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    • FBU members to be consulted on offer with union recommending money be paid immediately to staff
    • FBU to launch campaign for better pay with option of industrial action on table

    The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has condemned a 2% pay offer from employers labelling it ‘insulting’ to frontline firefighters and control staff.

    Employers have offered firefighters and control staff a 2% pay uplift, below teachers, doctors, dentists, police, and prison officers. The offer is on par with judges, senior civil servants, and the armed forces.

    The FBU has slammed fire service employers and chief fire officers for failing to value the work of their staff and criticised government ministers for failing to step in and ensure firefighters are properly rewarded in this year’s pay round – especially in light of the extra work taken on in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

    After a meeting of the FBU’s Executive Council today (Wednesday 29 July) it has been recommended that the money be immediately paid to staff as it “will be better in the pockets of firefighters and control staff than sitting in employer reserves”.

    The FBU’s pay offer will now go out to consultation for 28 days, during which firefighters and control staff will discuss the offer at union meetings in workplaces across the UK. The FBU will talk to members about their options to campaign for better pay over the next year, including industrial action.

    Firefighters have taken on an additional 14 areas of work to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

    An agreement reached on 26 March has allowed firefighters to drive ambulances, deliver vital supplies to the elderly and vulnerable, and move the bodies of the deceased.

    Since then, a number of further activities have been agreed, including assembling personal protective equipment (PPE) and training care home staff in infection, prevention and control.

    Despite this, fire service employers have offered the same pay settlement as last year, when pay rates for firefighters and control staff were increased by 2%.

    After a decade of pay restraint, firefighters are around £4,000 worse off than in 2010.

    Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

    “Firefighters and control staff were due a pay offer on 1 July. Nearly a month past that deadline, fire service employers have made an offer – there is absolutely no excuse for making our members wait like this.

    “Sadly, the offer reflects the fact that employers simply do not value the vital and life-saving work our members undertake every day, nor the extraordinary lengths many have gone to in aiding the coronavirus response. Government ministers could have stepped in to ensure our members would be properly rewarded in this year’s pay round, but they chose to stand idly by.

    “The Chief Fire Officers who advise employers during pay negotiations must also bear some responsibility for the desperate situation facing our service and those who work in it. Throughout the past decade they have done absolutely nothing to challenge the brutal austerity policies of central government which have continued to rob our service of investment and resources.

    “This pay offer does not address the needs of FBU members whose wages have still not recovered from years of pay restraint, however firefighters and control staff desperately need an improvement in their living standards and this money will be better in their pockets than sitting in employer reserves.

    “We will now consult firefighters and control staff on the offer and discuss campaigning options around issues of pay and conditions over the coming year, including various forms of industrial action.”

    Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer

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    On Saturday July 4th, the day before the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the NHS – we demonstrated, jointly with Manchester Trade Union Council, with Unison, Unite and any other unions involved, with Keep Our NHS Public and with Health Campaigns Together (with PPE and social distancing) against the privatisation of the Department of Reproductive Medicine at St Mary’s Hospital Manchester.

    NEXT EVENT

    VIRTUAL PUBLIC MEETING: No privatisation of Manchester’s fertility service!
    Monday, 20 July 2020 from 19:00-20:30

    Details at the end of this article

    Women in the Labour Movement have been campaigning for at least 100 years on issues of maternal health and the right to choose whether and when to have children, and to use any technological advances that might make those choices easier, or even possible. From 1924 onwards the Women’s Labour League annually and unanimously supported birth control. The men in the Labour and Trade Union Movement were not always so unanimous, or so interested in the subject.

    In 1924 the first Labour Government was elected, and the League bombarded John Wheatley – the first Labour Minister of Health – with demands for improved health care in childbirth and after, and for the provision of free, state birth control clinics. They organised meetings and major demonstrations. They kept reminding him that giving birth had four times the death rate of working in the mines, the most dangerous job for men, and twenty times the likelihood of permanent disability.

    However, it was not until 1974 – another 50 years later – that women achieved the right to free contraception on the NHS, irrespective of age or marital status, by which time I had joined the Labour Party and it was one of the issues I was campaigning for myself, first through the Young Socialists and then the Labour Women’s organisation . Nowadays, men can also get free vasectomies  and, whether for contraception or protection against HIV, free condoms on the NHS, also irrespective of age. None of these successes, in areas where some people like to make moral rather than medical judgements, was easy or straightforward.

