Blog 41: Thank you’s, branch updates and campaigning for a fair future

Hi Dudes,

Blog 41 is here, once again I will replace the funnies with more of a general update. It doesn’t feel right to be cracking jokes with my trademark rapier like sharpness quite yet. (This is my excuse for losing my wit – a bit like what happened to John Cleese in the 80’s). If you want a bit of Oscar Wilde, mixed with Billy Connolly, and tickling the bosom of Larry Grayson go elsewhere (tell me where you find it as that sounds ace) – However if you want updates drier and more full of (ahem) rubbish than a budgerigars cage, you’re in the right place, read on….

What’s going on within your UNISON Branch? I hear you warble – well I want to start by thanking all UNISON members working in whatever capacity during this crisis and sending thoughts to all members of the NHS family who have personal experience of the illness and perhaps subsequent personal tragedy. Sincere love and solidarity to all.

Some positive news following up from last month’s Blog, is that your Branch had a significant impact on the LGI canteen reopening. Thankyou to all members who contacted us at the time, and to all activists who put the private company’s decision into a sharper U turn than a canoe rowed by a one armed Orang-utan. Next time you tuck into your gourmet (slightly burnt) pasty, I hope you mutter the immortal “what have the unions ever done for us”.

The Branch has also met with members of the Trust board regarding Health & Safety protocols in theatres. Shopfloor experience was

listened to, and amendments made. Without wanting to go into detail here, it is reassuring to witness that when our members speak out; their concerns get the respectful and professional response our working knowledge deserves. Please continue to speak up and raise things with us. Together we can make the workplace safer for everyone.

Workers Memorial Day on the 28th April was particular special and poignant this year. The Branch has always taken time out to “remember the dead and fight for the living” but I know a lot of you took part in the minutes silence this year. Perhaps next year some of you may attend with the Branch and continue this tradition. The workers memorial stone is an interesting Leeds landmark, you’ll find it on a grass verge opposite the front entrance of the Central library.

For many Trade Unionists in Leeds losing the annual May day march around the city centre was a blow. This year would have been 130 years of May Day in Leeds. Leeds Trades Council organised a Facebook live event consisting of a talk between Secretary Tanis, and Communication Officer Iain regarding the history of May Day (International Workers Day). This was very interesting and gave context to the work we do now in 2020. Next years May Day should be a humdinger. Here’s to 131 years of supporting the Leeds working class.

The Branch is still looking after individual members and providing support with the various day to day cases. Shout out to Branch Secretary (Denise) and office manager (Pat) for keeping the ship afloat whilst many other representatives have been called back to clinical work. Many of these individual cases naturally revolve around corona issues such as individual risk assessments. Many issues such

as routine attendance management meetings are still on pause; however as the NHS and the trust returns to a version of normality this may soon change.

The Branch have stayed in contact with Leeds Trades Council and contributed to their virtual public meeting regarding PPE and workplace safety recently. Thank you to the members who popped up on the Zoom meeting. I can’t help waving like a simpleton when a see a familiar face on Zoom. It was here that I first discussed my want to campaign against NHS student tuition debt. Subsequently the Branch approved a motion, and we have written to all Leeds M.P’s around the subject. We will update when we can.

Dear

My name is John Ingleson and I am writing to you from Leeds Teaching Hospitals Branch of UNISON ( representing around three and a half thousand local NHS members) . The following motion was passed by our UNISON Branch in the last week.

The motion is self explanatory:-

To summarise we feel that tuition fees for allied health professionals should never have been introduced.

Now , and in light of the Covid crisis and the commitments shown (and disruption faced) by these students their tuition debts should be abolished by the government.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Healthcare students have stepped up to the plate to help the NHS through the current crisis. Having racked up thousands of pounds of debt while learning the skills we so desperately need, many are now working alongside their more senior colleagues.

“The Government can show the depth of its gratitude by writing off their student fees. When the pandemic has passed, it must scrap them for all healthcare students in future and introduce proper maintenance support.”

Thankyou for your time in reading this and we would appreciate your support on this issue in parliament .

Cancel Student Nurse & Allied Health Professional Debt

Proposed John Ingleson – LTHT Branch Chair

Seconded Denise Carr – LTHT Branch Secretary

UNISON Leeds Teaching Hospital Branch Notes

• In 2017 the Tory government introduced tuition fees for nursing and allied health professional (AHP) students.

• 15 thousand second and third year students have volunteered to take on front line nursing duties during the Covid pandemic, making up some of the austerity driven shortfall in staffing numbers.

• Many of those opting into work are the same generation of nurses and AHPs who were the first to have to pay tuition fees.

UNISON Leeds Teaching Hospital Branch Believes

• That NHS students should not have to pay tuition fees.

• That the Tory government should reinstate free nursing and AHP education.

• That all present student debt should be wiped off. Both to acknowledge the commitment of those student nurses & AHPs who have heroically opted into the workforce, and to those unable to, who have had their studies interrupted.

