Working at RSBi (Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft Industries) in Glasgow – Europe’s largest supported business – we provide essential goods and services to Glasgow City Council for some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
We provide a full homeless person’s accommodation service to the city from manufacturing household goods, to our teams laying the floors and furnishing homeless flats all over Glasgow. As soon as the news was announced we knew that we would be called upon to continue some element of manufacturing to support the council in getting people off the streets throughout the lockdown.
The worry for me was how we would do that at the same time as protecting many of our employees who are considered vulnerable, both my employer and I knew we would have to take steps quickly to protect those most at risk.
My thoughts immediately turned to communication, being in such a supportive workplace, access to the membership has always been so easy and accommodated. However, I started to think how were we going to keep members regularly updated on what we knew would be a very fast moving situation that was already causing confusion and worry.
The branch reps immediately came together, setting up a dedicated WhatsApp group and Facebook Page for the branch in order that we could communicate any changes and answer queries as quickly as possible. This has proven to be a very effective method of reaching the members and something we will continue when life returns to some normality.
As soon as it was apparent that the UK was potentially going to be following some other countries into a national lockdown, our employer City Building Glasgow, took very quick actions to protect the workforce. All vulnerable staff were immediately sent home, and as soon as the lockdown was announced, all other staff were sent home.
Our employer immediately engaged with the union and committed to paying 100% pay and pension contributions, which was communicated to the membership.
I worked with the employer to ensure the business was covid secure and to protect the small group of staff who volunteered to continue with the manufacturing of essential goods. Our team furnished many homes between March and November, getting hundreds of homeless people off the streets of Glasgow. I am endlessly proud of my colleagues and the work we undertook together during this period.
The support for members from Community throughout has been a lifeline to so many and I am proud to be part of such a diverse and caring union.
No one knows what 2021 will bring, we can only hope for an end to these worrying and uncertain times but, I am encouraged by the resilience of our reps and members and their willingness to look out for each other through the most difficult of times.
Steven McGurk serves on Community’s NEC representing disabled members, he also sits on the TUC Disabled Workers Committee, and spoke at the TUC Congress on the impact of the coronavirus on disabled people. You can read his speech here.
This blog features as part of a series showcasing the work of Community reps through the coronavirus pandemic.
Community represents workers in every sector of the UK economy. You can join us here.