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Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 07 April 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.

30 March 2021

Fresh London bus strikes as peace talks fail

London has faced fresh bus strikes after peace talks failed to secure a breakthrough in the dispute over proposed attacks on conditions and real terms pay cuts.

Bus drivers at the RATP subsidiary, London United, took strike action on Wednesday 31 March and Thursday 1 April. There are also further strikes scheduled for Wednesday 7 April and Wednesday 14 April.

The London United dispute is a result of RATP seeking to use the COVID-19 pandemic as cover to slash the pay and conditions of drivers.

31 March 2021

Royal London hospital patients facing meal disruption in Serco bullying and roster dispute

Patients at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel could face disruption at mealtimes this spring, if workers employed by outsourcer Serco take strike action in a dispute over bullying and the imposition of new rotas.

The workers, who are members of Unite, are based in the hospital’s back of house catering department and responsible for getting meals to patients on wards, have been attempting to resolve the problems of bullying and a chaotic roster without success since July.

Management bullying tactics have seen aggressive use of sickness absence triggers and abuse of power in the allocation of shifts and holidays, which have taken members to breaking point during the pandemic.

The ballot opened on Tuesday 30 March and will close on Tuesday 19 April.

Unite welcomes support for taxi trade by Dundee City Council as it calls on local authorities to follow

Unite Scotland welcomed further support announced by Dundee City Council for taxi and private hire drivers through a £1,000 grant. Unite is now demanding that all local authorities in Scotland follow the lead of Dundee as its repeats its call for the suspension of licensing fees by all local authorities to assist drivers at this time.

Unite is also calling on the Scottish government to deliver a £10,000 grant for each taxi operator, which is the equivalent support being given to other small business owners, and for an additional second cash grant to drivers from the £57 million Coronavirus (COVID-19): Taxi and Private Hire Driver Support Fund. A recent Scottish Parliament petition (PE01856), lodged by Unite in March calling for more support for the taxi trade, has gained thousands of signatures.

Race report has ‘extinguished any hope’ in addressing endemic inequalities

The government’s report on race and ethnic disparities has ‘extinguished any hope in addressing rife and deep seated inequalities’.

Unite was commenting on The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which was set up after Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests across the country last summer, following the killing of George Floyd in the US.

Unite national officer for equalities, Harish Patel, said: “The report is a huge disappointment and failed to delve deeper into the inequalities that affect those from ethnic minorities in the UK, which have been further highlighted by the impact of the pandemic over the last year.

“There will be real anger in these communities that, once again, the government has failed to tackle these ingrained inequalities. Unless ministers get serious about inequality, this will be a running sore that will continue to damage the social fabric of the UK and blight the lives of millions of our fellow citizens.

“It is those from black and Asian backgrounds that have suffered disproportionately from COVID-19 whether they were NHS staff who succumbed to coronavirus or, more widely, in the community where many were holding down low-paid jobs meaning they could not afford to self-isolate because of the paltry levels of statutory sick pay.”

1 April 2021

London United bus strikes to intensify as new depots join strike action

The increasingly bitter dispute, involving London United, a subsidiary of the French owned company RATP, is set to intensify, after bus drivers at two more garages voted to join the industrial action over pay and attacks on conditions.

Drivers at both Stamford Brook and Hounslow Heath have voted to join the industrial action. It will mean that further strikes beginning on Thursday 15 April will involve London United drivers at all seven of its garages.

The five depots already taking strike action are Fulwell, Hounslow, Park Royal, Shepherd’s Bush and Tolworth garages. These five garages were on strike Thursday 1 April and will also be on strike on Wednesday 7 April.

Heathrow workers secure pay offer as strikes are called off

Strikes due to begin at Heathrow Airport on 2 April were postponed after an offer on pay and future working conditions was agreed following extensive negotiations.

The workers employed by Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) had already taken nine days of strike action in a dispute over the company’s decision to fire and rehire its entire workforce.

A series of 41 separate targeted strikes in a 24-day period were due to begin, which would have caused considerable disruption to the airport’s safe operation.

The offer includes the potential for pay increases of five per cent over the next two years (depending on airport traffic and inflation [CPI]), the insourcing of work, which will increase earnings for some of the workforce by up to £3,000 and a commitment to review working hours of some sectors to improve work/life balance.

Unite’s members will now be balloted on the pay and conditions offer and the result will be known towards the end of April. The union is recommending the deal to its members.

Go North West negotiations collapse without agreement as Manchester bus strikes set to continue

Protracted peace talks between management at Go North West and Unite have collapsed without agreement, meaning that the long running bus strike is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

The dispute is a result of the company deciding to fire and rehire its bus drivers and attempt to force them to accept vastly inferior contracts.

Over 400 drivers who are members of Unite have been on all out strike since Sunday 28 February. Saturday 4 April marked the end of the fifth week of strike action.

Under Go North West’s (which is part of the multi-billion pound Go Ahead group) fire and rehire plans, bus drivers who earn on average of £24,000 will be forced to work longer for no additional pay. Unite has calculated that Go North West is expecting its drivers to undertake 130 hours of unpaid work per annum, resulting in drivers being £2,500 a year worse off.

Go North West is intent on tearing up the existing sick pay policy, which will result in a 67 per cent cut in sick pay for workers with over five years’ service.

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.