Covid-Safe Workplaces?

I was a Branch Secretary for PCS trade union for 22 years and held other lay posts within that union and indeed its predecessor unions (IRSF & PTC) throughout my working life in the civil service. So it’s probably no surprise then that my now-retired eye was caught by the article below on the BBC website:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-56647149

I’ve been troubled throughout this wretched pandemic about how safe UK workplaces really are and the telling thing for me has been that I’m yet to hear of any employers being prosecuted for unsafe C19 conditions. Trade unions, of course, will always be (or at least should always be) on the front foot should their members have concerns about unsafe workplaces.

Here’s what the Health & Safety Executive say about how they get involved with workplace Covid 19 concerns:-

www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/regulating-health-and-safety/index.htm

I’d heard about the Swansea situation a while back and it seems like my former trade union and indeed its members in that agency of government have decided enough is enough. Clearly, even if all guidelines are being followed by DVLA (and I’ve no reason to think they are not) something is far from right with such large numbers of staff falling victim to C19.

But just think for a moment about all those non-unionised workplaces across the UK and how safe the staff feel who work in them, over C19 or indeed other matters, if there’s no union to take their employer to task.

We generally have safe working conditions in the UK because of the efforts of trade unionists over many generations. It’s best to join a union in my view; indeed when I first started work in the civil service it was and had been government policy for a long time to encourage all civil servants to join their appropriate trade union. That was good advice to me.

Covid-safe workplaces?

As a retired trade union officer an issue has been bouncing around in my head for a while now associated with the C19 return to work i.e. how do we ensure workplaces are as safe as they can be made?

In a unionised workplace the answer is pretty obvious as the appropriately trained TU H&S reps will ensure the workplace is safe. Indeed, I often recall that in my working days the TU H&S reps were often trained to a higher level than managers who actually held the legal H&S responsibilities.

But what happens in non-unionised workplaces? At one end of this will be the ‘sod the workers we want them back in grafting and beggar the consequences’ type employers who may well be putting pressure on employees to return to an unsafe workplace. At the other end there will be good employers who simply don’t know everything they should do (risk assessments etc.) and may then create a unsafe workplace inadvertently. Of course there’ll be every variation between these two extremes.

I decided to have a look at what the Health & Safety Executive were saying and here it is:-

www.hse.gov.uk/news/hse-regulatory-activity-during-coronavirus.htm

And here’s a link to the TUC and Coronavirus:-

www.tuc.org.uk/CoronavirusProtectingWorkers

If ever workers needed to be members of a trade union now is the time as many of the worries about returning to work will be dealt with without individuals having to do that worrying. I remain concerned that non-unionised workers will find themselves at a health disadvantage and during this pandemic that’s not where anyone wants to be.

Teachers standing up for safe learning conditions are condemned…….

The BBC has the article on it’s website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-52685220

Our right wing newspapers have always had a downer on the teaching profession so it’s no surprise that in the debate over when schools should return to being open (other than for the children of key workers and vulnerable youngsters) that it uses the issue to teacher bash. The Children’s Commissioner wading into the matter telling Government and teaching unions to ‘stop squabbling’ is frankly unhelpful too. By using such a phrase she probably inadvertently gives the impression of an equal battle where both sides could well be in the wrong. However, in my view, school staff are very much the victims of the back to school approach of HM Government.

A while back and before the somewhat arbitrary date for some primary school years to return was set by government I read this from the NEU:-

It struck me as a very sensible document which clearly laid out and in a concise way the concerns of teachers and school staff in general.

The real issue here has been the lack of constructive/meaningful engagement with teachers representatives in the back to school process BEFORE the arbitrary date of June 1st was set for English primary schools.

We never seem to learn the value of good industrial relations in the UK and keep making the same old mistakes yet those making the mistakes/missteps then use the press to attack the victims of flawed consultation or in need non-consultation! That those who work in schools expect their unions to be be fully consulted is a given, it’s not rocket science for goodness sake.

Get off the backs of school staff, they are not the problem here and they have the support of the vast majority of parents.

It’s not wrong to expect a safe working and learning environment to be fully mapped out before orders to get on with it are are handed out from Downing Street.

Click on the NEU document to enlarge for reading

Maghull – C19 & how our world seemed to change from locked down to unlocked so quickly

Liverpool Road North shops in 2015

It’s normally very hard to access the shops on Liverpool Road North Maghull by car as the few parking spaces there are will usually occupied most of the time. C19 changed all that as the businesses closed and there were no cars wanting to park apart from those belonging to a few very local residents.

And then yesterday I went to deliver food to our isolating daughter and found pretty much the last parking space; the world has moved on or is that moved out very fast indeed!

Oddly though it seemed only 3 or 4 of the shops were actually open yet the cars and vans were back in numbers; a couple of days ago the only vehicles would have been those travelling through this small shopping area on their way to elsewhere.

I’m still of the view that it was just a little previous (maybe a couple of weeks previous) of government to ditch the ‘Stay at home’ message in favour of ‘Stay Alert’ as it may, on the limited evidence of Liverpool Road North yesterday, have sent the message ‘Go out’ even if that was not what was intended.

I’m guessing that similar scenes will have been replicated across England although probably not in Scotland or Wales?

And here’s an historic shot of the same shopping area in much quieter times, all the time:-

Merseytravel survey into how we move about – before – during & after C19

There’s an in depth travel survey on the Merseytravel website which you may like to participate in – see link below:-

liverpoolcityregionalca.researchfeedback.net/s.asp?k=158858381676

A Merseytravel consultation event previously held in Maghull.

A Merseyrail electric unit at Bootle New Strand Station.

A Liverpool bound 507 EMU approaching the Crescent Road level crossing in Birkdale, Southport.