Nationally, Prospect has been working really hard, reaching furloughing agreements with many employers and continuing to pressure the Treasury into improving both the Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Support Scheme, which as we’ve reported before, sees many Prospect members currently falling through the gaps in the schemes.
Our meetings with Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Business and Fair Work, continue.
Due to pressure from all unions, the Scottish Government has tightened up its public health guidance on social distancing and work. The new guidance was issued on 4 April.
The key part of the guidance is:
“The revised guidance sets out all business workplaces that are not being specifically required to close should consider a key set of questions – and at all times work on the precautionary basis:
“Is what you do essential or material to the effort against the virus or to the wellbeing of society?
“Are you able to demonstrate and give confidence to your workforce that you can consistently practice safe social distancing and comply with ALL other standard health and safety requirements?
“If the answer to either of the above questions is no, the advice of the Chief Medical Officer on a precautionary basis is to close.”
This advice applies to workplaces in Scotland. The UK government’s advice offers less protection for workers.
Please try and make sure that your employer follows the right guidance. Contact your rep or full-time officer if you are having issues.
We will shortly have a single point of contact which unions can use to tell the government which workplaces are not following the guidance.
The government will then be able to follow up, and liaise with the Health and Safety Executive, council environmental health officers and, where necessary, the police.
Tripartite working groups
Prospect has been invited to join some of the tripartite working groups which the Scottish Government is establishing to cover critical national infrastructure sectors. These include:
- civil nuclear and
The groups will continue to develop guidance on essential and non-essential work in their sectors, but also start to engage on, and develop, plans for moving out of the current crisis and the lockdown.
Supporting our self-employed members
During the COVID-19 Group meetings, Prospect has consistently led on the need for the Scottish Government to intervene to ensure self-employed members are not left unsupported by the failings of the UK Government’s Self-employed Support Scheme.
Thanks to our pressure, Creative Scotland introduced a bursary scheme.
And Scottish Government officials are now looking at the feasibility of introducing individual grant payments, similar to those being paid in Ireland, to those who will not receive any other support.
This is at an early stage of consideration and it’s not guaranteed. But we will continue to push the Scottish Government on this in the coming weeks.
Other non-COVID-19 Group activity
Prestwick Aircraft Maintenance Limited
Prestwick Aircraft Maintenance Limited (PAML), based at Prestwick Airport, has started to dismiss staff who refused to take a 50% pay cut for working their full hours, without appropriate social distancing.
Many people, including the Scottish Government, do not understand how PAML can justify dismissing staff who are apparently engaged in “critical and essential work”.
Prospect and Grahame Smith, the general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, wrote to Fiona Hyslop calling on the Scottish Government, as the effective landlord of PAML, to enforce a furloughed closure. We have had an initial response to this letter, and we are working on a response.
Public sector pay
We have reached agreement with the Scottish Government that bodies covered by its public sector pay policy can pay 3% or a £750 basic award. See the full story here.
Passenger checks and staff safety
Through the offshore liaison group, we have raised the issue of members in aviation being exposed to the virus because of the lack of checks at airports.
Unions from other sectors of the economy have been winning for their members:
- Our colleagues in Unite, Unison and the GMB won a significant victory for social care staff and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) last week.
- The Educational Institute of Scotland reached an agreement over pay for supply teachers, which we think is an important step forward
- The STUC has published its findings from a survey of workers across Scotland which show the importance of union membership in safeguarding jobs and wellbeing across Scotland.
All the successes by unions across Scotland are achieved because of the members. Please take the time to encourage any colleagues you are in contact with (either physically or virtually) to join Prospect.
When you speak to friends or family, remind them of the positive work all unions are doing to save jobs and save lives, and please encourage them to join a union too!