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Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 04 January 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.

22 December 2020

New COVID strain flight bans underscore ‘desperate need’ for UK aviation industry support

Commenting on the growing number of countries banning flights from the UK due to the emergence of a highly transmissible form of COVID-19 in the South East of England, Unite assistant general secretary, Diana Holland, said: “Thousands of aviation jobs have already been lost this year due to the impact of the coronavirus, many of which could have been saved if the government had implemented early support for the industry.

“The increasing number of UK flight bans in response to the mutated strain of the virus has made the desperate need for a sector specific package even more pressing.

“The government is once again fiddling while Rome burns with its as yet unseen plan to help aviation recover by 2025.

“The dithering of UK ministers stands in stark contrast to other countries whose governments took early action to ensure their aviation sectors were better protected when the severity of the crisis became apparent.

“Without immediate sector specific support, the tsunami of redundancies experienced by airline, airport and other aviation workers will become ever more acute. This will simply add more hurt to communities and the UK’s economy as a whole.”

23 December 2020

Unite urges Johnson to open government’s wallet to give NHS staff a substantial pay rise for 2021

Boris Johnson has been urged to open the government’s wallet and give NHS staff a substantial pay rise to make up for a decade of pay austerity and in recognition of their role in the continuing battle against COVID-19.

Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, has written to the prime minister to highlight the union’s demand for an early and significant pay rise for NHS workers of £3,000-a-year or 15 per cent, whichever is the greater.

The three-year NHS pay deal ends in April 2021, and health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, has asked the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) to report early next May on the award for 2021/2022.

The PRB will be making its deliberations against a background of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s ‘divide and rule’ tactics on public sector pay when millions, such as teaching assistants, will be subject to a pay freeze, while NHS staff can expect an increase.

Unite called for the pay deal to be brought forward to compensate for the 19 per cent pay decrease in real terms for many NHS staff since 2010.

Bonus for Mercedes Benz Retail Group workers who have ‘gone the extra mile’ during the pandemic

Workers at the Mercedes Benz Retail Group have been awarded a £900 bonus for going the extra mile during the pandemic.

Unite said the company set an example that other organisations and businesses could well follow in acknowledging the efforts of workers battling to maintain services during COVID-19 restrictions.

Unite regional officer, Clare Keogh, said: “This is good news for our members working at the Mercedes Benz Retail Group who well-deserve this £900 bonus, which will be in their January pay packets.

“We have been pushing for months for a bonus to be paid in recognition of the work our members have done throughout the pandemic, both in support of the company, but also for key workers, such as NHS staff, who have needed to keep their vehicles on the road. Our members have gone the extra mile.”

31 December 2020

Heroic NHS staff working under siege desperately need support and correct PPE

Hard-pressed, heroic NHS staff continuing to battle the COVID-19 crisis are being badly let down by a government which, ten months into this crisis, is still failing to ensure that the workforce is getting the protection it needs.

Commenting on the increasing reports of a system under siege, Unite's national officer for the health sector, Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, said that the union is now receiving concerning reports of an absence of the correct protective equipment (PPE) for some NHS staff treating the sick:

"From paramedic to porter, the catering assistant to biomedical scientist, the system is under severe strain. Years of underfunding and chronic staff shortages have left the NHS badly ill-equipped to cope with what is now a rampant second strain of the virus.

"Unite is calling on NHS staff to speak up about this; let us know what PPE is needed and we will do all in our power to get the employers to get this to you with urgency.

"It is absolutely sickening that despite the cushy contracts and the cronies' bank balances swollen with public money, overworked and underpaid NHS staff on the frontline of this crisis are not getting the support and protection that they need. The very least this government should be doing for them is to keep them as safe as possible while they give their all to keep us safe.

"The worst of this wave has yet to be upon us. The government needs to get a grip, show leadership and act to do everything needed to protect frontline workers and the public."

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.


Unite has set up a register for all our members to record their experiences of working during the COVID-19 crisis. The survey should only take a few minutes to complete - but by taking this time, you're helping your union keep Unite members safe. You can complete the survey here