Following on from our last email at the end of last week, this message is to update you on the present situation.

As you know, an email was released “in error” to managers in EOC informing them that the Trust was going to mandate the wearing of masks at all times, including when at workstations. A similar memo was sent out by the 111 Head of Service prior to this.

UNISON fully understands and accepts the problem that the Trust faces with the recent increase in COVID-19 infections/absences. We also fully understand that the Trust needs to implement safety measures to protect the staff while they are at work and these measures will ultimately help to protect friends, family and colleagues.

The three unions met with the senior management and members of the IPC group, including staff side colleagues who sit on that group. A great number of things was discussed including recent developments regarding the wearing of masks while at work. We fed back all of the issues that you, our members, raised with us and these included the fact that in 111, Health Advisors were reporting that their callers were having difficulty understanding them while they wore masks. We also discussed our view on the fact that we do not believe that the Fluid Resistant masks were designed to be worn for long periods.

The Trust has decided to introduce an Outbreak Escalation Process. This process has a set criterion that once reached, requires certain actions to be taken. The first two stages of this process (1. Tactical, 2. Operational) recommends the wearing of masks at all times in buildings unless staff are protected behind screens, on their own in an office/room or when eating and drinking. UNISON fully accepts and supports these first two stages.

Stage 3 of the process (Strategic) requires the wearing of masks at all times in NWAS buildings and at all workstations. Unfortunately, UNISON was unable to agree to this Stage of the process and hoped to find a viable alternative to address the concerns that we had raised. Due to our failure to agree, UNISON’s position remains unchanged and as far as we are concerned, NWAS has imposed this upon our members.

To be clear, the wearing of masks at all times as stated in Section 3, only comes into effect when the criteria is met. I have attached a copy of the document for your information. We advise that all members adhere to the Escalation Process.

If you believe that you are exempt from wearing masks, then the Trust will require you to attend Occupational Health for their recommendation on you as an individual. Until such time as that OHD assessment has taken place, you should not be put under pressure to wear the masks and instead, you should be removed from that environment and if necessary, be put on medical leave.

If you are one of these people, please speak to your line manager and if necessary, ask for a meeting to discuss your circumstances where you can be accompanied by your UNISON representative.

In summary, we must stress that for the most part, UNISON fully supports the efforts of NWAS to address the increasing numbers of infections and we ask you to fully cooperate in order to protect yourselves and others.

We also highly recommended that if you have not already done so, you take up the offer of having the vaccine. The more people that take the vaccine, the lower the infections will become, and we can all get back to some sort of normality. Not taking the vaccine will only contribute to the potential of infecting others which will result in these measures continuing to be implemented.

Please be assured that your union will continue to monitor the situation and will continue having dialogue with the management team in order to make your workplace as safe as it possibly can be.


Every month, all NWAS UNISON members are entered into a draw where they can win £50.00.

Most Recent: Stephen Baron (February)

Month 2: Janette Gooddy (January)

Month 3: Michael Ashton (December)

Temporary Agreement Reached

For some time now, UNISON along with colleagues from the other unions have been in talks with the management to try to reach a temporary agreement to help address the increasing numbers of staff absences due to Covid. Amongst the ideas being discussed was the cancellation of the Flip Flop arrangement, the use of e-CFR staff to work on bank as PES Assistants and the introduction of enhanced rates for overtime.

Feedback from our members was loud and clear in that the cancellation of the Flip Flop facility was not an option and UNISON refused to sign up to any agreement that contained this.

UNISON recognised that some other services around the UK were already using the Police, Fire Brigade or the Military to provide blue light drivers, however, we maintained the position that we would only consider the use of these as a last resort and that we had to exhaust all internal options first.

We can now confirm that a temporary agreement has been reached that we expect to be implemented next week, as early as Monday. The agreement allows for the buy back of annual leave, the use of e-CFR's as PES Assistants as well as enhanced payments on overtime. In the event that the Trust is still struggling to maintain adequate emergency cover, NWAS will request Military back up.

Full details of what has been agreed will be released as soon as possible.