International Workers Memorial Day 2022

On Thursday (28th), trade unionists and campaigners met at the Workers’ Memorial Tree in Princes Street Garden to mark International Workers Memorial Day, an annual event to commemorate those that have died at and due to work and to galvanise our fight to protect the health and safety at workers.

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Fighting to keep workers safe from COVID

As the UK and Scottish Government’s lift COVID restrictions and safety measures at pace, your branch is committed to keeping workers safe. Cases are still high and Omicron is running rampant throughout Edinburgh, with staff absence rates impacting services—such as closing school classes —so our message is clear—the risk is still there, so we need measures to protect staff.

The removal of legal obligations should not mean a removal of all measures, but the ability for the Council to create their own measures to best suit the needs of the workforce. Success must be measured by reduction in case numbers and absence rates, not in how stringently the Council stick to the Scottish Government’s line.

Read the current Scottish Government workplace guidance.

What we want to see

We will continue to call on the Council to

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Waste and cleansing—changes to COVID arrangements

We recently met with management to discuss changes to working arrangements in Waste and Cleansing as a result of changes to Scottish Government guidance and restrictions being lifted. The message from senior management is clear—there will be no sudden changes, you will be informed in advanced and they will meet with the unions before anything changes.

We made clear that we were concerned with what we believe is a rushed removal of vital safety measures in the community and that ensuring workers safety is paramount.

Andy Williams summarised the Council’s current position:

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COVID measures for Omicron

Over half of all COVID cases in Scotland are caused by the new variant, Omicron, and the numbers are rising at an alarming rate each day, with over 1,000 new cases identified yesterday.

New measures came into place on Friday (17 December) to fight the spread of coronavirus.

Read on for a summary of updated measures and steps to make yourself safe at work.

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HAVS crisis in Parks and Greenspaces

Essential guidance for those working with vibrating machinery

Photo by isi martínez on Unsplash

Around 20% of ground maintenance staff in the Council suffer from symptoms related to HAVS (hand arm vibration syndrome). Your branch is looking into this concerning figure and trying to understand how big an issue HAVS is in the workforce.

Complete our HAVS survey

Read on for useful information if you work with vibrating machinery.

Issues with HAVS in Parks and Greenspaces

Members have raised concerns that

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Face coverings at work—for those exempt

Graeme Smith, vice convener, reports from the Resources and Chief Executive JCC

Members reported that those who are exempt from wearing face covering due to health conditions were being treated unfairly and told they needed to wear them.

We raised this issue with management, who responded that workers should be treated in line with the legisltation.

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Unite CEC branch on schools’ Health & Safety groups

Unite CEC branch started raising concerns over Health & Safety (H&S) communications in Edinburgh schools in late July 2020, prior to the schools’ re-opening. These concerns centred around the operations, composition and communications regarding the schools’ H&S groups. Members’ uncertainties indicated a lack of involvement from all staff groups (both FM and C&F) working in schools.

A survey of Unite members in Edinburgh schools was initiated at the end of October 2020, following persistent inadequacy of response from Communities & Families (whose domain the H&S groups sits in). The resultant report revealed that far too many staff (particularly FM) were unaware of the existence of their school’s H&S group and had had no H&S communications.

The report was shared with senior C&F and FM staff who promised to rectify the situation and make all staff welcome to each school’s H&S group where possible. Our message now to all school workers (FM and C&F) is to inquire from Head Teacher or Business Manager how you can become involved in your school’s Health & Safety group.

Download the full report or the executive summary.