It is with deep sadness that UNISON North West was recently made aware of the sudden and untimely passing of Helen Harrison on 17th January, a former Branch Secretary at Rochdale Local Government Branch and long standing activist.
Helen began her UNISON journey as a local steward whilst working in Rochdale Council's Customer Services section in 1998. In 2001 she became Assistant Branch Secretary, a position Helen held for three years before embarking on a decade serving as a dogged and resilient Branch Secretary.
During that period she oversaw the introduction of the Council's pay and grading review under the Single Status Agreement, and the establishment of the Impact Partnership, in which Helen fought for a secondment staffing model over a staff transfer. Helen led the Branch response against significant threats to terms and conditions which, like many councils, Rochdale sought to impose as part of its response to the coalition government's public sector austerity programme that devastated local authority finances. That developed into a dispute that was referred for conciliation to a joint panel of North West Employer and Regional Trade Union officers and Helen's determination, combined with grounded pragmatism, ensured that members held on to many of the threatened entitlements, not least the Green Book occupational sickness scheme.
Helen was also Branch Secretary during the long running Future Directions dispute which laid bare the realities of outsourcing in social care, became a dispute of national importance, and in many ways provided some of the impetus for the successful care worker campaigns championed and delivered across UNISON North West in recent times.
Helen also represented Rochdale Branch at Conferences, Regional Council and our Local Government Service Group, including a period as a North West substitute rep to the UNISON NJC Committee. When she stepped aside from being Branch Secretary she did not disappear to the relative comfort of the back benches; becoming firstly the Branch International Officer and then, after retirement, an active member of the Retired Members Section before, logically, becoming the Retired Members Secretary in 2017, a position she held until the end.
Current Branch Secretary, Jonathan Harding, paid tribute "Helen was involved with the Rochdale Branch for over 25 years in one capacity or another. She was a very active steward, Branch Officer and retired member. Helen will be sadly missed by myself and the Rochdale Branch".
Our thoughts are with Helen's husband, Brian, and their family at this time. Messages of condolence can be sent via the Rochdale Branch to [email protected]
Salford UNISON Branch Secretary and UNISON NEC member Steve North will participate in the Manchester Marathon this April in support of UNISON’s Presidential Project – Endeavour.
The Endeavour Project is a charity supporting people and their pets to escape from violent and abusive homes.
Last year 1.9 women aged 16-59 reported suffering domestic abuse since the age of 16.Two women a week are murdered by their partner or ex-partner and 30 men were murdered last year as a result of domestic violence. 25% of domestic abuse survivors returned to an abusive partner out of concern for their pet.
Endeavour offer a unique fostering service for pets ensuring that no one gets left behind. Endeavour receive no funding for this service and rely on the support of amazing people like you to keep these animals safe until they can return home.
Steve is deep into training and needs all the support he can get.
Donate now at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/steven-north3
After a months-long campaign, care workers employed by Aspire Care and Support in Salford have achieved a £1925 pay rise, backdated to April 2022.
This means they have belatedly secured the same pay rise as their council-employed colleagues.
Aspire workers, through their trade union UNISON, held meetings with the company and lobbied and emailed Salford councillors for months to achieve this pay rise.
Aspire care worker Lesley said, “It’s no more than we deserve, everything is going up so it’s only fair that wages go up. We work hard in Aspire, we do a really good job for Salford, so we should get the wages we deserve.”
The workers gathered outside Salford Civic Centre on Wednesday to celebrate their victory and to urge other local care providers to offer a similar pay rise.
Salford UNISON Branch Secretary Steve North said: “This is a fantastic outcome secured by UNISON members, working in Aspire, who organised, campaigned and refused to let this go. This is their victory.
"We welcome the support from the council and their willingness to engage.
"We are now looking to them to engage with us to make sure that these workers don’t have to go through the same process in future years to demand what should be theirs by right.
"We remain committed to securing a future where all Aspire workers – and care workers generally – have access to the same pay and terms and conditions as their public sector colleagues.”
Thousands of Environment Agency (EA) workers in England will strike for the first time tomorrow in a significant escalation in a dispute over pay.
UNISON members working in the EA are now “working one day in every five for nothing” due a decade of government failures to pay workers wages in line with inflation.
Workers who maintain important safety structures such as the Thames Barrier, coastal sea defences and those protecting communities from floods, water pollution, spills, waste fires and fly-tipping will walk out tomorrow, Wednesday 18 January from 8am to 5pm.
Last November, EA workers were given an inadequate pay rise of just 2% plus a £345 payment.
In December, thousands of workers started working to rule for an indefinite period, meaning they are working only their contracted hours and taking all their scheduled breaks and full rest time between shifts.
The strike comes at a time of year when extreme weather is more likely to hit the country. Where there is a threat to life or property from incidents such as a major flood, officers will step in as emergency ‘life and limb cover’ has been agreed.
UNISON head of environment Donna Rowe-Merriman said: “Dedicated staff have been left with no other option but to strike over pay for the first time in the agency’s history.
“The decision to strike wasn’t taken lightly as workers know their role is crucial in keeping communities and the environment safe.
“But the cost-of-living crisis has reached a point where the lowest paid are truly struggling to make ends meet. Staff often have no choice but to look for other work outside the Agency. This appalling situation cannot go on.
“Communities rely on these critical workers, particularly during bouts of extreme weather and rising problems of river pollution. They should be paid accordingly.
“UNISON is urging ministers and the agency to negotiate and ensure workers are given an improved pay offer. Otherwise, more staff will join the exodus.”