    For example, even after the beginning of the decriminalisation of homosexuality for men in 1967, homophobia was still rampant for many years. Thus, more than 20 years later in 1988, Thatcher was able to introduce Clause 28. Roy Trevelion (London SHA member) in Age UK’s Opening Doors London, likens the mental health of many HIV positive men – as a consequence of the AIDS epidemic and ongoing homophobia – to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Most gay men who obtained free condoms would have been more likely to get them from organisations like the Lesbian and Gay Foundation in Manchester (and similar ones elsewhere), which is registered as a charity and raised money to provide them on that basis. Many gay men would have been more able and less anxious to get their condoms from peer-support charities like this than to risk accidentally outing themselves at the doctor’s or clinic.

    The post World War II economic boom brought rising employment of women and improved living standards, and with increased confidence, women demanded recognition for their contribution to society and the right to control their own lives. These led to the Abortion Act 1967 as well as to Equal Pay (1970) and Sex Discrimination (1975) legislation, and the right to paid maternity leave (1975). The Abortion Act did not give women the right to choose, but made it legal for abortions to be carried out with the approval of two doctors under certain circumstances. In effect it decriminalised what women had been doing for centuries, just as the 1967 Sexual Offences Act (partially) decriminalised homosexual acts between men.

    Making abortion illegal in 1861 had not stopped it, and the 1967 Act did not encourage it: it just made the difference between a woman dying as a consequence, or surviving. (In Romania, abortion was illegal until 1989: but abortions still outnumbered live births – in 1987 by four to one.) I remember providing accommodation to Spanish women coming to the UK for abortions before 1985, when it became legal in Spain, and from the Republic of Ireland before the end of 2018 when it was legalised there.

    However, the 1967 Abortion Act, like the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, was not the end of the matter. There were several attempts to repeal or considerably amend the Abortion Act, such as the White Bill, the Corrie Bill and the Alton Bill, which gave rise in turn to their own protest movements. A very large demonstration against the Corrie Bill was called by the TUC (on the initiative of the Women’s TUC) in 1980, the first time in the world that a major trade union federation had called a demonstration on abortion rights; and another against the Alton Bill in 1988, again with the support of the trade union movement. None of these Private Member’s Bills was successful, but in the end the period during which abortion could be legally carried out was reduced to 24 weeks in 1990, by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.

    The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, based on the recommendations of the Committee of the same name, chaired by Mary Warnock, was passed in 1990. When it was originally passed it allowed access to infertility treatment, such as Artificial Insemination or In Vitro Fertilisation, at a cost (in money and patience, especially with IVF) but it also required the women who wanted medical assistance to become mothers, to conform to a very traditional view of motherhood and the family, as reflected in the attitudes of doctors, hospital ethical committees and the Warnock Committee at that time, and laid down in Codes of Practice. These were not medical decisions but social and moral ones.

    For example, to be “suitable” for treatment, a woman had to be living in a stable relationship with a man, and usually had to be able-bodied. Some clinics were reluctant to treat couples where the man was not in work, or the woman not prepared to give up work. Single women and lesbian couples were not usually eligible.  Tory MP David Wilshire made it clear in his speech that he was particularly concerned that “assisted conception” would not produce families dependent on the state, and another amendment was passed to include “the need of a child for a father”.

    Why is Reproductive Technology a Political Issue?

    Thirty years ago I wrote those words in a book called “Whose Choice?”, published at the time of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which became law in 1990. The question was why the Labour Movement should take up issues such as contraception, abortion and treatment of infertility, which were often seen as purely personal matters.

    My answer, on behalf of the (then) Manchester and Liverpool Labour Women’s Councils, was that it was our belief that decisions about whether or not to have children, how many to have, whether or not to have an abortion or use any of the technologies available to overcome or by-pass infertility, or to avoid having a child with disabilities, or to enable those of us who were lesbians to become parents, were all personal decisions to be taken by the individuals concerned, and not by the Church, the State or the Medical Profession.

    And since it is women who give birth to children and even now usually bear the main responsibility for child rearing, these decisions must primarily be theirs. As socialists we argue for women to have the maximum choice possible in the decisions that shape their lives.

