A message from the General SecretaryUnion Matters March 26 2020
The current public health crisis engulfing the country goes much deeper than the spread of a virus. This current pandemic has eaten its way into every part of our daily lives: our jobs, our families and our communities. I know that it is hard sometimes to even just focus on one thing, with the constant anxiety of our extraordinary situation growing exponentially alongside the constant stream of bad news. It is hard to look away even though many of us will want to simply try and hunker down and deal with our own situations. The devastation of this virus has laid bare that we cannot find solutions on our own, but that we must address the problem as a collective.
Over the last few days you have been receiving communications from the union that focus on the industrial work that we are doing to keep you safe and to continue to represent you in the workplace. This message is slightly different. I want all members to know that as much as we are focussed on the current workplace issues that we face; I am also keeping in mind that your own personal lives will be stretched beyond imagination. Some of us are vulnerable ourselves, some have major care duties for children and elderly relatives and others are simply trying to think of everything that they can do to help. We are all mostly a mix of the above: understandable fear about what is happening around our families, but also desperate to make any contribution we can to turn the tide and return to normality.
The designation of our members across both industries as ‘key workers’ will prove testing in the weeks ahead. We have a responsibility to continue to serve the nation, but I will do all I can to ensure that such service is recognised through proper protections at work. I know that we would normally be writing to you about protecting your terms and conditions, but this time it is about something even more important: protecting your safety, health, wellbeing and the sustainability of your job and the business you work in. We are doing all we can, working tirelessly, to ensure that this protection is offered. Elsewhere on this live blog and our website you will see communications sent out from the union explaining the pressure that is being put on the various employers and the advice we are giving to our members. We will also supplement this with videos and podcasts to ensure we keep connected.
On top of this, I am acutely aware of the fact that what is going on around us is all consuming. It is impossible to escape the news and the unfolding events across the world. The horrible scenes from Italy offer a vision of what our own situation may look like in a few weeks’ time. But we do have the ability to turn some of this around by following the advice of the NHS and acting to shield the vulnerable and the elderly. I know that outside of work members are already following this advice as well as doing what they can, where they can, to support people within the communities we live in.
We are living through history at this moment in time and there are few predictions that we are able to make. What I am prepared to say, however, is that we will emerge from this crisis both as a stronger union and a stronger country. We are witnessing before our very eyes the importance of collectivism, of treating others as we would wish to be treated, and as looking out for our neighbours. The current outbreak will test us and it will hurt us. But it is also concentrating our minds on the things that matter. So, as we endeavour to keep you safe at work, please also keep yourselves safe at home and in the wider community.