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Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 01 June 2021

red rectangle on cream background with black text  CORONAVIRUS COVID-19

At Unite Legal Services, we’ve collated the latest news and information regarding employment matters and workers’ rights in relation to coronavirus COVID-19 developments.

24 May 2021

Weetabix accused of milking profits as workers face fire and rehire at Northampton plants

Consumers could face shortages of Weetabix this summer, if workers at the company’s Northamptonshire factories take strike action, in a dispute over plans to fire and rehire them on vastly inferior contracts resulting in their pay being slashed.

The dispute involves engineers, who are members of Unite, at the company’s factories in Kettering and Corby.

Weetabix has issued the engineers with new contracts and work patterns, which will result in major cuts in shift allowances. There will also be a move to require more day working than shift working, further contributing to the cut in pay.

Some of the affected engineers will lose up to £5,000 a year. There are also major concerns about health and safety of the workers at both plants due to the low number of engineers who will now be on duty at certain times.

25 May 2021

Sainsbury’s threatening Argos workers with vicious fire and rehire plans

Office workers employed by Argos, which is now owned by Sainsbury’s, have been given the stark choice of accepting swingeing cuts to their pay and conditions or losing their jobs, under the company’s fire and rehire plans.

Over 700 long-term Argos staff, spread across the company and who undertake a variety of roles including payroll, IT, training, planning and management positions are affected by the fire and rehire plans.

Under Sainsbury’s plans (which it claims are to align with Sainsbury’s terms and conditions) the affected workers will be required to pay increased pension contributions, lose four days holiday a year, receive a lower level of death in service and suffer the loss of car allowance and other benefits.

Unite estimates that the affected workers will lose between £1,600 - £3,600 a year.

26 May 2021

More JDE coffee trouble ‘brewing’ as Banbury fire and rehire strikes escalate

More trouble is ‘brewing’ for coffee giant JDE (Jacobs Douwe Egberts) as fire and rehire strikes at its Banbury factory escalate.

Around 300 JDE employees are taking strike action over the company’s plans to dismiss staff and force them to sign new contracts that would see them lose up to £12,000 a year.

The workers have conducted a continuous overtime ban since 1 May, as well holding two 24-hour strikes and several demonstrations outside JDE’s Ruscote Avenue site in Banbury.

The severity of the industrial action has now increased, with a 72-hour strike that began on Wednesday 26 May and the looming prospect of more damaging strikes over the summer.

Offshore contractor Bilfinger accused of belligerent fire and rehire strategy

Three offshore trade unions with members employed by offshore service company Bilfinger are calling on the company to stop its fire and rehire strategy.

Unite, GMB and RMT have, for several weeks, tried to convince Bilfinger that the fire and rehire approach, and imposition of cuts in rates of pay for Inspectors employed on Taqa operations will result in significant industrial relations issues.

The workforce in response to Bilfinger's actions have all registered individual grievances to challenge the company, and following a collective meeting with all those affected the three unions are moving to a consultative ballot of members for industrial action. The consultative ballot for industrial action opened on Thursday 27 May with a closing date for voting of June 10. The internal grievance process will continue in the meantime and the trade unions are committed to trying to find a resolution to the situation, and remain available for talks.

27 May 2021

Government data on COVID variant cases linked to schools should be published ‘immediately’

Eight trade unions, which collectively represent the majority of school and college staff, have written to the secretary of state to call for immediate publication of the data held by the government and Public Health England (PHE) on the total number of variant cases linked to schools and colleges.

The letter says: “Education unions have repeatedly requested this data since early May. It should have been released in advance of the change in guidance on face coverings, which came into effect on 17 May.”

The unions involved are ASCL, GMB, NASUWT, NAHT, NEU, NSEAD, UNISON and Unite.

Get more support

For more information on how we are fighting to protect the health and safety, and economic stability of our members during the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis, please visit the Unite the Union advice hub.

If you are in need of further advice on an employment law query during the crisis, you can visit the Unite Legal Services coronavirus COVID-19 page, or call Unite’s dedicated coronavirus COVID-19 Legal Advice Line on 0333 202 6557.

COVID-19 personal injury claims

Unite has set up a specialist legal team to advise and represent members who have suffered injury as a result of COVID-19

If you have suffered injury from developing COVID-19, or have tragically lost a family member to the condition, then please call Unite’s COVID-19 PI team on 020 8799 4023.