    The campaign then – and still is now – was not just for legal rights, but for the practical means to realise them. In order for a working class woman to have the choices already available to richer women, she must have the economic means (a living wage or income), and necessary social arrangements, such as childcare and decent housing, so that she can choose to have a child. It means expanding the NHS, taking back control of the services that have been contracted out to the private sector, resisting any further attempts to privatise parts of the NHS, and running the NHS democratically so that women can have access to free and safe abortion, contraception, artificial insemination and IVF treatment.

    It means carrying out the research to find contraceptives that meet the needs identified by both women and men; research to enable women to have earlier abortions and make them safer; research into causes of infertility and its prevention; research into chromosomal and genetic disorders and their prevention; and research into products and services that would improve the lives of disabled people.

    All these things are entirely reasonable and technically possible; but they raise, in turn, important – essentially political – questions. Who does the research and in whose interests? The rubber goods manufacturers (for decades before the 1960s, clandestine or even illegal): the vulcanisation of rubber revolutionised birth control as well as road transport; but  nowadays research is dominated by the pharmaceutical industry. And of course the research is done to make a profit.

    The drug industry is one of the most research-intensive sectors: but it spends more on marketing and advertising than on research. That was the case when the last official UK Government report on the industry was published (The Sainsbury Report, HMSO, 1967) and it was even more the case, according to the most recent figures (OECD Main Science and Technology Indicators, annual, covering all OECD member countries in the year of publication.)

    Pressure to be first to market can lead to corner-cutting in testing: the most notorious case where this happened was Thalidomide, a tranquilliser that had been declared safe, and was explicitly prescribed, for pregnant women. But it caused major deformities in their babies who were, most notably, born either without some or all of their limbs or with major deformities in them.

    Although it was known by then that some drugs could cause foetal damage, it was not yet specifically a legal requirement to test for them, and the tests were not done. (Only the USA’s Food and Drug Adminstration refused to grant a licence for thalidomide to be prescribed, because the FDA official responsible insisted on having evidence on the foetal effects of the drug, which were not available.) Criticism of government “interference” in the affairs of business is very common in the United States (often framed as interference in the public’s right to choose – except women’s right to choose abortion). Today the FDA is still the butt of criticism of lack of freedom from government interference.

    The Warnock Report, on which the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill was based, commented on the lack of research into causes of infertility. This is still the case to some extent, though knowledge in this area has been increasing since the discussions around the Warnock Report and the debates on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

    But we can be sure that thorough studies, once publicised and popularised, will lead to increased demands for improved health and safety at work; and for the replacement of industrial processes, chemicals and other materials causing infertility; and that responding to these demands would threaten profits. A thorough study would also raise questions about the under-funding of the NHS and the number of diseases that are not adequately diagnosed, or possibly not adequately treated, and which lead to infertility.

    The issue of women’s rights in reproduction is therefore a political and class question: not just because it is mainly working class women and men who are affected by lack of choice and unsafe working conditions, but also because the ability of all women to have a real choice will only be possible as a result of the struggle of working class women and men to change society. This means campaigning on reproductive rights as well as on better housing, higher wages and defence of the NHS. It especially means we must control the resources of society and organise them for need rather than profit.

    St Mary’s Department of Reproductive Medicine (DRM) – Summary of Background Briefing

    St Saint Mary’s Hospital, Manchester, was founded in 1790. Today it provides a wide range of medical services, mainly for women, babies and children. It is highly regarded for teaching and research, and has an internationally recognised Genomics Centre and Department of Reproductive Medicine (DRM). The DRM employs 70 staff and delivers clinical, laboratory and counselling services for about 3000 patients a year. Most of St Mary’s services and research activity is carried out in a building dating from the late 1960s. In 2009 paediatric services were transferred to the newly built Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital on the same site.

    The issue at the centre of the protest is that the DRM is housed in the Old St Mary’s Building (also on the same site) which dates from just after the death of Queen Victoria, and is in desperate need of repair. Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) believes that relocation of DRM within the Trust could cost up to £10 million just in capital expenditure, and is talking about privatisation.

    DRM offers a fertility assessment and infertility service. Artificial Insemination and IVF are offered to women who may benefit, on referral by a GP. This can be both NHS funded and private – the latter for women for whom it is clinically appropriate but whose CCG would not fund the necessary cycles of treatment. It offers a fertility preservation service for patients who wish to preserve eggs or sperm while having medical treatment – eg for cancer – that might affect future fertility. DRM offers sperm-testing and specialist treatment for patients whose sperm has been identified as presenting fertility issues; and on the other hand post-vasectomy checks.

