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‘Well what a year it’s been’! said UNISONS outgoing National general secretary, Dave Prentis, when he sent the following message to our 1.3million nationwide members, including nearly 1k members working at Livewell.

“This has been an extraordinary year and our public service workers have been in the frontline – fighting the pandemic and supporting our communities. Thank you to every single one of our members. This year, more than ever, we are proud to represent you”.

This is a sentiment echoed by your local UNISON branch at Livewell and the wider Plymouth branch committee . The wider Plymouth in UNISON branch includes nearly 5k members from across the public sector and beyond.

Membership

Whilst on the subject of membership, our numbers continue to grow both locally and nationally. The membership at Livewell has never been higher and your local Plymouth in UNISON branch is now one of the largest within the South West region. Your branch is also one of the best performing and has been recognised as such. This is to the credit of all of our loyal and hardworking reps within the branch including the committee members and work place contacts.

Acknowledgements

We have a loyal small band of reps and Special thanks to those reps who have all worked hard this year,  supporting members when they needed it most.

Sadly, we have lost two reps this year who have left the organisation for pastures new, namely Wendy Gibson who supported members in investigation processes and Rachel Stewart who was instrumental in our campaign to encourage Livewell to adopt the current menopause policy.

In January, the year started, as usual, with the branch sending members to the annual UNISON SW “Get active event” and awards evening held annually at Somerset County Cricket Club. https://southwest.UNISON.org.uk/about/ .

This event always provides a great opportunity to attend workshops, network with other members from the public sector and celebrate achievements. Did you know that ‘Plymouth In UNISON’ won ‘Branch of the Year’ at this event in 2018? https://southwest.UNISON.org.uk/news/2018/02/2412/

We alongside our sister unions  hosted a Devon wide seminar at Livewell to introduce the ‘Just and Learning Culture’ to the organisation during this month. Those in attendance were from the Trade Unions and management from organisations such UHP, RD&E, DPT, Torbay , North Devon and, of course, Livewell. We invited guest speakers, Professor Richard Saudry to present a session on Civility and Hannah Foster, HR Director, who shared work that is ongoing at the RD&E. We are currently working in partnership with Livewell management to roll out this culture with plans being developed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bu9yhdOegm8

In February our local branch held “A Night at the Cinema” at the Plymouth Arts Centre and hosted the award winning film “Under the Knife”. The film tells the story about the covert dismantling of the NHS that is happening right now. It talks of greed, deception and how a law was passed, without public debate, which could eventually transform the NHS into a health service similar to that in America, by opening the oyster of the most respected institution in the country to the highest bidder. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5G1Beaqn94U

In March, just prior to COVID, I attended a national UNISON seminar at Warwick University to discuss the issue of staff shortages and safe staffing levels. https://www.UNISON.org.uk/news/article/2020/03/safe-staffing-forum-2020-ive-seen-mental-health-staff-become-patients-pressures-job-strain-theyre/

UNISONs COVID Response

When COVID emerged in March, the Trade Unions were asked to work in partnership with management, at a local level, to support the planning and implementation of the NHS response. The National Social Partnership Forum, which is a collaboration of management and Trade Unions, published a set of principles, which set out what was expected of both parties. The Social Partnership principles were based on transparency, and where finding common ground and mutual respect remain paramount. https://www.socialpartnershipforum.org/media/170626/SPF-COVID-19-second-IR-Final-Statement-24-June-003-.pdf

UNISON locally, regionally and nationally, have worked to ensure your safety is paramount and your rights are protected https://www.unison.org.uk/coronavirus-rights-work/

UNISON represent Livewell members at the Devon STP Forum, where Staff Side representatives discuss issues with management from all the Devon NHS trusts, local government and the CCG. We had weekly meetings at the start of the Pandemic (now fortnightly) and the focus is on making sure that members concerns are raised and addressed as soon as they occur.  Keys areas on the agenda include;

Vaccine roll out, testing, shielding, staff shortages, PPE and child care. Every fortnight we receive a briefing from the Chief Nursing Officer for Devon and a current situation report from the CCG.

