One year of the covid pandemic: reps view

23 March 2021

To reflect on one year since the first nationwide lockdown, we spoke to Prospect reps who have supported members throughout the year with challenges such as furlough, redundancy and remote working.

Health and safety 

The covid pandemic has shone a light on the importance of good regulation in the workplace. Alison Clark is a rep at HSE and told us that the country has had a huge wakeup call with respect to health and safety at work and the need for all workplaces to take this issue seriously.  

It has been a busy year on all fronts for HSE. Much of their work has been behind the scenes with testing of PPE and infection control study. And against this backdrop of extra work, colleagues have had to deliver on work associated with the UK‘s departure from the EU and setting up the postBrexit regime.  

When asked what the workplace will look like for HSE post-covid, Alison said that “teamwork, peer review and support are particularly important for many of the specialists and regulators, these workers will still need access to offices and laboratories. She would like to see the positive aspects about flexible and hybrid working retained, “we have shown that working from home, where people have space, the tools and IT can be beneficial for work-life balance.”  

Alison says that she is confident “Prospect will continue to provide reasoned and well-developed advice to members and to promote the work of HSE as we move into the next phase of this pandemic”. You can read Prospect’s joint statement with HSE on health and safety in 2021. 

Museums in lockdown 

Anne Sharman is a Collections Data Officer and rep at the National Railway Museum. Much of the heritage sector has been shut down and museum doors have been closed to the public for most of the past year. 

They were able to briefly reopen in the summer, and although Anne herself has worked from home for the whole pandemic, as a site rep she was involved in the conversations around reopening to keep both staff and visitors safe. “That felt really positive, and I think we learnt a lot about how adaptable we are as a museum and how adaptable our visitors are. 

The front of house staff are “often overlooked in a lot of big conversations about museums”. But when they reopened, these workers went to every effort to maintain health and safety on the ground to enhance visitors’ experience, allowing them to feel confident to return.  

Anne said the discussions and involvement of Prospect was valuable to ensure that staff concerns were addressed, and the lessons learned from opening last summer stand them in good stead to reopen safely when government guidance allows. 

Going virtual 

Travel restrictions haven’t got in the way of our museums educating and entertaining the public. At the National Railway Museum, Anne told us that they have innovated and found new ways to engage people through online content. One of their curators has been hosting behind the scenes tours of vehicles on YouTube called “Curator with a Camera”. 

Museums are a key part of their local communities and they have been able to provide valuable services despite doors being closed to the public. In the first lockdown, a number of museums across the country delivered learning packs for children while the schools were closed to help their home learning. 

A challenging year for aviation  

As a Prospect rep at Exeter Airport, Jacob Roberts has had a particularly busy year in the role. Aviation has been one of the hardest hit sectors, with travel restrictions in place for most of the year.  

Although the number of passenger flights has been severely reduced, Jacob and colleagues at the airport have been kept busy with the other key services they deliver. He told us “it’s been satisfying to continue to provide services to essential flights that continue to operate at the airfield such as military, hospital, cargo, mail and training flights”.  

The future 

Looking ahead, Jacob says that he hopes we see a strong recovery as aviation is vital to the UK economy and supports so many skilled jobs. Along with other Prospect reps in aviation, Jacob has been working on preparing for the challenges that may arise as we hopefully see things start to pick up through spring and into the summer. 

Speaking on the importance of trade unions, Jacob believes “the last year has shown that being a member of Prospect is more important than ever and how joining a trade union can make a real difference”. 

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