March saw the Branch have its Annual General meeting. There was a last-minute change in venue due to safety issues at the Civic Centre, and unfortunately the meeting was not attended by enough members for us to complete all business. The Branch will discuss how we can better engage our members at the next Committee meeting as, after all, this is YOUR union, and it is member-led.
On a positive note we had an excellent speaker in Assistant General Secretary Christina McAnea, who provided an update on National’s work around pay and bargaining. We had a useful debate on what would of course become the dominant issue for us all a week or two later: COVID-19.
March also saw the Council formally let the first part of the new homecare contract, which will require contractors to pay staff the London Living Wage and to not use zero-hour contracts. This represented a positive outcome to our campaign for the Ethical Care Charter, and we will be working with the Council to see this rolled out over the next months.
Then, COVID-19 broke! – The first outcome of this was we were required to close the Branch office, and like much of the population we are now all working from home (but very much still contactable).
Since that point we have been in regular consultation with Senior Council Officers and their equivalents at many employers to ensure that our members are kept safe. UNISON nationally has also been negotiating with Local Government and Schools employers. Our key demand is that our members are safe and, where at all possible, entitled to work from home; this has seen a sea change for many members and I personally want to thank all those who are continuing to provide services to our most vulnerable. Please click here for the latest advice and guidance.
For those who are not able to work from home we have focused on issues such as social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE). We recognise there is a national shortage but are determined that you, our members, are kept safe.
Finally, if you need to contact us we are all still available on the usual numbers and emails.
Stay safe and solidarity,
Joint Branch Secretary