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03 Apr 2020

GMB General Secretary Tim Roache writes on what our union has been working on over the last week to help our members

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Week 3 of remote working for GMB and it’s difficult to know where to start with this blog.

It’s been a real eye opener for me seeing how technology is supporting the work we do. Video conference calls with Government, the TUC, GMB management and how we communicate electronically with reps and members has shown different ways of working, many of which will stay with us to make us more efficient, effective and better equipped to serve you.

Every GMB member is impacted by this crisis and we’ve received an enormous number of enquiries seeking our advice, assistance and support. Where workers are furloughed, our position is clear. We call on all employers to top up the 80% underwritten by Government with the remaining 20%.

A debate has also raged on what is essential work and in Scotland that argument Scotch whisky. The spotlight has extended to warehousing where workers at ASOS, a giant warehouse in South Yorkshire, told us in most graphic terms that the workplace is ‘a breeding ground for this disease’.

It’s been a real eye opener for me seeing how technology is supporting the work we do. Much of this will stay with us to make us more efficient, effective and better equipped to serve you.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary 

Focus also turned to Matalan where GMB secured a big success this week, with members being told they can be furloughed on full pay if they don’t feel safe.  The latter has made headlines this week because in pursuit of profit people are being told they have to work when it’s not safe to.

The choice is whether to try and claim paltry Statutory Sick Pay or go in. GMB is clear that we don’t want to shut down every employer from working – when it comes to warehousing our Hermes drivers deliver the packages warehouses produce- but we are absolutely firm that any company that continues operating should do so safely. It can be done, places like Nestle in York are showing exactly how.

So, we’ve been in the headlines a lot this week and we’ll keep fighting in the weeks to come.

We’re continuing to shout from the rooftops about the lack of protective equipment for frontline workers, it’s completely unacceptable.

I’ve been in touch with the TUC all week, and National Secretary Rehana Azam has been in touch with Ministers and the Department. GMB played a key role in writing the TUC’s joint statement this week and have secured some huge wins.

We have a two-pronged approach to PPE – we try and change policy and the supply of PPE through Government action, but we also tackle workplace by workplace.

I joined a webinar hosted by our National Education Officer, Carl Parker, this week to talk PPE in the workplace – hundreds of reps joined us on that training. It shows how we’re still organising and leading even when we’re not allowed to leave the house! (for those of us who aren’t key workers anyway).

I have to give a shout out to GMB South East and Coastal Emergency Services Branch – they ran out of hand sanitiser at work, so our reps commissioned a gin distillery to make some! Now they’re delivering it! Creative, important, seeing a problem and just getting it sorted – that’s our GMB Union!

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary 

Find out more here

As I type, I’m getting ready to go onto a phone conference with the Governor of the Bank of England to talk about future planning and the economy (obviously important for members’ jobs.) I’ll be doing so sat in my car because I can’t get phone reception in my house!

This week has seen some big wins, some big headlines and over 1,000 GMB reps engaged in online training with our union. We are leading the way and I’m so proud of everyone involved.

Next week we’ll continue the fight for PPE, we’ll keep taking on employers who choose to stay open but won’t put proper safety measures in place. In England and Wales, we’ll also have a big survey of care workers (GMB Scotland are already working on this, it’s a very different system up there).

Thank you everyone. Stay safe.

I’ll be back next week (and on Facebook and Twitter in between). 

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary

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