Blog: Clapping for our carers and protectors? Clap for better pay and PPE too – Guest post by Jamie Dickinson

This pandemic has been incredibly tough on our communities and has exposed the true damage of the past decade of ideologically driven austerity and relentless privatisation. Many who were already in poverty are being pushed further into deprivation.   

Communities are having to adapt to social distancing measures, including being without so many of our loved ones. At the same time, our members are on the frontline defending our public services and fighting to ensure normality is maintained.  

It has also been truly inspiring to see members of our unionparticularly young members in our region day in and day out delivering services in hospitals, schools, social care, police and justice, energy, metro and in the voluntary sector. We owe them all so much and every single Thursday at 8pm I have spent the first few minutes of the hour outside clapping and cheering on our carers and protectors in solidarity for all their efforts and bravery, a small gesture that has had a huge impact on truly uniting us in our homes, communities and across the North East.  

As a region, we currently have the highest rate of infection in the country, surpassing much more populous areas and shining a light on the failure of this government to properly tackle the growing gap in social, economic and life expectancies compared with more affluent areas in the south.  

Now more than ever, it’s vital to be supporting UNISON and the trade union movement in it’s efforts to challenge governmental failures on their handling of this pandemic. One emergency care worker without the relevant and necessary personal protection equipment is one too many in this crisis and our union is fighting every day to ensure The Department for Health finally listens and acts.  

It cannot be the case, that a frontline key worker in the 5th richest country on earth has to choose between going to work and protecting their families, because their workplace and this Tory government has failed to act and be their advocate through this crisis. 

We cannot allow NHS workers to be treated as second class citizens and a mere afterthought to Westminster and we cannot allow private care companies to still refuse to grant statutory sick pay to its many young workers who are self-isolating from exposure to the virus because of a lack of proper PPE. These injustices are the very reason we must be raising awareness and offering to act and be the collective voice for the many workers who are afraid of dismissal and losing their jobs from doing so.  

The current compensation policy for the families of key workers, who have sadly passed away does also not go far enough. The entitlement must be broadened out to include all key workers both in the public and private sector. This crisis has demonstrated clearly who the key workers are in our society and there can be no doubt that private care workers and firefighters currently not included within the policy, have gone over and above to keep all of us safe and they deserve respect from this government too. 

UNISON the Union is the advocate for our members during COVID19 and our reps will be on the frontline demanding better and fairer terms and conditions.  

Already we have made major steps lobbying government on improving protection from the very frontline emergency staff to ensure PPE guidance ensuring ambulance workers can wear the protective equipment on every direct patient job.  

Our members made this happen, who’s direct experiences doing the job that helps so many enabled the arguments to be made with more precision and first-hand experience leading to vital changes made that will ultimately save more lives. If you are not a member of UNISON please join us and our ever-growing membership, your support and collectivism is needed now more than ever.  

Coming out of this pandemic we must ensure a renewed wave of energy into campaigning for a new deal at work for the carers and protectors that we value now more than ever.  

Jamie Dickinson
UNISON National Young Members Forum Rep