

Now more than ever we need our members to be our eyes and ears at work, to let us know of any issues and share our information with colleagues & friends.

If you can help please get in touch by emailing branch@gmbs85sandwell.org.uk or by calling/texting 07786126530 – or drop us a private message #YOURunionYOURvoice

Why not also consider becoming a workplace rep?

Get in touch for an informal discussion about the role

https://www.gmb.org.uk/become-workplace-representative

Update 1st May 2020..

Happy May Day everyone. May Day means so much to so many, it is an ancient festival of Spring in many cultures.

It also marks an international day of solidarity within the Trade Union movement which began in the 19th Century. This year we are marking the day by thanking a worker, and we thank everyone working to keep our community safe, from refuse collectors, to carers and to school support staff including kitchen staff who continue to look after vulnerable children and those of key workers. Why not take 2 minutes today to #ThankAWorker

Here’s what our education Convenor Donna has said today:

Many schools in Sandwell have been responding to the pandemic by making PPE for local hospitals and care homes, donating food & toiletries throughout the borough and have been making kindness bags for the elderly. It is so thoughtful that our school children are thinking those in need at this time, and all of us at GMB Sandwell say thank you – to the children and all the staff who are acting so positively .

We are continuing to work through risk assessments that we have been receiving, from schools,academies, and employers throughout the borough.

We have also received a request for a provision of hand sanitisers from Sandwell Children’s Trust and will be making delivery on Monday. If your workplace could benefit please get in touch.

We are continuing to challenge employers and members of Sandwell Leisure Trust know this only too well this week. However, since initial communication has been issued we are seeking a positive outcome for members alongside sister Trade Unions.

Finally this week, we hope that you will all join us on Monday evening for GMB West Midlands BIG Meeting.

The online event will be streamed live on Facebook at 7pm for all Local Government and School Support staff.

GMB Working to ensure you are #RespectedandProtected

 

Update 20th April 2020..

You may have noticed that our updates have become less frequent and we now plan to update weekly.

Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic we have been and continue to negotiate with employers throughout the borough along with undertaking online training with GMB and the TUC in order to be best placed to answer your queries and concerns.

As well as our regular negotiations with Sandwell MBC, Leisure & Children’s Trusts and Serco we are in contact with Murray Hall Community Trust along with educational employers and care providers within Sandwell. We have also been talking to schools and have received a number of risk assessments.

Nationally GMB continues to hold the Government to account and you can read more on our national GMB website.

We have also received an updated pay claim offer, the details and GMB’s response can be found here 

Our stock of hand sanitiser is working its way out to frontline workers in Serco, adult social care and education settings. If your workplace could benefit, please get in touch.

Update 8th April 2020…

Here’s a quick round up of what we have been doing over the past week

We continue to hold daily calls with Sandwell Council and are  in regular contact with Sandwell Children’s & Leisure Trusts along with Serco and other employers throughout the borough, challenging the employers when necessary for the benefit of GMB members.

We have been pushing employers for sight of and to be consulted on risk assessments in the workplace. Before undertaking any work where you may come into contact with the public you have the right to ask to see risk assessments. If you have any problems please let us know.

We have been undertaking training with GMB both on the Government Furlough scheme & Health & safety, to ensure we have the  most up to date information when entering negotiations with employers.

 

 

 

This week we have taken delivery on hand sanitisers. We want to do our bit to help with the national shortage of stocks, if your workplace is running short give us a call and keeping to social distancing requirements we will deliver to you.

We are still available to undertake casework, if you have any workplace issues do not hesitate to get in touch.

GMB’s dedicated Coronavirus hub continues to be updated regularly – why not check it out?

Update 1st April 2020…

although we haven’t updated this page for a few days, we are remaining busy behind the scenes talking to not only the Local Authority, but with other employers in the borough to ensure that our members are being treated fairly. However, we have noticed a reduction in enquiries over the past few days.

We hope this is due to employers doing the right thing, but if you are having issues or have concerns, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

So what have we been doing?

  • We are holding daily discussions with SMBC, ensuring that our members are protected in line with National guidance
  • We are speaking with Serco twice weekly, We have been involved in creating a risk assessment and are pleased to see social distancing being encouraged, but still keeping a watchful eye on PPE and staff numbers in the workplace
  • We are speaking with Sandwell Leisure Trust every other day, staff are furloughed and we are awaiting an update from their board meeting regarding pay.
  • We have held productive discussions with Murray Hall Children’s Trust over essential travel, working from home and social distancing and will be speaking to the employer again this week.
  • We are holding regular discussions with Sandwell Children’s Trust and shared good practice around social distancing when essential visits to families are being carried out.
  • We are speaking with schools and academies on the issue of staff rota’s and GMB continue to push the DfE for clarification over Easter holidays.

GMB are continuing to hold the Government and employers to account, especially around PPE, sick pay and social distancing.

If you are a key worker facing difficulties with PPE, we want to hear from you.

Update 27th March 2020…

Further to our discussions with Serco on Wednesday, we are pleased that our demands have been listened to by the employer and we have today received a positive response to ensure our members are protected. An update for members has also been sent out by email.

If you do not receive an email from us today, please get in touch and we will ensure your contact details are updated.

We remain in daily contact with Sandwell Council and are in regular contact with Sandwell Leisure and Children’s trusts, if you have any concerns or queries regarding your employment and you are based anywhere within Sandwell please get in touch.

 

Update 25th March 2020…

We have virtually met with Sandwell Council today along with Sandwell Children’s Trust and Serco.

Updates from these employers are set out below

Sandwell MBC

We continue to have conference video meetings on a daily basis and are working productively to ensure our members are protected as well as offering advice as set down by national guidance to support the efforts of the Local Authority to carry out essential services in line with Government guidance.