    An anonymous or by-arrangement sperm-donation service is also offered to lesbians, and to heterosexual women either without a partner or who cannot conceive with their partner’s sperm for any reason. The Department also offers a reproductive endocrinology service which focuses on the way in which hormones affect fertility; and specialist counselling to any of the patients using their services. DRM runs the national proficiency scheme involving distribution to other reproductive medicine labs across the country and checks that the results are consistent. Finally, the Department makes a significant contribution to fertility research in conjunction with the University of Manchester.

    In early March the Trust briefed all service staff that they would undertake a 12 month options appraisal exercise to identify whether the service should remain within the Trust or be re-commissioned elsewhere. (Since the pandemic this has been put back.) The unions argue:

    • that there would be significant capital costs involved in privatising the service, which would have to be borne by the hospital (eg to store embryos – the store would need to remain on the site and continue to be run, inspected and managed by MFT, because the cost of doing otherwise would be prohibitive).
    • that the service is unique in Greater Manchester, and to a large extent in the entire North West Region.
    • It has significant associated capital and operational costs so other NHS trusts are likely to be reluctant to bid to host the service.
    • The private sector may offer an option that appears to be cheaper, but offers a far lower level of service than that currently provided at St Mary’s – but the NHS might be obliged to accept the private bid, because it is lower.

    The unions are also concerned about the impact of any potential future privatisation of the service for many reasons, including:

    • St Mary’s offers specialist care to a number of people with Protected Characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, which might not be available under private sector provision.
    • The services offered by St Mary’s are highly specialised – Trafford CCG ring-fenced them on behalf of all the CCGs in Greater Manchester, not requiring them to participate in an IVF procurement exercise in 2019 for this reason.
    • The andrology service works with eg men with Cystic Fibrosis who are often infertile and need surgery if they wish to have a chance of creating a family, and another specialist service involving the only UK-based partnership with the long established FAIRFAX cryo-spermbank.
    • The National External Quality Assessment Scheme for reproductive medicine is currently based in the DRM laboratories. If DRM was closed or moved, this would need a new home, too.
    • The kind of research investment and relationship with academic institutions that St Mary’s has would not be replicated in private sector provision where profits have to be made.
    • Despite assurances from MFT, the unions believe that the terms and conditions of the staff in the private sector, if they had to move and could do so, would not be as good as those in the NHS under the Agenda for Change national pay system.
    • In other areas where NHS services have been privatised, there has often been an erosion of terms and conditions, and of collective bargaining, either through attrition over time or an aggressive stance by employers. Unions believe that this is a significant risk.
    • The cost to fee-paying patients is less than the alternative provision in the private sector, and for NHS patients, the NHS pays via CCGs around £4000 per IVF cycle at St Mary’s, but significantly more (£5-6,000) to private providers per cycle.
    • The DRM is part of St Mary’s and both are located on the MFT Oxford Road Campus next to the University of Manchester. Patients with co-morbidities and other conditions which may have an impact on their fertility and associated treatments, can benefit from the expertise and clinical care available within MFT close to their fertility treatment. At the same time, staff can benefit from the close proximity of other specialisms which may be relevant to a patient’s ongoing care.

    The Next Stage in the Campaign to Save St Mary’s

    There will be a public meeting (via internet) hosted by Keep Our NHS Public as below. Please join us via Greater Manchester Keep Our NHS Public (GM KONP)’s Facebook page.

    PUBLIC MEETING: No privatisation of Manchester’s fertility service!
    Monday, 20 July 2020 from 19:00-20:30

    https://www.facebook.com/events/280845443022548/

    The fertility service provided by the Department of Reproductive Medicine at St Mary’s hospital, Manchester, faces privatisation. According to reports, Manchester Foundation Trust announced earlier this year that the service would go over to a private company in 2021. This would be a disaster for the service and future patients.

    Now the Trust has begun an “options appraisal” over the future of the service. We insist that the #1 option must be keeping it public and keeping it where it is. We demand a public consultation so the people of Manchester have their say.

    Join our online public meeting to hear about the situation and how we can campaign to win. There will be discussion after the speakers, who are:

    Denise Andrews, Unison union rep, DRM
    Liz Holland, Unite the Union branch secretary, MFT
    James Bull, Unison union regional officer

    Pia Feig, a feminist perspective
    Chaired by Caroline Bedale, Greater Manchester Keep Our NHS Public and Greater Manchester Socialist Health Association.

