A senior union figure has warned unless members working in schools are properly protected Britain is heading for a ‘winter of discontent.’
As the infection rate climbs and more schools report cases Roger McKenzie – tipper to be the next boss of UNISON – says the union will support any members who walk out over health and safety concerns.
Writing in today’s Sunday Mirror, Mr McKenzie said: “With a growing amount of infections in a growing amount of schools and nothing being done to protect members it is only a matter of time before someone dies.
“That will be the responsibility of this negligent government.”
He accused the government of negligence and warned ‘someone will die’ unless proper protective gear is given to staff.
There are around 1.3m members of UNISON with 250,000 working in schools – cleaners, teaching assistants and other staff.
And a mass walkout would mean many were unable to remain open.
Writing for the Sunday Mirror, Mr McKenzie says…
With the Tory government’s chaotic testing programme on the brink of collapse as the private sector fails to meet the rising need as coronavirus cases rise.
All of this leads to a winter of discontent not through strikes, but walkouts over health and safety issues brought on by this crisis – and I will make sure we support any member that refuses to return to an unsafe workplace.
Poorly paid UNISON members in the care sector and schools face delays to testing and risks to their own health as lucrative private contracts for testing fail.
With a growing amount of infections in a growing amount of schools and nothing being done to protect members it is only a matter of time before someone dies. That will be the responsibility of this negligent government.
With the R rate rising and the Governments own scientific advisors now agreeing with Independent SAGE and UCU’s concerns on transmission in universities, to care homes, hospitals and Local Authorities preparing to cope with the next wave of the public health crisis – this government has once again failed us.
The latest lockdown rules in England to curb a resurgence of coronavirus by making it illegal for groups of more than six to meet is a demonstration of this failure.
It will be UNISON members in every sector who will have to pickup the pieces again of failed Tory dogma and the sheer incompetence of Boris Johnson’s government.
Our members in the NHS kept us safe despite the lack of PPE and government planning– now they will have to do it all again set to have to do it all over again.
The failure of testing, the rising spread of coronavirus as schools, universities and colleges reopen means that our members in education have been put at risk as we warned.
Combined with the government insisting on the removal of the furlough scheme and many people unable to afford to self isolate with the lack of decent sick pay – this risk is particularly pronounced in our privatised and outsourced sectors.
In the workplace across sectors we see employers trying to exploit the covid crisis to drive down pay and terms and conditions, and force workers back into the office too soon.
We cannot wait until I am General Secretary for UNISON to speak out – our members and Branches need support right now, from support with risk assessments, to support to refuse to work in unsafe conditions, to support demanding better sick pay, to support to continue working from home.
We need a cross union campaign to ensure that our members are properly protected at work – and we need Labour to be saying much more in opposition about how they will support us.
It was good to see Labour highlighting that test and trace is on the verge of collapse (when has it ever been stable?) but they need to speak out much louder in support of public service workers who are paying the price of these Tory failures – sometimes with their lives.
We need a campaign to bring public health measures like test and trace back into the public sector where they can be properly accountable and run under democratic control.
If elected, supporting members and campaigning in this way would be my priority – our members cannot afford to wait – so my priority is to stand up and ensure they are protected right now.