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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 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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