    This will be a Facebook Live event broadcast through the event page.

    Mailing address for

    Keep Our NHS Public Greater Manchester

    c/o KONP national, Unit 12-13 Springfield House 5 Tyssen Street

    LondonE8 2LY

    United Kingdom

    Vivien Walsh (Greater Manchester SHA)

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    https://youtu.be/1jFWY7WmPBA

    Campaigners and Lewisham residents offer thoughts and thanks to the NHS.

    The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign has launched a new video on the 72nd Birthday for the NHS on Sunday, 5th July 2020. The Campaign say: “In the middle of a global pandemic, with 65,000 deaths in the UK, some thanks and thoughts on the NHS 72nd birthday.”

    Happy birthday to the NHS – you were clapped but tories will not deliver the cash needed #NHSBirthday #SecondWave https://t.co/WOrG41PeDl

    — Alan Hall (@alan_ha11) July 5, 2020

    On this day, The Observer reports that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rushi Sunak refuses a £10 billion cash injection as Ministers have been warned that a second surge of Covid 19 infections let alone the now usual ‘winter pressures’ will leave the NHS “crippled” and “perilously unprepared”.

    The Government promised that the NHS would receive “whatever it needs” and NHS bosses claim that this pledge is to be broken now.

    Further claims that the Government’s chronic underfunding of the NHS will inevitably lead on to the fragmentation and privatisation of the NHS have been made.

    Interestingly, in the video a resident reflects by saying:

    “Stop using Covid as a cover to push through a restructuring of the NHS without public consultation.”

    Periodically, when cash has been tight in the NHS proposals surface to downgrade Lewisham Hospital’s A&E Department.

    Brian Fisher, a retired Lewisham GP, in the video says: “We continue to defend you [NHS] and fight for publicly funded social care.”

    In that spirit, Cllr Alan Hall has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak supporting Citizen’s UK asking for social care workers to be paid the London Living Wage locally.

    You’ve clapped, now’s the time to act! 🌈

    We know that care workers deserve a real Living Wage so here’s a little reminder that you can send to your MP.

    Help care workers get a real #LivingWage by clicking the link below 👇 https://t.co/iwlaKjaPex#LivingWage4KeyWorkers

    — Citizens UK (@CitizensUK) July 5, 2020

    Time to pay care workers a London Living Wage

    Citizen’s UK say: “Careworkers have been on the frontline of the UK’s fight against COVID-19, but a Real Living Wage would put them at the heart of our economic recovery too. Increasing pay to £9.30 an hour (£10.75 in London) would enable a million low-paid workers to start spending in local businesses and communities up and down the country.”

    The text of the letter is below.

    Dear Chancellor Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP,

    On the 72nd NHS Birthday, I am writing to you as a constituent to ask for your support for Citizens UK’s Living Wage for Careworkers Charter, which aims to ensure careworkers are paid the real Living Wage of £9.30 an hour (£10.75 in London).

    Those in the social care sector are at the frontline of the fight against Covid-19 and I know in our community so many care recipients and their families value their vital work.

    We have all been ‘clapping for carers’ on Thursday evenings in recognition of the danger they face, and yet they are often paid the minimum wage (also known as the National Living Wage) of £8.72 an hour.

    Citizens UK is calling for the UK government to invest the £1.4 billion that the Resolution Foundation estimates it would cost for every care sector worker, who delivers publicly–funded care, to be paid the real Living Wage of £9.30 per hour. This would allow careworkers to live with greater dignity and to escape from poverty pay.

    We know that the public, commissioners of social care such as local authorities, employers of care workers, and recipients of care would all like care workers to be paid the real Living Wage, but to do that we need additional investment from the UK Government.

    I really hope we can also count on your support for our campaign. Please let me know whether or not we can add your name to Citizens UK’s Living Wage for Careworkers Charter, which you can find below.

    Citizens UK’s Living Wage for Careworkers Charter:

    We all rely on the one million careworkers on the frontline of the UK’s fight against the pandemic. Careworkers have worked tirelessly throughout Covid-19 to look after the most vulnerable in our society – and have found themselves at risk, often without adequate PPE, and without the esteem afforded to NHS workers.