Sandwell Children’s Trust

We have spoken, again virtually, with the Trust today and discussed positive steps to keep key workers safe.

we have made suggestions that prior to visits workers contact families and triage, to make sure that they are not showing any symptoms and again before entering properties when face to face contact is necessary. Visits do not always need to be directly in the house, where social distancing can be maintained. Talking to families through ground floor windows where necessary.

Serco

We have had challenging conversations with Serco locally over the past week, but welcome the offer from Serco regional officers to hold a conference call this lunchtime.

We have laid down key demands again to the employer and expressed our disappointment that the employer was not responding to GMB over the past week.

Key demands set out are:

  • Pay – We have laid out that our members should not be penalised if they have to take time off work due to coronavirus.
  • PPE – We have raised concerns that our members do not have access to PPE and sanitisers, Serco management agreed and have advised that they are today liaising with their national group to resolve this.  We have expressed our disappointment that stocks were not ordered sooner and have stated that we want updates on PPE stocks and distribution on a regular basis.
  • Risk Assessments –  Our workplace rep will be working with Serco to put these in place urgently.
  • Communications – The employer has agreed to work with GMB to produce communications for members and we will be having video conference calls every other day.

We want to work with Serco in order to protect members but if needed we will seek to invoke Health & Safety legislation, emails have been sent to members with more detail.

We will keep this page updated with developments. However, if you have any enquiries about your employment and coronavirus, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Update 24th March 2020…

As well as holding daily conference calls with Sandwell Council, we are also holding regular discussions with Sandwell Children’s & Leisure Trusts. So far these calls have been productive in ensuring our members are protected, both on pay, terms and conditions but also on safety.

However, If you have any concerns or queries please get in touch.

Update 23rd March 2020…

Further to Government announcements on Friday regarding closure of leisure centres amongst others, Trade Unions have been in talks with Sandwell Leisure Trust this morning, and we are pleased that with immediate effect staff are being told to stay home with no detriment to their pay this month.

GMB welcome the decision to keep members away from the workplace and that no rash decisions around pay in April are to be made, but we still expect members to be paid in full.

We have also stated that SLT need assurances to protect our members if staff are asked to be redeployed due to the emergency we are facing and that an agreement needs to be drawn up. If our members are ‘borrowed’ by another employer then we need guarantees that they do not face detriment in pay, their service and terms & conditions are continued and the agreement is reviewed regularly – SLT have agreed that this is sensible approach.

 

GMB welcome SLT’s decision to protect our members by removing the need for unnecessary travel and interaction and we have committed to daily conference calls with Sandwell Leisure Trust to monitor this situation.

Update 20th March 2020…
Here’s a quick round up on the latest with COVID-19.
The Government issued the list of key workers, but it didn’t include schools support staff (the people who actually keep the schools going…). We’ve got this amended and it now says:
Education and childcare
This includes childcare, support and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.

 

We’ve received a large number of enquiries about support staff being asked to work during holidays. The position is that, if staff are not contracted to work during holidays, then they can’t be made to work this period without a change to their contract. We know that this would be possible, but not in the timescales we’re talking about and not without going through consultation and working out all the details. So, the advice is that staff can’t be made to work during this holiday of they weren’t already going to.

There’s more advice for School Support Staff on our website:

The next big issue we’ve been getting is around school closures and taking time off to look after children. As this doesn’t count as self isolation, we’re into “time off for dependants” territory. As you know, employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a ‘dependant’) in an unexpected event or emergency. This could apply to situations to do with coronavirus and with school closures.

A dependant does not necessarily live with the person, for example they could be an elderly neighbour or relative who relies on the person for help.

The problem is, of course, that there’s no statutory right to pay for this time off.

GMB are seeking to resolve this nationally, but locally we are also working through this with employers and will keep you updated.

Our national webpage is also being updated regularly with general advice…
  • One of the main queries we are receiving is around pay.

If you are a Local Government worker and you are diagnosed or have to self isolate, the following guidance applies: NJC Green Book Part 2 10.9. An employee who is prevented from attending work because of contact with infectious disease shall be entitled to receive normal pay. The period of absence on this account shall not be reckoned against the employee’s entitlements under this scheme

Sandwell Council and Sandwell Leisure Trust have confirmed that they will be honouring these terms

  • Employees are also entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations to do with coronavirus.

For example:

  • if they have children they need to look after or arrange childcare for because their school has closed
  • to help their child or another dependant if they’re sick, or need to go into isolation or hospital

There’s no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers can and should offer pay. GMB is making this demand on employers to do the right thing.

If you work for an employer that does not follow nationally agreed terms and conditions, or are not supporting you through this, please call us.

We are currently in discussions with employers from refuse services to care providers across the borough, if you have any queries in relation to your employment, please get in touch.

What are GMB doing?
  • We have already secured wins for members working for outsourced private companies servicing the NHS and we are on your side fighting for protection throughout the UK.GMB continues to call on Government to step in and support workers through this unprecedented time.
  • We are holding employers to account and negotiating agreements to protect GMB members

     

    You can also follow our main GMB Website which will updated as soon as information changes.


Homeworking is being encouraged wherever possible within Sandwell MBC and as we are based within the Local Authority we are also taking this advice. Therefore our branch office will be closed to the public from today (18th March 2020) meaning our landline will not be monitored regularly.

However, we are still available to offer support and advice via mobile telephone, Whatsapp & email:

If you have any concerns you can also contact us via our Facebook & Twitter pages – These pages will be updated often so if you haven’t already done so, please like and follow us.

If you not already a GMB member, join today

Posted: 17th March 2020

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