We also have regular weekly COVID meetings with senior management and HR to discuss the issues that affect the staff working at Livewell. These meetings are in addition to the monthly JCCN meetings where staff side represent members views on issues relating to all terms and conditions. Your local UNISON reps meet once a week to discuss any issues that have been flagged and these are reported back to the organisation often with recommendations with the intention to get those issues addressed at the earliest opportunity.

The NHS Peoples Plan

The Trade Unions are involved in various committees at Livewell, which include the Wellbeing Strategy group, where we are working in partnership to roll out initiatives such as the NHS Peoples Plan. The Plan is set out around four broad themes i.e. looking after our people, belonging in the NHS, new ways of working and delivering care and growing for the future. https://www.UNISON.org.uk/at-work/health-care/big-issues/more-campaigns/nhs-people-plan/

The trade unions as part of the wider Livewell Joint Trade Union forum  also have a non-voting seat at the Sustainability Committee, where we scrutinise accounts and raise issues around spending when necessary.

7-day working proposal

Some notable successes this year have been to respond to the 7-day working proposal that was due to be implemented at the Therapy services in South Hams and West Devon. We are currently awaiting further discussions due to concerns raised by our members about the original proposals.

Hybrid Working

We also worked to ensure that when the organisation proposed a new Hybrid way of working, our members would not be forced to work from home and their welfare would be protected if they did choose home working. Management agreed not to implement a new policy, common ground was found and new guidance around welfare and DSE requirements were agreed. We believe more work needs to be done around the policy.

In addition to the tax relief that you can claim directly from the HMRC,  UNISON are  campaigning for all staff to be directly  remunerated in accordance with HMRC recommendations, whereby  Employers can pay you £6 a week extra tax-free.

Employers can give you an allowance up to this amount and what they give you is tax-free. South West Ambulance Trust are currently paying this amount to their staff. https://blog.moneysavingexpert.com/2020/04/martin-lewis–working-from-home-due-to-coronavirus–claim-p6-wk-/

ICP Transfer

We are currently supporting our members who are due to be TUPE transferred out of Livewell to UHP, as part of the ICP transfer of inpatient wards in April 2021. The consultation is now live and ends in late January. We encourage members to contact their local rep or branch if they would like support for their 1-1 meetings.

One Team 2k pay Campaign

UNISON, on behalf of our members across the NHS in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales, has now submitted a pay claim to the UK Government at Westminster calling for all workers on Agenda for Change to receive an increase of at least £2,000 before the end of the year. This is the equivalent of around £1 an hour for all staff. When we surveyed our members, over four-fifths (84%) said that a £2,000 pay lift would make a ‘substantial difference’ to them. The national One Team 2k pay Campaign is still progressing nationally and we will be ramping up our local effort in the New Year. https://www.UNISON-ni.org.uk/one-team-2k

Additional Leave

In the last few months, both at a Devon and local level at Livewell, UNISON has asked for staff to be rewarded for their efforts during the COVID pandemic. A couple of months ago, we muted the idea that staff should be given an additional annual leave day as a ‘thank you’, which is being implemented in other Trusts throughout the country. We are pleased to hear that our representations have been heard and that Livewell has joined with other Trusts in the Devon area in awarding staff an extra annual leave day next year.

NHS Discount

We also believe that all staff regardless of where they work should be treated the same. We have heard stories where members have tried to use NHS discounts and have been refused discounts because Livewell are not strictly classed as an NHS organisation. We lobbied both management, the CCG and politicians to try to address this issue. We are pleased to hear that management have decided to reinsert the NHS logo on our ID badges.

NHS Pension Scheme

We believe that all staff should be able to join the NHS Pension scheme. We continue to lobby the organisation and have suggested ways that this could be achieved. We look forward to seeing some progress early next year on this issue.

..And finally, now that 2020 has finally ended , I think you will agree that, and look forward to building upon those achievements the New Year 2021.

David Dodd, Livewell Lead Rep for Plymouth in UNISON