    Over half of frontline careworkers earn below the voluntary Living Wage of £9.30 an hour (£10.75 in London) and are struggling to keep their heads above water.

    As careworkers, care recipients, care commissioners, council leaders, politicians and community leaders, we all agree that no careworker deserves poverty pay. We have applauded careworkers on Thursday evenings – now is the time to match our applause with a guarantee that they will earn enough to live a decent life.

    We call on the UK Government to provide the £1.4 billion in additional funding so that every care sector worker that delivers publicly funded care can be paid at least the voluntary Living Wage of £9.30 an hour (£10.75 in London).

    Yours sincerely,

    Cllr Alan Hall

     

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    Doctors in Unite are concerned at the pace of the ideologically driven moves to ease Lockdown measures. The implication is that we will have to live with a baseline prevalence Covid-19 and within the shadow of a second surge

    We have launched an open letter to the Prime Minister on the issue as we fear that the Westminster government is displaying the greatest level of recklessness in this regard.

    https://doctorsinunite.com/2020/06/21/open-letter-to-the-prime-minister-about-the-uks-covid-19-strategy-from-nhs-and-social-care-workers/

    The campaign was triggered by the experience in many other countries that are pursuing a policy of eradication of Covid-19 as far as it is practical and the Crush the Curve campaign in Ireland (North and South).

    Posted by Brian Fisher on behalf of Doctors in Unite.

     

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    There will be nationwide celebrations on July 4th and 5th to mark the 72nd year of the NHS. Keep Our NHS Public and Health Campaigns Together are rallying round the occasion.

    Please follow this link for the first of a series of campaign materials and plans:

    OUR NHS DESERVES BETTER: 72nd anniversary coming soon

    SHA is disseminating these in support and solidarity. Please campaign locally and with SHA branches.

    Watch here for more soon!

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    Dear friends of the NHS

    Despite the three week lock-down the government has failed to keep us safe.

    @DefendOurNHS is increasingly frustrated and angry at the inadequate government response to the crisis*.

    Our message is simple. We ask you to adopt it and share it as widely as possible.

    The message is Test! Trace! PPE!

    The hashtag on twitter is #TestTracePPE.

    Let’s try to have a Twitter ‘storm’ at 5:00pm on Wednesday.

    Please use this message at every opportunity when contacting family, friends and the wider public.

    You might also include the message in the rainbow posters appearing in windows. Examples you can use are on our Facebook page (in the ‘files’ section’).

    When you go outside to clap and bang pans on Thursday, please chant Test! Trace! PPE!

    This appeal is urgent. Help us to get the word out now!

    Thank you.

    On behalf of Defend Our NHS

     

    • Bottom of the international virus testing league table, no sign of systematic contact tracing, health and care staff pleading on social media (including our Facebook page) for supplies of personal protective equipment.

    1 Comment

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that firefighters, police, prison staff and Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) workers will now be eligible for coronavirus testing, in a session of the Health and Social Care Committee.

    Responding to the announcement, Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary, said:

    ‘We’re pleased to see that the government has listened to the FBU and finally agreed to open up some testing to other key workers, including fire and rescue personnel. However, it is a shame it has come this late, with thousands of firefighters already self-isolating – this is something that could have been easily avoided.

    ‘We are awaiting further details but it is clear that there are questions around the functioning of the scheme that is now open to more key workers . The health secretary said fewer NHS staff were coming forward to be tested than hoped, but this is surely an issue of accessibility, rather than frontline staff not wanting to be tested. Many of the testing centres are far out of town and require extended trips in a car – if this is a barrier to nursing staff, it will also be a barrier to other key workers.

    “It is also clear that this testing scheme will only identify the virus in those individuals presenting symptoms or living with others who are. Many key workers who have been exposed through their work will have contracted the virus yet remain asymptomatic. Frequent and accessible testing of key workers who are at high risk of exposure is also needed to reduce the risk of spread in workplaces.

    “To ensure that fire and rescue services, and other vital services can continue to operate in this crisis, we don’t just need access to these testing schemes, but to also see the capacity of the schemes themselves increase. There need to be more tests available full stop.”

    Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer

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    31/03/2020 cllralanhall BlogPress Leave a comment

    Personal Protective Equipment, known as PPE is in demand. There are reports that there is a shortage in hospitals and care facilities.

