I would like to start by wishing all our members a safe and Happy New Year. It has certainly been a difficult start to the year, as we are at the start of another national lockdown. I have just listened to a Downing Street news conference that confirmed according to ONS figures one in fifty of the population in England, some 1.1 million people, are currently infected with Covid19. This is against the backdrop of hospitals straining to cope already, with hospital admissions 40% higher than at the peak of the first lockdown in April.
It beggars belief in that context that the Prime Minister, as late as Sunday, was insisting that schools must open on Monday, that it was safe to do so. This has forced schools to waste precious time on planning opening, that would have been better used to prepare for online learning!
We are still awaiting the government guidance about many issues that remain unclear with more detail emerging daily. There are some key differences to April’s lockdown including the proposals to keep nurseries and libraries open, changes in guidance on vulnerable children that could potentially result in larger numbers of children in schools to name but a few of the issues that are being worked through.
Our priority remains supporting all our members through the next period, until the successful roll out of the vaccine is completed, and the situation hopefully improves. We have representatives working with Manchester City Council and all the main employers in the Branch to review working arrangements in the light of lockdown. We will resume our regular Covid briefings during the coming period, to keep you up to date with the key issues as they arise.
Manchester UNISON Branch Secretary