The union’s EA committee chair Jackie Hamer said: “It is a measure of the anger and frustration of our members that they are taking strike action over pay for the first time in the history of the Environment Agency.”
“Twelve years of this government’s austerity policies and below-inflation pay rises have eroded pay in the EA by over 20%, and that was before the current spike in inflation. Our lower-paid members are finding it very hard to manage financially and some depend heavily on working significant amounts of overtime to make ends meet.
“These are frontline workers who deliver vital services, protecting the environment and turning out regularly in force to manage the impacts of flooding. To be so badly rewarded for such important work is shameful.”
UNISON’s EA sector committee vice chair Greg Marshall said: “Our members care deeply about the communities they serve and about protecting the environment we live in. For them, it’s more than just a job. Whether it’s getting up in the middle of the night to build flood barriers or sacrificing their public holidays to attend waste fires or sewage pollutions, they just want to do the right thing.”
“But enough is enough, they can’t survive on a derisory 2% pay offer on top of the 21% cut they’ve had over the last 12 years. Our staff deserve a fair pay rise. We need fair pay in the EA.”
Thousands of bereaved families yet to claim £60,000 covid pay out
Relatives of health and social care workers who died after contracting covid through their jobs could be missing out on a £60,000 pay out.
A government scheme set up to compensate families of deceased workers put in close contact with covid patients has received 810 applications from across the whole of England.
Of those, 713 have been paid so far and 51 did not meet the eligibility criteria.
The race is now on to reach other families who might be eligible to make a claim – particularly those whose loved ones worked in social care - before the scheme closes in March next year. To be eligible, the death must have occurred before March 2022.
There are no official figures, but around 20,000 workers in the UK are estimated to have died from Covid caught at work since 2020. More people have died in the North West than in any other region – more than in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales put together.
While public sector workers from a wide-range of jobs contracted the virus while carrying out their duties, the government scheme is restricted to NHS and social care workers.
The families of trade union members who have died of covid due to work can seek advice and support from the North West Trade Union Covid Bereaved Support Group.
The Group was launched by UNISON North West and Greater Manchester Hazards.
UNISON Assistant General Secretary Kevan Nelson said
“Most of the people attending the inaugural Bereaved Support Group meeting was a relative of a trade union member who had lost their life to covid, or they were a trade union representative who had helped families through the pandemic and might also have lost a colleague or loved one themselves.
“It was very moving to listen to their experiences of living through covid and we are determined to do all we can to ensure lessons are learned. The bereaved have been offered support in making a submission to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry and the Inquiry team has been invited to speak to our families as part of its national Listening Exercise.
We are desperate for bereaved families to come forward to claim the compensation they deserve.”
There is an opportunity to work for UNSON Liverpool Hospitals Health Branch as a Caseworker and Project Co-Ordinator. Find more info at the link below.
No matter where you work, you can find an online course to help you hone some part of your practice with our partnership with the Skills Academy. With over 600 courses free to UNISON members, Skills Academy offers a great opportunity to learn what you like, at your own pace.
Regionally we offer short courses and one day workshops from the Open University and the Workers’ Education Association in popular subjects e.g.
• Menopause in the Workplace
• Dementia Awareness
• Autism Awareness
• Managing Challenging Behaviour
• Attachment in the Early Years
• Mental Health Awareness
• Drug calculations
We work with other partner organisations to deliver exciting, innovative learning opportunities, for example Show Racism the Red Card and Writing on the Wall. Please see our website for more information or get in touch with Diana Warren [email protected]
UNISON North West announces with sadness the death of Pat Woolham (nee Grant) Regional Organiser.
Over the past year Pat had been receiving cancer treatment and did so with great fortitude. Sadly Pat’s situation worsened in recent weeks and she died on Friday 9 September.
Pat had been involved with UNISON for many years starting off in 2000 as a workplace steward in Manchester City Council, where she was employed as a Customer Services Officer in Housing Benefits, then a full time Convenor in Manchester UNISON Branch before joining our union’s staff in 2004 as an Organising Assistant. In 2006 Pat was promoted to Regional Organiser, a role in which she excelled as a superb negotiator, organiser and mentor to many branch leaders across the region.
Pat was immensely proud of her upbringing in a trade union household - in 1950 her Father was elected the first black shop steward at Manchester’s Bradford Road Gas Works. She will be sadly missed by her colleagues and friends in UNISON and the wider labour movement.
Pat is survived by her partner John, sons Daniel and Daryl and their families. UNISON North West sends them our deepest sympathy and solidarity.
Messages of condolences to Pat’s family can be sent via Val Rothwell at Regional Office. ([email protected])
UNISON is one of the main sponsors for the Disability Awareness Day in the North West on the 17 July.
The event will be held at Walton Hall Garden and is the world’s largest voluntary-led pan-disability exhibition. There will be free admission to the event.
The event is sponsored by the North West Disabled Members Committee and UNISON will be having a double stall at the event.
On Monday 11 July , UNISON North West will mark Srebrenica Memorial Day.
There will be an online presentation from 12:00 – 13:30 delivered by the Bosnian Genocide Educational Trust. The Workshop will be delivered by Smajo Beso with opening address by Lynne Morris, Regional Manager Unison.
Smajo arrived in the UK with his family aged just nine, this fascinating and emotional talk is an excellent insight into growing up during the Bosnian War. Although Smajo was not at Srebrenica, he helps us to try and understand how quickly Genocide, based on hatred of race, faith and nationalism can develop, very relevant with current events.
To register, please email Diana Warren at [email protected]