    The Daily Mirror reports that hospitals listed as having shortages include Rotherham General Hospital, Bristol Children’s Hospital, Hillingdon Hospital in Uxbridge, Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and at St Thomas, Lewisham and two other unnamed hospitals in London.

    “The correct PPE must be made available at every site that might require it. This is vital in order to protect our patients but also to protect the lives of the life-savers.”
    DAUK’s Dr Natalie Ashburner in 

    @DailyMirror @nashburner#COVID19 #testNHSstaffhttps://t.co/Mhd2UISZeF

    — The Doctors’ Association UK (@TheDA_UK) March 19, 2020

    The view from the NHS frontline is explained here:

    https://youtu.be/WphmagWsCUI

    Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, an intensive care doctor and president of the Doctors’ Association UK, told Nick Ferrari that more doctors will die unless they get proper equipment.

    In a further twist, healthcare workers who raise their concerns are facing being “gagged”. Helen O’Connor, GMB says in The Guardian “It is scandalous that hospital staff speaking out publicly face being sacked by ruthless NHS bosses

    who do not want failings in their leadership to be exposed. Suppression of information is not just a matter of democracy, it is now a major public health issue.”

    The Local Government Association has sent a letter to the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock MP. It says that there is an urgent need for Government to move faster in making PPE available for the adult social care sector. Sufficient supplies that are of acceptable quality are needed immediately. Councils and their provider partners also need concrete assurances about ongoing supplies for the days and weeks ahead.

    Councillor Alan Hall has written to the Director of Public Health for Lewisham seeking reassurances for both hospital and social care staff locally. The full letter is below:

    Catherine Mbema
    Director of Public Health – Lewisham

    Dear Catherine,

    I have been informed that the lack of Personal Protective Equipment for cleaning staff at Lewisham Hospital is a real concern. Trade Unions say that there is a shortage of supply and that staff are very worried. It has been described as “a total nightmare”.

    As the Public Health Lead across Lewisham, I would be very grateful if you could raise the shortage of supply with the NHS and the Hospital and reassure us that PPE will be available.

    Whilst I write, personal carers have reported shortages and inadequacies nationally. Can an assurance that all Lewisham Council and NHS staff have been provided with effective PPE?

    May I take this opportunity to thank you and your team for all the incredible work that has been placed upon you. I have always campaigned against Public Health cuts and the short sightedness of this is surely been borne out now.

    Kind regards,

    Alan

    Cllr Alan Hall

    In an article on the United Nation’s website, there is a chilling message:

    “COVID-19 will not be the last dangerous microbe we see. The heroism, dedication and selflessness of medical staff allow the rest of us a degree of reassurance that we will overcome this virus.

    We must give these health workers all the support they need to do their jobs, be safe and stay alive. We will need them when the next pandemic strikes.”

    Please help: NHS Staff need adequate PPE now https://t.co/XLsLDNaz5g via @socialisthealth

    — Alan Hall (@alan_ha11) April 1, 2020

    Comments Off on PROTECT ALL FRONTLINE HEALTHCARE WORKERS
    All hospital car parking charges for NHS staff in England should be abolished this week as they combat the coronavirus, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Monday 23 March).
    Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said that NHS trusts in England were charging employees an estimated £50-to-£200 a month for the privilege of parking at their place of work.
    Unite contacted shadow Labour health and social care secretary Jon Ashworth this afternoon asking him to raise the issue of abolition of the parking charges for NHS staff for the duration of the coronavirus emergency with his Conservative counterpart Matthew Hancock.
    Unite said such a move, ideally this week, would remove the additional worry for NHS staff concerned about travelling on restricted public transport networks.
    Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “It is a long-standing Unite policy that NHS staff should not be charged to park their cars for coming to work to look after the sick, injured and vulnerable.
    “This is even more important and relevant, given that NHS staff are already risking their lives round the clock to save those suffering from COVID-19.
    “We have been in touch with Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary Jon Ashworth this afternoon asking him to raise this with his counterpart Matthew Hancock as a matter of urgency.  
    “NHS staff don’t need the additional worry of parking, especially when there are restrictions on public transport and it is safer in these times to drive to work than risk infection on trains and buses. 
    “Many NHS staff are not well-paid and the fact that NHS trusts in England  are charging them £50-£200-a-month to park in normal times is wrong – in this exceptional period of national emergency, it is doubly so.”
    Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
    Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.
    Comments Off on Free car parking for NHS staff in England fighting coronavirus needed this week, says Unite

    We have now launched another collaborative petition with the people at Change and have support from Health Campaigns Together and Socialist Health Association. 

