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

26 April 2021

Ministers urged to stamp out pressures on chefs to work more than 48 hours a week

Ministers need to tighten up the legislation to stop chefs - one of the groups of employees most hit by COVID-19 – from being pressurised into working more than 48 hours a week.

The call came from Unite before Workers’ Memorial Day (28 April), which commemorates all those killed, injured or made sick during the course of their work.

Unite is continuing to highlight the health and safety concerns relating to stress and the excessive hours worked by chefs and the long-term health impacts.

The issue has been further underlined by the Office for National Statistics, which registered that 82 chefs succumbed to coronavirus in 2020.

27 April 2021

Workers suffering mental health ‘epidemic’ linked to pandemic stress

Workers are suffering a mental health ‘epidemic’, a UK and Ireland-wide survey of Unite workplace representatives has revealed.

Unite said there is a ‘clear link’ between the increase in stress brought on by the pandemic and called on employers to help prevent the crisis being carried forward as the country opens up.

The health and safety-focused survey of 1,400 Unite reps, from across all sectors of the economy, found that 83 per cent are dealing with an increase in members reporting mental health-related problems.

Mental health issues also came top of workers’ concerns during a similar survey last year. However, there has been a huge 18-point increase from the 65 per cent reported in 2020.

Len McCluskey and Unite families 'walk the wall' as union backs call for COVID public inquiry

The general secretary of Unite joined Unite families who lost loved ones to COVID-19 to walk the memorial wall on International Workers' Memorial Day (28 April).

Len McCluskey and the families also joined with TUC representatives to observe the minute's silence for International Workers’ Memorial Day.

Unite is throwing its weight behind calls for a statutory public inquiry into the government's handling of the pandemic, recently rejected by ministers, and is backing the campaign for the National COVID Memorial Wall in Lambeth, south London, to be made permanent.

Landmark agreement reached to preserve jobs and protect pay at Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports

Unite has signed a groundbreaking agreement to preserve jobs and protect wages at Manchester Airport Group (MAG), as the industry seeks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 12-month deal covers hundreds of workers at Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands Airports. Under the deal, MAG has agreed there will be no compulsory redundancies while the government’s job retention scheme remains in operation (currently scheduled to end on 30 September 2021).

This has resulted in planned redundancies - including 138 at Manchester Airport - being held in abeyance and Unite will seek to further mitigate those numbers in the coming months.

28 April 2021

Banbury coffee workers whip up pressure in ‘fire and rehire’ row

Workers at JDE (Jacobs Douwe Egberts) in Banbury are ramping up pressure in the ‘fire and rehire’ dispute with a protest which was held on 1 May, followed by  a 24-hour strike on 8/9 May.

A continuous overtime ban started on 1 May because of the decision by the Dutch-owned company to issue notice of dismissal and engagement for 291 employees. More strikes are on the cards for June.

30 April 2021

New poll shows seven in ten back ban for bully boy fire and rehire

The UK public wants fire and rehire banned, according to a new poll issued by Unite.

Seven in 10 people (70 per cent) say that the controversial practice, whereby employers can rip up long established contracts and replace them with inferior ones, cutting pay and conditions, should be made illegal.

A similar number of those polled by Survation for the union (68 per cent) disapprove or strongly disapprove of fire and rehire.

Fire and rehire hit UK workplaces during the pandemic, with businesses, many foreign-owned, using the UK's weak employment laws to raid wages and cut terms such as sick pay. The practice is outlawed in Ireland and Spain, while governments in France, Italy and Germany tie business support to the protection of jobs and workers.

Unite has launched a major national campaign to end fire and hire in the UK, saying that the ease with which workers in this country can see their employment conditions worsened is a boon for bad bosses. The union wants the government to use the upcoming Queen's speech on 11 May to present the necessary legislation to ban the practice.

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.