Following on from the meeting we had online yesterday and a number of meetings we have had with UNISON members working in different schools, we have a couple of things you may be able to get involved with.
No Going Back To Unsafe Schools – socially distant protest
Monday 1 June, 5.30pm
Hunter Street steps to the Brunswick Centre, WC1N 1BS
Protesting is very difficult at the moment, and we have generally kept to online meetings. However, the government has pushed hard for schools to take in more children from next week and here in Camden the response has been varied. We have said that the council should join other councils in saying none of the schools should increase their numbers as there is no test, trace and track system in place in the community, and that schools have not been able to be made safe enough not to risk the children, staff and wider community. This risk is increased now that the government has said people can meet up to 6 others outdoors.
Unfortunately, Camden hasn’t done this, and schools are making their own decisions about increasing numbers. Although some have said they aren’t doing this yet, and are looking at how they can make the schools as safe as possible, seeing what the testing system shows over the next week or two, some schools are saying they will have more children in next week, and we do not believe all of them have adequately prepared for this. We are outlining with our members in those schools what they can do, and that they have the full support of our branch, but there are a couple of things other UNISON members can do to support them.
If you live within reasonable walking/cycling distance of the Brunswick Centre, please come along to our socially distanced protest at 5.30pm on Monday – do NOT use public transport to come. We are trying to make a point without increasing risk! We will be meeting on the steps on Hunter St (near the cinema) where there is plenty of room to stand spaced apart. In particular if you work in a school or are a parent/grandparent it would be great if you can safely make it.
Sign the online letter
If you cannot make Monday afternoon, the please do sign the online letter – the link is below. We are asking every member to do this as it’s for people who live or work in Camden:
If you work in a school and do not believe that a proper risk assessment has been completed or that it is not safe for staff to work there with increased numbers of children, appended below is a letter that you can complete outlining why it’s unsafe and why therefore you will not be attending work. It’s also designed so you can ask other staff in your school to sign with you. If you want to discuss if this is what you should do in your school, please contact me or Hugo Pierre at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
Letter for school staff :
re: Health and Safety
I am writing, on behalf of the signatories to this letter, to inform you that, in order for members of your staff to protect themselves and/or other persons from danger, the staff named below will not be attending [name of school/college] to work there at present. They will continue to be available to work from home.
Since the government announced its decision to extend the opening of schools the impact that has in terms of the health and safety of pupils, staff and the community has been widely discussed. The mere fact of an increase in the number of pupils and staff attending school poses an increased risk. The Independent Sage group has said the risk could be reduced by as much as 50% if wider reopening was delayed until the 15 June.
UNISON along with the other TUC education unions, outlined a set of tests to be met nationally and locally before it could be deemed safe for schools to open more widely. These tests have been set with a view to safely increasing pupil numbers. UNISON does not believe these tests have been met in full. Most specifically, UNISON does not believe that a robust test, track and isolate system is demonstrably in place either nationally or locally. Independent scientific advice concurs with UNISON’s view that wider opening on 1 June is not safe.
We believe that not attending work in the current circumstances is an appropriate step for us to take for the following reasons:
The dangers that are preventing us from attending work are the risk of contracting coronavirus and or spreading coronavirus to others.
The person(s) we are seeking to protect are ourselves, our families, our pupils, their families, our colleagues, their families and members of the public.
We believe that this danger is serious because coronavirus infection is potentially fatal and has already resulted in more than 37,000 deaths in the UK. In addition, some of those listed below have personal circumstances that mean the potential impact on them contracting Covid19 is even more dangerous.
We believe that, if we were to attend work, the danger would be imminent because we don’t believe that your plans for 1 June comply in full with the joint unions’ checklist – available here for primary schools and here for special schools. [delete checklist as appropriate]
In particular, the following measures have not been implemented or adequately implemented
[add here the elements where the school has not complied with the checklist or else attach a copy of your completed checklist indicating the areas of non-compliance]
In addition: –
Staff journeys to work involve using public transport, where they would be in very close proximity to many other people, some of whom may be infected and or carrying the virus.
Our risk of exposure to Covid19 cannot be reduced to an acceptable level.
5. We will be happy to return to the workplace when it is safe to do so, for example if the following measures have been put into place:
UNISON’s and the other TUC education unions’ tests have been met nationally and locally.
The joint union checklist has been complied with in full and all measures put in place.
In the meantime, we are all, of course, willing to carry out any of our duties, or other alternative duties at our current grades, that can reasonably be undertaken from home.
I would be grateful if you would arrange to meet with myself and other union reps to discuss these issues further.
[Name of rep]
[List of members]
Stay safe, stay in touch,
London Borough of Camden
Telephone: 020 7974 1633
3rd floor Crowndale Centre
218 Eversholt Street
London NW1 1BD