Norwich, No 3, December 2020
This is the third issuse of Key Workers United with articles by Dr Gwen Chimodes, Atilla the shelf stacker, Leon Kilbourne, & Barney the train guard.
Organising to Win 2021 is a new project that’s come out of Key Workers United. We want to publish a handbook written by the people who work in the NHS, care homes, rail and bus, fire service, retail, post office, education, social services, science, and the unemployed. Organising to Win 2021 will set out the situation in each sector and suggest how best to organise in 2021. We hope that you will contribute and encourage others to take part — we can all be writers as well as readers.
Notes towards a public health programme
Dr Gwen Chimonides
A public health programme should include education surrounding how viruses are spread, as Covid could keep grumbling on and we will need vaccinations every year, and it could happen again with a new virus. We also need to know how to interpret the numbers of cases/deaths in a simple but effective way. And to show how misinformation can be detrimental to public health, not only causing unnecessary spread but by creating division, and fuelling mental health problems.
We need to know how to spot misinformation and questions individuals can ask themselves to identify misinformation. A truly independent fact-checking body with TV airtime and full social media coverage could help to eliminate misinformation and conspiracy theories. I actually think that the most important thing right now and for next few decades will be to educate all ages about mental health problems, including those exacerbated by the media.
Attila the shelf stacker.
The Furlough is dead. Long live the Furlough!
The Job retention scheme ended on 31st October. It cost £41 billion but didn’t stop all the carnage on the high street. On 1st November the scheme was started again and pending a review in January, may stay until March 2021.
On my return to work I learnt several changes had taken place, but importantly for me my pay went up to the new minimum wage! Hurrah! Then I was told I could carry my mobile phone with me on shop floor (previously banned) because some clever wizard had devised an app that allowed staff to access company information about products and stock availability. I won’t do this, partly because when moving heavy stock the phone can get broken and I disagree with using my paid network time for company use.
Seats had been removed from checkout tills too. This is all part of the “working at pace” changes. However, I’m pleased to say seats are now reinstated for those who need them on medical/disability grounds. Worryingly, I heard that staff had been monitored on CCTV by management. One staff member had been challenged that they’d been seen moving around the store too slowly! That worker has recently developed arthritis. CCTV is for crime prevention and detection only and the law states it’s not a substitute for supervisory staff.
The three-strike rule. If you think that’s for sport well it’s for some of us in retail as well. If you clock in too early, or too late, fail to finish a task in time, or make an error – you can be red carded! Three red cards and you’re up for a disciplinary. This is a very heavy- handed approach. Surely if there is a persistent issue then a discussion would be best. However, I think this is all about creating a climate fear so that people will work harder. It’s brutal, but it’s the workplace for so many now.
On Sunday 22nd November a rally in support of Jeremy Corbyn was held in Finsbury Park, London. Islington Trades Council has taken the lead in supporting him against the vicious campaign to silence his socialist commitment to fighting all forms of oppression, including against the Palestinians.
A ‘Trade Union Friends of JC’ has been formed. (photo: Islington Tribune)
Join your Union
Leon Kilbourne writing in personal capacity
Working at UNISON Norfolk County’s branch office has opened my eyes to a different world. We have members working at the County Council, several District and Borough Councils, education and the community and voluntary sector. It is these areas along with health which are at the sharp end of coping with the coronavirus pandemic right now. No wonder there’s a recruitment and retention problem, low wages for hard work and a lack of funding are undoubtedly a major part of the problem but so are the frankly beyond shoddy employment practices encountered particularly in the community/voluntary sector. If you work in this sector, or know anyone who does I urge you to encourage them to join their union and get involved. Even if this is something relatively modest like joining your Annual General Meeting on Zoom this year.
Widening participation and inclusivity means a lot to your Reps, elected Branch Officers and Case Workers who selflessly invest their heart and soul into supporting and negotiating at work and often in their wider communities too. Yes, there are paid officials from UNISON to help and less than a handful of employees based at County Hall but without members and Activists it all turns to dust.
Joining your trade union is more than a luxury. It is essential to protect you as an individual, work collectively and campaign for not only decent employment rights at work but to speak up for workers and service users within the public services. This is one big ask and I ask you to do your bit to make this happen. In Solidarity.
Barney the train guard
Hello my friends. Hope you are all keeping well and safe. Be glad when 2020 is over. Apart from Sir Tom Moore, Joe Wicks and the PPE manufacturers, everyone has had a terrible year. On the trains it was getting a little busier then Coco the Clown (Boris Johnson) derailed it all again. To be too late for the first lockdown is maybe excusable as it was new, but too late for the second is sheer negligence. The Government running the railways!! That is ok but I would rather it be a Labour Government than a Conservative one. As a small boy, my grandad said, “Barney, never trust a Tory!” That must have been 1968 but do you know what, he was dead right. So, trains are quiet as people are told to stay at home and work from home.
I so sincerely hope you and your family are friends are safe and well and after this dreadful year, make the most of Christmas and New Year. Follow the safe guidance and smile and laugh.
That is very important too. Have a great 2021 everyone. I have a feeling it will be better than 2020. Ta ta for now. Speak to you next year.
Printed and published by KEY WORKERS UNITED (KWU), Norwich.
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