Workplace Matters - UNISON Falkirk Newsletter 17/07/2020

Dear member, Please find below your latest 17th June 2020 newsletter- Workplace matters Workplace matters This newsletter is brought to you by Falkirk Council Unison Branch.

  In this newsletter

  • Council refuse to provide face masks for cleaners

  • Legionella update 

  • Covid Social Care Worker Death in Service Payment

  • Health and Safety Rep Recruitment

  • Want to Join UNISON?

We know this is a very difficult time for workers. We want your news, views on all workplace matters. All members are invited to share stories and news, good or bad. Let us know what is happening at your workplace or how you feel home working is. You can email this newsletter at office@unisonfalkirk.org.uk Council refuse to provide face masks for cleaners The branch has become aware of an unfortunate situation. Falkirk council management are refusing to supply facemasks to cleaning staff.  Falkirk council have stated that “The employers position is that we are following national PPE guidance.”

UNISON feel that this is petty excuse from the council for not protecting the lives and family of some of their lowest paid and hardest working members of staff. In the last few months scientific expertise has time and again shown that cleaners are the keystone for keeping COVID-19 from spreading through our workplaces, care homes and schools.

UNISON feels that if the Cleaners identify they need this PPE to be safe, then they should be provided with it, moreover if the provision of facemasks also provides peace of mind for cleaners and indeed others then we say do it.

The Scottish Government are advising the general public to wear masks in an ever-increasing number of situations, so it is unclear why the council management are dragging their feet instead of keeping people safe. The lazy excuse that their policy of not giving cleaners face masks is based on national PPE guidance is extremely disappointing. The national PPE guidance simply advises on the minimum standard that should be applied.


UNISON challenge Falkirk Council to step up and set a standard of excellence in Scotland.


We urge management to take some decisive leadership on this urgently and commit to protecting cleaning staff.

All too often during this pandemic we have seen the stark disregard employers have for groups of low paid predominantly female workers. UNISON demand that Falkirk council give our cleaners the respect and standard of safety that they deserve. Legionella update You may be aware that in the middle of June 2020 tests on the water within schools gave a positive result for Legionella and Pseudomonas. The schools confirmed as affected are; Bantaskin Primary School, Camelon Nursery, Carrongrange High School, Deanburn Primary School, Larbert ELCC, Maddiston Primary School, St Patrick’s Primary School. Results are pending for the remaining sites. The announcement about schools was quickly followed by a similar one reporting that Council Headquarters had also been affected. A test there for Legionella and Pseudomonas was positive and this led to the subsequent closure of the building Social Work buildings and offices in the south west including Brockville and Sealock House being the subject of testing. Watling Lodge is also affected. Any Council building that has had limited use over the lockdown will have high possibility of having the presence of these bacteria. The warm summer temperatures and the fact that water is not regularly circulating turn the pipework of empty buildings into an ideal breeding ground. The council health and safety advice is that it’s ok for staff to enter these buildings provided they don’t go near the water. Management have asked staff not to wash their hands with water.  Management position is that these workplaces will be safe if staff follow counterintuitive administration such as do not wash your hands with water.  They have also prepared a bizarre risk assessment that states staff should “not use the toilet unless absolutely necessary”. They also are of the view that you will be safe provided you “keep the lid down when flushing”. UNISON view We feel that the council position has resulted in staff being given contradictory advice. On one hand staff are expected to stay vigilant, follow national health advice and regularly wash their hands using soap and water. If adhered to the advice from the council on avoiding Legionella and Pseudomonas would discourage this regular use of water. UNISON feels that this is an unacceptable gamble between members being put at risk of one disease over another.

UNISON is also concerned, that lockdown maintenance programmes put in place by the Council were clearly insufficient.


This poor situation management has put the health of employees and service user’s at needless risk.

The HSE (Health Service Executive) are responsible for health and safety advice across the UK. Their position on risk reduction is that the first step which should be taken is removal of the hazard – In this case fix the contaminated water supply. This link is for the useful HSE fact sheet called: "Management of risk when planning work: The right priorities" https://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/lwit/assets/downloads/hierarchy-risk-controls.pdf In that factsheet the HSE advise that risk removal should be carried out in the following order.

  • Elimination (remove the hazard/ fix the contaminated water supply)

  • Substitution

  • Engineering controls

  • Administrative controls (telling people to not wash their hands)

  • Personal protective clothes and equipment

The HSE are very clear that risk reduction should be considered in the order above and employers have a duty not to jump to the one that is easiest to implement. Based on the approach taken so far it would appear that Falkirk Council management have jumped straight to Administrative controls which would suggest a poor understanding of basic H&S good working practice. Advice to members The Council are aware that UNISON has already advised local members on how to stay safe. UNISON will continue to issue advice to members who are facing this situation. Our advice is as follows. Should you find yourself in a situation where you are being asked to choose between; putting yourself at risk of an airborne bacterium, or having the proper hygiene facilities to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, the branch advice is as follows. UNISON advises that members take the following steps; 1. Do not to place yourself at risk. 2. Advise your manager of your concern and request to work from home or a suitable and safe and tested alternative environment. Whilst the Council have failed to close these buildings, they have thus far responded positively to this approach Covid Social Care Worker Death in Service Payment Following pressure from UNISON, the Scottish Government has agreed to make a one-off payment of £60,000 to a named survivor of any social care worker who dies in service from coronovirus, and whose contracted pension arrangements do not offer death in service cover.  This briefing is available at https://www.unison-scotland.org/covid-social-care-worker-death-in-service-payment/ It explains who qualifies under the scheme and how claims can be made. UNISON campaigned hard to make politicians and the public understand the hardships social care workers faced during the COVID-19 pandemic because of the poor terms and conditions of employment offered by private and third sector care providers.  The case for all care workers being entitled to the same conditions and protections, regardless of who their employer is, was overwhelming. Health and Safety Rep Recruitment Does health and safety and keeping your fellow workers safe interest you? If so please consider our short and sharp 2-hour training course. It's completely free for members to join and a great chance to learn more about H&S in UNISON.  We want to ensure we remain in close contact with you and your colleagues so we can deploy support quickly if serious health risks arise. UNISON reps will play a key role in declaring workplaces as "Covid Secure" UNISON branches are keen to develop and support some of our colleagues as safety contacts. As you will have seen from the news above, your help is needed. UNISON has been working hard to develop some online training and webinars for members interested in helping the branch by being a Safety contact.  Information on our new short 2-hour online course can be found at https://www.unison-scotland.org/coronavirus-online-short-health-and-safety-courses/ If you are interested in one of these roles, the training or want to find out some more information, please get in touch with the branch or our Local UNISON organiser Adrian Moore a.moore@unison.co.uk The first training session’s date is still to be finalised but will hopefully be held during the week beginning the 3rd of Aug. Want to Join UNISON? If you are reading this and you're not a member we want to say thanks for reading our updates. We also want you to know that by Joining UNISON you would be increasing our strength and helping us to tackle the concerning issues we have outlined in this newsletter. Joining now, during COVID-19 allows us to fight to keep you safe at work. Head to https://joining.unison.org.uk/to sign up. It takes only a few minutes to join. If you’re a member, ask a friend to join so we can give them the same protection at work we give you. In Solidarity Stewart Cook Janet Robertson Joint Secretaries UNISON Falkirk Council e.mail Office@unisonfalkirk.org.uk Phone 01324 503620 We cannot be in the office at this time but please leave a voicemail and a contact number and we will call you back, as soon as we can. Build the resistance, solidarity. PPE Not Promises

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