Winning at work during coronavirus: Donna's story

Donna Macdonald describes her successful health and safety campaign during COVID.


“Miss, what did you do in the pandemic?”

“Well, in isolation, I connected with a group of inspiring, enthusiastic individuals who wanted to make a difference to other teachers and students across the country,” was my earnest reply.

One thing this strange situation has done is force many people to embrace new technology as a means of staying connected with friends, family and colleagues.

My school, a special school catering for students with ASD, is a very close knit, organisation which thrives on connectivity and nurture for everyone in the setting.

We are also part of a growing multi-academy trust (MAT) in the area. The pandemic has invigorated the unionisation in our workplace and in our MAT. The ongoing issues that Covid-19 has presented has ignited the passions that teachers feel about their workplaces.

Health and safety has been the key driver in this scenario and leadership has welcomed the input that the NEU has given with regards to workplace safety. The discussions around risk assessments using the prepared materials from the NEU really had a positive impact on safety for members in the workplace.

This much-needed dialogue has also opened the door to more high profile union, management conversations, albeit, by video conferencing platforms. This has been long overdue in our area, but the MAT cannot ignore the growing numbers of new reps and of new members which have risen out of the pandemic.

Technology has also played its part with the setting up of an area-wide WhatsApp group to share stories, opinions and latest documentation as well as the odd meme or two. I never really understood what the kids meant when they said ‘meme’ now I am fully embraced with this concept.

A direct consequence of this is the setting up of a new joint negotiation committee between the MAT and the unions with regular, well attended meetings and a forum put robustly in place for  future joint workings. Leadership has welcomed input from the chalkface, whereby the real day-to-day issues have a forum to be expressed and actioned.

This forum has now agreed on how to move forward, fostering positive engagement with the NEU, giving reps time off timetabled responsibilities for union activities which is a massive win for our membership in the district. Prompt payment into facilities time has also been achieved and the schools in the trust who do not yet have a representative are being promoted as beneficial from the leadership side.

This is a massive recognition for our membership and something we can move forward and build upon.

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