We know what a worrying time this may be for you and we want to assure that your union has been working throughout the Christmas break to get Government to rethink their decisions on Schools across England.
On Tuesday 22nd December, GMB met with officials from the Department of Education and the Secretary of State Gavin Williamson about their plans for Covid mass testing in schools in England from 4th January 2021.
The Secretary of State Gavin Williamson detailed plans to include funding of £78 million to support schools with the Lateral Flow testing process and the use of military personnel in schools to assist with the setting up of testing all on a voluntary basis. Deputy Medical Officer Jenny Harris explained that the proposed Lateral Flow
Tests would be a self-administered only without the need for medical oversight. Details of the DfE announcement can be found here:
However, since this announcement by the Secretary of State on Wednesday 30th December the government have now placed 78.4% of the UK’s population under Tier 4 and U-Turned on their decision of keeping 10 of the 32 London Boroughs schools open to Primary school children from Monday 4th January.
GMB are alarmed at the escalating rate of Covid Infections across the country and particularly now with a new strain of Covid identified we believe that most schools risk assessments will not be fit to maintain the safety of children, staff, and the community from this new strain.
We have always maintained the position that schools should only remain open to the wider school community when vigorous risk assessments are in place to keep our members safe. GMB have been working with Local Authorities, Multi Academy Trusts, and Individual Schools to ensure this.
Therefore, we are calling on all schools to remain closed from Monday 4th January 2021 apart from children of Key Workers and Vulnerable Adults.
You can read the full GMB statement at https://www.gmb.org.uk/news/time-common-sense-government-must-postpone-schools-re-opening
GMB is clear: schools must be safe if they are to open and we will not hesitate to register a dispute or call for a school to close if safe systems of work are not in place.
If you have any concern for your safety at work please contact your local GMB rep details at https://www.gmb.org.uk/gmb-regions
GMB demands the following:
1. Safe Systems of work
2. Guaranteed wages
3. Saving Lives
Safe Systems of Work
We need the confidence that schools are safe for staff and pupils. Where we have clear evidence that this isn’t the case we will call for the school to be closed down or a register a dispute to protect our members.
GMB has called for face coverings to be made available from the beginning of the pandemic. Where necessary, clinical face masks should be available for example where staff are supporting pupils or staff exhibiting symptoms.
Given the evidence around airborne transmission, adequate ventilation is more important than ever. A clean supply of fresh air is vital to control transmission, so if a classroom cannot open windows sufficiently and has no effective air extraction then it is not deemed safe.
Correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) identified by risk assessment should be always available.
GMB have consistently called for Clinical Vulnerable (CV) and Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) staff to work from home. Where their role cannot be completed at home, mutually agreed alternative work should be provided. In the small number of cases where this is not possible staff should be paid as normal.
Bubbles must be reduced to the optimum level to ensure safety, and cross bubble working should cease. Bubbles need to be of a workable size that minimises the risk of infection.
Where there is a local outbreak, bubbles, and in some cases whole schools, should be closed for a deep clean and to allow for isolation of staff and pupils to protect the local community.
GMB is also calling for priority in vaccinations for school support staff our often-forgotten Key Workers.
GMB School Support Staff work under the pay terms and conditions of the Green Book, apart from a very small number of members in multi academy trusts with whom we negotiate separately. GMB is a recognised trade union that have been negotiating pay agreements and guidance that ensure you are paid your wages. We will continue to ensure no workers loses out on pay during Covid-19.
Teacher Unions have no jurisdiction on your pay terms and conditions of work and do not represent school support staff employed under Local Government Green Book Terms and Conditions. So whilst you may hear of teacher unions demands please note they do not have any oversight of your pay terms and conditions.
The real test for government is to have a workable solution to have all staff tested, tracked and traced and priority on vaccination rollout so that any staff in contact with the virus can self-isolate and minimise risk and infection. If this measure can’t be put in place then potentially lives could be put at risk and GMB will not accept this.
GMB makes no apology for putting the health and safety of our members first and if protections are not met, we will if required register disputes with employers who fail in their duty of care to put safe systems in place and will call for a school to be closed if it puts our members lives at risk.
What Members Can Do
1. If your school remains open you have a right to ask for revised Risk Assessments
2. Contact your local GMB rep if you are worried about returning to work details at https://www.gmb.org.uk/gmb-regions
3. If you do not have a workplace rep on site consider becoming one details at https://www.gmb.org.uk/become-workplace-representative
4. Pass this briefing to a non-union member and ask them to join at https://www.gmb.org.uk/join-gmb
5. Stay in touch with us and join our mailing list at firstname.lastname@example.org you can find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GMBSchoolStaff/
Further guidance to follow shortly.