The campaign to beat the pandemic

Model Motion: Air quality is an access issue

11 September 2022 / Covid Action

This model motion was first written for UNISON’s 2022 National Disabled Members Conference. You can adapt it for your union branch or any other organisation!

The Covid pandemic has brought to the fore the issue of indoor air quality, particularly the need for ventilation and filtration systems in schools. Our demands have still not been fully implemented by this government, to keep children and teachers safe and reduce community transmission.

Indoor air quality is also an access issue: It is perfectly possible to make all workplaces and public buildings much safer and reduce the transmission of airborne respiratory infections. This by no means needs new technology.

Those of us with respiratory conditions such as Asthma and COPD as well as those immunosuppressed, are all too well aware of how respiratory infections are likely to have more serious and longer effects from air borne infections such as flu and colds.

Covid highlighted this increased risk not only to those with lung conditions, but many other conditions included on the governments “clinically vulnerable” and “clinically extremely vulnerable” lists. The latter group were initially told to “shield” and the former to take extra care in reducing contacts with others. Many UNISON disabled members are in one of these groups.

The failure to significantly improve existing legislation and regulate workplaces and public building, specifically over ventilation and filtration systems has meant longer lock downs and school closures etc then might otherwise have been needed. People in the “Clinically Extremely Vulnerable” group had to shield for longer and remain at higher risk should they contract Covid. Many more people became infected at work in the early days of the pandemic. Tragically that meant unnecessary deaths and many others still suffering – and in some cases still unable to work – as a result of Long Covid

Disabled people should have confidence when attending work, education public services or engaging in leisure that the environment has been made as safe as possible. UNISON endorses the social model of disability, i.e., that it is society puts put up barriers to our access rather than our impairments per se. Society and successive governments have through underinvestment, lack of adequate legislation and regulation of indoor air quality, put disabled members at greater risk, and this risk increased significantly once Covid 19 was circulating.

Disabled members conference recognises the need for workplaces, schools, education, amenities, publics services and hospitality, to have adequate ventilation, filtration systems and monitoring of air quality such and CO2 monitors, and to consider other ways of reducing risk with ultraviolet lights and adequate cleaning regimes.

Disabled members conference notes

  • that Independent SAGE is developing a “scores on the doors” approach which would identify levels of risk and how risk has been mitigated and reduced on individual premises.
  • That it remains important to use other mitigation to avoid covid infection, including mask wearing when appropriate, testing and supported selfisolation so that those who do get covid or any air borne virus can stay at home with full pay and avoid transmission especially to those at higher risk.
  • That with more community spread of Covid not only is there a greater risk of infection but also the increased risk of more people suffering from Long Covid.
  • That disabled members conference 2021 agreed to campaign “for the government and employers to recognise that people with long Covid can be defined as disabled under the Equality Act if the condition has a substantial impact on their ability to do normal day to day activities that is expected to last twelve months or more”
  • That Independent Sage has published a pledge that states the following:
    • We pledge to protect our staff, users and customers from Covid-19.
    • We will assess our physical environment and working practices according to Health and Safety Law including Risk Assessments, in order to ensure that they are designed to safeguard against the spread of infection.
    • We will abide by best public health advice and ensure that all employees who test positive are both asked and given adequate support to stay at home and self-isolate.

Disabled Members conference calls on the National Disabled Members Committee to:

  • Campaign for Improved health and safety legislation to ensure all workplaces, public buildings, and area where services are provided including hospitality and retail, have adequate ventilation and/or filtrations systems and air quality monitoring, with adequate regulation to ensure good practice.
  • Use its influence to ensure that UNISON’s own health and safety training and advice will cover the issue of air quality and specifically the effects it may have on disabled members.
  • Call on the NEC to ensure that all UNISON meeting and events are fully risk assessed to ensure that venues have adequate air quality and monitored throughout. if safety perimeters are exceeded, they need to take action and make that information available to attendees. To continue to use online meetings and hybrid meeting to increase access at such meeting of those who are at higher risk.
  • Continue to campaign for Long Covid to be recognised as disability under the Equality Act.
  • Work with Independent Sage, Hazards Campaign, and others to demand employers sign the “Covid-19 Safety Pledge” and encourage UNISON branches to raise with employers as well and encouraging UNISON to raise where possible at national bargaining groups.
  • Again, work with groups such as Independent Sage to support plan to have “score on the doors” approach so disabled people can feel confident when entering buildings
Skip to content