    It is likely other campaigns will support too in the next few days. Here is the link 

    Change.org/NHS4all

    Please sign and share widely. Please not only post on your own social media networks (though this is vital) but please include in your local group newsletters and prominently on your local group facebook and twitter pages – it might even be an idea to pin the post to the top of your timelines or facebook walls.

    Also please take the time to write an email to your colleagues, fellow campaigners and friends asking them to sign too…

    We’ve put together a model email for you to use here so it won’t take you long, it reads: 

     

    “Dear ____

    Keep Our NHS Public is helping launch a new petition putting six key demands to the government around its response to the Coronavirus pandemic. These demands cover a cross-section of our campaigning priorities, applied to the current moment of crisis  click here to read in full!

    In the current climate, this petition could become absolutely huge, so we definitely need to get out the gate fast with sharing it. Please sign your name and share the petition to all possible contacts! SIGN HERE

    On Twitter, we’re using the hashtags #NHS4All, #6Demands, #Covid-19, #SafetyFirst, #Coronavirus with #NHS4All as the main one.

    Best”

     

    Remember our last petition with Change received 1.3 million signatures and helped the organisation widen its reach, recruit unprecedented numbers and raise much-needed funds – so the bigger this is the better for all of us. And in this moment of isolation and likely imminent lockdown – it’s time at last to embrace, social media and digital campaigning!

    Good luck and thank you from all the team.

    In Solidarity

    Tom Griffiths

    Keep Our NHS Public

    Campaigns Officer

    Comments Off on Joint SHA, KONP and HCT petition – NHS Frontline staff make 6 key demands

    Responding to the 2020 UK government Budget, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has criticised the Chancellor for failing to recognise the role of firefighters in responding to flooding, for failing to provide building safety funding for buildings under 18m and for promising “pittance” to fund firefighters’ crucial fire safety work.

    Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

    “This budget once again fails to end a decade of pay restraint for firefighters and the chronic underfunding of the fire and rescue service.

    “The government has finally recognised that they did not provide sufficient funding to keep people safe after Grenfell and that the building safety crisis goes further than just the same flammable cladding that burned that night. But these measures do not go far enough. They are still ignoring those at risk in buildings under 18m, such as the Bolton Cube. This is not good enough and won’t keep people safe.

    “After the devastating floods, firefighters pleaded with the government to provide the dramatic funding increase they need to keep people and communities safe, but once again, these pleas fell on deaf ears. When flooding or wildfires inevitably hit again with more intensity, the Chancellor will have to live with knowing that he failed to properly resource the response. He should be ashamed.

    “A decade of drastic funding cuts and unfair pay restraint has resulted in the loss of a fifth of our firefighters and a quarter of our fire safety officers – it’s about time that the government recognised and reversed the damage they have done. But, frankly, the £20 million promised to fund fire safety is a pittance compared to the £141.5 million cut since 2013 in England – and it’s utterly insufficient.”

    Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer

    Comments Off on Budget fails on flood response and fire safety, firefighters say

    Assemble 12:00 Portland Place, London W1A

    In anticipation of the above march and rally we are making preparations for Unite members  to travel to London to support the above march and rally.

    Unite are providing day return train tickets for members  from Manchester Piccadilly station and Liverpool Lime Street, anyone requiring transport to the march and rally should contact Lorna Woods Moses at the Liverpool office by email – lorna.woodsmoses@unitetheunion.org

    Please ensure you provide your name, membership number, contact details and preferred departure point.

    Please note that block bookings will not be accepted and seats are limited.

    Bookings will not be accepted after Monday 10 March.

    Further information about the march route can be found on the Stand Up to Racism website

    http://www.standuptoracism.org.uk/un-anti-racism-day-demo-saturday-21-march/

    or on the Unite website

    https://unitetheunion.org/news-events/events/march-against-racism/

    Kind regards

    Lorna Woods Moses

    Secretary to Deputy Regional Secretary Debbie Brannan  & Regional Coordinating Officer Mick Chalmers

    Unite the Union Liverpool

    Comments Off on MARCH AND RALLY AGAINST RACISM ON SATURDAY 21 MARCH