Blog 46: Day to day roles, biggest challenges, UNISON General Secretary election

Hi Dudes, Blog 46 is here. Peri-second wave, and certainly not waving and most definitely drowning but somehow, like an inquisitive seal off the Yorkshire coast peeking above the cold sea and witnessing the wonderful work going on around me.

This month a comrade expressed to me that

“nobody knows what we do on our union time” my reply of

“well no-one wants to hear about my diet of Monster Munch crisps, gallons of Tea, and Jammy Dodgers as I sit through yet another Teams call trying not to wave theatrically at friends I no longer see” was met with a yelp of frustration.

“be serious for once” he said as I took a waggling pair of Kangaroo’s out of my ears and re-commenced juggling a pair of porcelain unicorns.

Anyway – as a result of this, this Blog hopefully describes a typical viewpoint, from a very untypical person. He is actually wonderful, and fantastically dedicated to making your working lives better. I hope you enjoy.

What’s your day to day role at LTHT?

Odd-job-man and artisan coffee maker with Hepatobiliary and Transplant, St James’s.

What made you want to volunteer to be a rep?

I am a proud and frustrated Socialist and therefore a Trade Unionist, who wishes he had more time, so my frustrations are doubled. Without a Socialist Government, we workers will always have to organise for fair and equitable working conditions – until then we must campaign for better terms and conditions, and that requires individuals, Reps, to give representation to management.

What do you enjoy about the role?

Knowing I have made some positive influence, at a difficult time in a colleagues life.

What are the biggest challenges?

TIME! Time to speak to members with ongoing work-related and outside of work issues, to prepare casework, to speak to management, to answer the phone as members call with their queries.

Describe an average union day?

Usually in Branch office 705am Computer on, kettle on, overnight oats, check diary and emails. Check office answerphone and call-logs. Contact members to confirm availability for meetings that day.
Attend arranged meetings and hearings between 8am – 5pm. Attendance management, Flexible Working, Grievance, Organisational change, Safeguarding, Conduct, and everything in between.
Speak to members, management, regional officers, police and other outside agencies as required between arranged meetings and hopefully grab some lunch before 3pm.

How has covid changed your average day?

COVID restrictions have meant frustrating, but necessary, closure of the Branch Office. Our usual, open and approachable policy as caused shared frustration, but the team of reps, Branch Secretary, Branch Chair and the indispensable office manager Sister Kershaw have worked hard to maintain effective communication with the membership.

At the beginning of the COVID crisis, my UNISON facility time was suspended, as my CSU was redeployed to support ICU.
Theatre colleagues did a brilliant job and my respect for our critical care nurse colleagues is massive.

Your message to the membership?

My message to the membership is to get active within UNISON LTH – the Branch works very hard for the members, but the Branch needs an active membership. “Educate. Engage. Organise” is the path to better working conditions. When in any doubt, remember the great Bob Crow mantra.

“If you fight, you won’t always win. But if you don’t fight you will always lose!” – Bob Crow.

To follow those questions and to show Nicks point of an active membership beautifully, we asked you to update us on the reality of what happened on the shopfloor when school bubbles went down. Many of you answered us, and it helped us to form an opinion and also meant we could update our regional colleagues. Last week we received the following agreement from our paid officials and thus we put out the following statement on Facebook.

UNISON Members at LTHT – Thankyou. We have just been sent this communication from our regional office with guidelines which have been agreed. The information you have sent us has been crucial. Further thanks to the negotiating skills of the UNISON officials and a receptive, compassionate management. As ever Thank you for being our eyes, and ears on the shop floor. When we work together we get great results.

Caring commitments

Where a child is sent home due to a COVID-19 case in their bubble and there is no government requirement for the employee to self-isolate.

Where an employee’s child has been sent home because they have been in close contact with a suspected case, but does not themselves have symptoms of COVID-19, the child should self-isolate but other members of the household are not required to do so. This will often mean however that alternative childcare is not available or appropriate and may happen at very short notice creating childcare issues for the member of staff which mean they are unable to attend their workplace. The employee will not be entitled to COVID-19 special leave where there is not a government requirement on them to self-isolate and therefore, employers should be as supportive and flexible as possible when considering options for these employees. Options to consider in relation to each episode include:

  • working from home, for example this could include completing online training
  • temporarily reallocating work to the employee which could be undertaken at home, either within the organisation or the NHS more widely
  • agreeing a temporary change to working arrangements, such as a change of hours or a different combination of shifts that can be organised around care;
  • using previously accrued TOIL and allowing additional flexibilities in relation to retention of accrued TOIL in preparation for possible childcare issues
  • making up time lost through working additional hours/shifts
  • using annual leave, local special leave, local carers’ leave – and allowing leave to be used flexibly and broken down into sessions/hours
  • where local paid leave policies have been exhausted consideration of extending them, particularly where an individual does not have another person living within their household with whom they can share the care arrangement
  • unpaid leave, as a last resort.

Changes should seek to meet the needs of the individual balanced against the needs of the service at the time.

Some sad but happy news is that after 20 years loyal and irreplaceable service our beloved Branch administrator / office manager (Pat) last night announced her plans to retire. Many members will be indebted to Pats hard work, and all activists also owe Pat one hell of a thank you and celebratory send off. Alas this may not immediately occur with this pesky virus but be warned post Covid world, there’s one hell of a party a coming!

*THIS MONTH – UNISON GENERAL SECRETARY ELECTION

The general secretary election is your chance to vote to elect the most senior person in the union. Being a member, or retired member, of UNISON entitles you to a vote if you were a member on 28 July 2020.

Who is the general secretary?

The general secretary represents you and the other 1.3 million members of UNISON in meetings with politicians across the UK, in discussions with employers and when working with other trade unions. They speak up for you and are the public face of your union, in the press, on TV and on social media.

Dave Prentis, the union’s current general secretary retires at the end of 2020 after 20 years in the job. The law – and UNISON’s rule book – says we have to elect our general secretary every five years.

Why should I vote?

This is your chance to have a say in who leads the union and who represents all our members. The election only comes around every five years so use your vote and make sure your voice is heard.

How do I vote?

The ballot opens on 28 October so please look out for your ballot paper, which will be sent by post to your home address. The ballot is being run on our behalf by an independent organisation called Civica Election Services (CES).

Make sure you post your completed ballot in plenty of time to CES by 5pm on November 27. It will be freepost, so don’t worry about a stamp.

Your election pack will include the ballot paper, and the pre-paid return envelope. There will also be information about the candidates who are standing to be general secretary.

If anything is missing from your election pack, or you lose your ballot paper please call our ballot helpline free on 0800 0 857 857 or on textphone 0800 0 967 968. The helpline opens on 10 November and closes on 20 November.

I hope this all makes sense. Please continue to update us on unison.sjuh@nhs.net regarding this or any matter. One of the consequences of COVID is we are physically much further apart now, and the ability to have casual conversations as we bump into each other on corridors is reduced. Please take care and make sure you adhere to the right PPE for your area.

…speak soon XXX