UNISON Leeds Teaching Hospital Branch Resolves

• To raise this issue regionally and nationally within UNISON

• To lobby local MP’s to support the Motion.

• To Secure the support of Leeds Teaching Hospitals staff side council and LeedsTrades Council.

https://amp.theguardian.com/education/2020/apr/21/we-are-risking-our-lives-support-grows-to-cancel-student-nurses-debt

The Branch attended another virtual meeting “No Return To Unsafe Workplaces”. This was mainly focused on other workplaces other than the NHS, as of course in the main we have been continuing to be at work. However some members have been working from home, and I am sure the branch will be now involved in risk assessing the returning workforce. UNISON’s Sara Gorton (National head of health), who also chairs the NHS group of unions, said the health sector faced another “crucial test” after handling the outbreak. She added: “As hospitals get busier, and clinics and other services begin to reopen, the safety of staff and patients is paramount but this can’t happen without plentiful and constant PPE supplies. Tackling Covid has been a huge challenge, but this next phase will be a crucial test, too.”

Our sister Trade unions also took a very suspicious glance at Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson ambiguous non announcement last Sunday (10/5/20). There was consensus saying the “road map” was too confusing and that vital measures were missing to protect people returning to work. Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “The government still hasn’t published guidance on how workers will be kept safe. So how can the prime minister – with 12 hours’ notice – tell people they should be going back to sites and factories? It’s a recipe for chaos.”

Johnson’s plan could risk fuelling a burgeoning divide in society between people unable to work from home and those in typically higher-paying jobs. According to the Resolution Foundation think tank, less than one in ten of those in the lowest half of all earners in Britain can work from home. Fuelling the view that blue collar workers are “Cannon fodder”.

I had an interesting conversation with an ICU nurse who is also a UNISON rep this week. Its an interesting perspective and one which may cause some debate. (To me the fact she is an ICU nurse means I have an instinctive huge debt of gratitude for her recent graft) – “I want to see a campaign where we encourage people to take ownership and pride in being called an NHS worker and basically replace the word hero with NHS worker. I’m not a hero, I’m not disposable; I am an NHS worker. To me, a hero is a person who thrusts themselves into danger without any consideration for their own safety and without reward. We however are concerned about our own safety and need the public and government to be too, ensuring safe PPE and working spaces. We also deserve to be compensated fairly for our work. My fear Is that this language will enable to government and some media outlets to push a narrative that we did all of this out of only the goodness of our hearts being the hero’s that we are and the colleagues lost doing so were martyrs as oppose to potentially avoidable tragedies. Second to this it is also a very high pedestal to put us on that could be potentially easy to fall from, again helping to shift public opinion against the NHS and help push the privatisation. I know am a cynic, but I blame it on having a tory government for the majority of my formative years! It just feels like potentially damaging PR to me.

There, I told you it was thought provoking. I personally agree with every word, but I must also admit the clap for careers has been fantastic and has given me a boost every week.

Following on, reports this week are that our delightful rulers in parliament are considering a public sector pay freeze ….. I can imagine what our membership thinks to this. I’m sure we don’t need to survey your views. I can assure you that YOUR UNISON Branch will fight any pay freeze with the ferocity of a Crocodile being teased by an annoyingly flighty Gazelle. We must not accept anything of the sort, and we will not pay for this crisis any further. It’s the turn of the tax dodgers and big business to pay for this recession.

The Branch have fulfilled their AGM commitment and affiliated to The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC). PSC is a community of people working together for peace, equality, and justice and against racism, occupation, and colonisation. Together they are the biggest organisation in the UK dedicated to securing Palestinian human rights. We hope to get a speaker from PSC one day soon to visit the Branch and membership.

As we peak our little heads up, as the first wave of this horribleness has seemingly peaked, we can spy the subsequent future damage this virus could cause. We know from the 2008 failure of capitalism “the banking crisis” that poverty is a disease in itself. As a Branch we have continued to work in partnership with the Trussell Trust food bank. The Branch has significantly donated to the local Trussell Trust food bank. The Branch has access to food bank vouchers if any of our members need this service. We will be very discreet about this. We can also help with other financial hardship via our “there for you” officers. Again if you need this service, get in touch and we assure you of tact. The Branch has also donated over a thousand pounds to “there for you” who are increasing its death benefits to families affected by recent tragedies. https://www.unison.org.uk/get-help/services-support/there-for-you/ . The Trust also have a hardship fund which we can help signpost you to.

As part of our response to the coronavirus UNISON Teaching Hospitals have had to take the difficult decision to suspend all work performed from the Branch Office. Hopefully we will be able to restart some services soon as we get closer to June.

We appreciate how frustrating this may have been for you and would like to express our sincere apologies

If you need to contact us during the hours of 9:00am and 5:00pm Monday until Friday please ring

07961 348 348

OR

07961 348 368 Or email: unison.sjuh@nhs.net

…. Speak soon XXX