Hello everyone. I hope that you are all keeping well.

The pandemic is far from over, but with the hard work of our wonderful NHS staff, at last there is some positive news around with the roll out of the Vaccines. Not that the Prime Minister believes this. He maintains that the success of vaccination programme is due to “greed.” This is an insult to the NHS, especially when it is a fact that vaccines are always developed through public funding. Your taxes and mine. Would Serco have made such a success of the vaccination programme as they have (not) done with Test and Trace?

On 6/5/21, there will be County Council Elections across Staffordshire and a new Staffordshire Fire and Police Commissioner will be elected. There are also several Parish Council elections taking place. Whoever you wish to see elected, please use your vote, and engage in the democratic process. You can vote by post but need to have contacted your local Council Election Office about this by 17.00pm on 20/4/21 at the latest.

There is a Health and Safety Risk Assessment in place for each Polling Station. I have asked for sight of these as part of my role as Branch Health and Safety Officer. If any of you are volunteering to be Poll Clerks, please make sure you see the relevant Risk Assessment for your station beforehand and raise any concerns at the Branch Office.

It is very pleasing to see that the national membership of all Trade Unions continues to grow, but especially that of UNISON. In Staffordshire we have grown by a cumulative total of 89 members since 1/1/21. People are recognising that there is strength and support within a Trade Union, especially when employers try to reduce your terms and conditions or do not provide safe and harmonious workplaces. This is especially true in large parts of the private sector, but the Children’s Transformation Restructure has provoked a lot of tension and concern within the Key Workers in that large Department. With lockdown ending and reports being received of significant increases in domestic violence, poverty and children going hungry, this may not be the ideal time to reorganise a department which will have to ensure that our vulnerable children and families are well supported.

The Branch Officers across the board are busier than they have ever been dealing with restructures and consultations. We have a small and active group of Stewards who provide excellent support to the Branch. We always need more though, so if you are at all interested please let me know. Having an active Trade Union structure within a workplace or employer has been shown to improve working relationships and to enhance health and safety.

Even if you cannot be a Steward, please consider being a Workplace Contact in your work area so that we can keep you updated about what is happening at the Branch Office.

On 28/4/21, there is National Workers Memorial Day. It is particularly important this year, with the pandemic still affecting us so painfully, that we acknowledge the sacrifice of all workers. Many have lost their life, or their health and welfare has been harmed, and we are in their debt. I believe that the Government continues to only pay lip service to the debt owed to care workers, nurses, bus drivers, doctors, teaching assistants and many others. The Government should at least ensure that all workers are paid a living wage. Billions of pounds have been found for cronies. Some of this should have instead gone towards improving the pay of low paid key workers.

Staffordshire UNISON has organised a virtual ceremony on 28/4/21 at 10am to mark Workers Memorial Day. We have paid for a Kissing Gate to be erected in Chebsey.  Wolverhampton and Bilston Trades Council has organised a virtual event at 12.30pm that day. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has organised a national virtual rally at 14.00pm and East and North Staffordshire Trades Councils have combined their efforts to arrange an evening event with several MPs and senior UNISON Officers attending at 19.00pm. If anyone would like additional information about any or all these events it can be found on the respective organisation websites. Contact can also be made with me at the Office.

On 4/5/21, voting will commence by post and online for UNISON’s new National Executive Committee (NEC). These are vital elections because the NEC is the decision-making body of the Trade Union and comprises ordinary rank and file UNISON members. Please make sure you vote and respect the democratic process. If you do not receive a ballot paper or have any pertinent questions about the elections, please check with the national website first as there is already a great deal of helpful information there. If not, please contact the Branch Office for support.

The Branch Executive Committee nominated the following NEC candidates at its February meeting:

Caroline Johnson/Carol Sewell- the 2 West Midlands female seats

Mandy Buckley- the West Midlands low paid seat

Michael Vaughan- the West Midlands male seat

Isla Watson- the Young Member female seat

Jess McGuire- the Young Member General Seat

Andrea Egan/Sarah Feeney- the 2 national female seats

Paul Holmes- the national male seat

Neelo Farr- the disabled female member seat

Angela Hamilton- the national disabled general seat

Manjula Kumari- the black member’s female seat

Abiola Kusoro- the black low paid member seat

Hugo Pierre- black member male seat

The Branch Executive Committee decided that these candidates will best support the Branch if elected onto the UNISON NEC.

The Branch Office currently remains closed to the Public and to UNISON members in line with Covid 19 guidance. However, as, and when lockdown restrictions ease this closure will be reviewed. When the Office does reopen, we will likely maintain social distancing and enhanced health and safety precautions as part of the current Covid 19 Health and Safety Risk Assessment. UNISON members have always been able to contact the Office however, throughout the lockdown on 01785-245000 or unison@staffsunison.org.uk

We want to hear from members who have employment concerns of any sort. We are here to offer confidential and constructive advice, support, and representation. New members are welcome as well. We especially want to build up our knowledge and activity around what is happening within the private sector.

National UNISON would like to hear from any care worker members in the private sector who have been made to self-isolate and claim sickness benefit by their employer. There is Government money available to private employers to financially support workers in this situation but the take up has been limited and/or has failed to reach the employees. UNISON is building a legal challenge to some of the employer practices but needs evidence of employees being mistreated. If you have been affected in this way, then please contact the Office in complete confidence.

Finally, I have had to agree that the Staffordshire Pensions Service can approach other Trade Unions to see if they can fill the Trade Union co-opted place on the Staffordshire Pensions Board. No UNISON member has come forward to volunteer unfortunately, even though trade union scrutiny of how our pension monies are invested across the world is vital. I sit on the Pensions Committee but cannot also sit on the Board.

If anyone has a question or query about my report, please let me know. Thanks, and stay safe!

 

Michael Vaughan

Staffordshire UNISON

Branch Secretary