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Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 07 December 2020

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 November 2020

Leicester SPS Technologies workers’ in strike ballot over ‘opportunistic’ pay cuts of up to £3,000

Workers at aerospace parts firm SPS Technologies are being balloted for strike action over the company’s ‘opportunistic’ attempt to attack pay rates by as much as £3,000 a year.

Around 200 staff from the workforce at SPS’ Barkby Road site were made redundant during the summer, with the remaining 280 now facing reductions to overtime pay, sick pay, paid breaks, shift premiums and other terms and conditions.

The changes would see staff lose between £2,500 and £3,000 from their annual salaries.

Unite said losing such a significant amount will result in workers being unable to pay their mortgages and other essential bills. Staff are concerned that the cuts may force them to use payday loans, look for second jobs or find new work altogether.

01 December 2020

£20,000 wages’ axe for Greenwich housing repair staff threatens strike action

Greenwich housing repairs could be seriously disrupted as more than 120 workers threaten to strike in the new year over a new pay system that could see some of them losing £20,000-a-year in wages.

Unite accused their employer, the Royal Borough of Greenwich, of reneging on a previous agreement, acting in bad faith and using COVID-19 as an excuse for the wages’ axe.

More than 120 directly-employed carpenters, decorators, electricians and plumbers, who maintain the borough’s housing stock, voted by 98 per cent for strike action – but Unite is now allowing breathing space for last-ditch talks to avert the announcement of strike dates.

The crux of the dispute is a new pay system that could see up to £20,000 slashed from workers’ pay packets. Unite members are on pay scales ranging from £35,000 to £55,000.

02 December 2020

Unite to mount resistance as bosses target Thurrock council heroes

Unite has vowed to fiercely resist Thurrock Council’s plans to brutally cut the pay and conditions of workers who have been providing essential services during the pandemic.

The workers who have been supporting residents by providing key services throughout the current health crisis are furious that they are now the target of proposed cuts of between £2,000 - £3,500 a year for refuse workers, highway maintenance and street cleaners.

Care workers employed by the council face cuts of up to £8,000 according to documents provided to the union by Thurrock Council. Meanwhile, the council has not proposed any cuts to the pay and conditions of senior management.

At a meeting between Unite and the local authority on 21 October, the council presented plans to remove a number of allowances which make up the workers' yearly salary. The union will now step up its campaign at the council and rally support to oppose any attempt to cut the pay of key workers who have protected residents since the beginning of the pandemic.

03 December 2020

Rolls-Royce accused of 'choking' company’s future and 'selling family silver’ in sell-off and plant rundown announcement

Unite has described Rolls-Royce's announcement of fresh job losses as 'choking the company’s future', while the proposals to transfer or rundown parts of the business is 'selling the family silver’.

Rolls-Royce announced further jobs losses on Thursday 3 December, which follows the announcement of 1,400 job losses last month and 3,000 job losses in June.

In a fresh blow for workers, Rolls-Royce announced it is planning to sell its manufacturing plant in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire. Further work at Barnoldswick is also being transferred, greatly intensifying fears for the future of the factory. In addition, the decision to transfer work from Inchinnan, Renfrewshire to Derby poses a further threat to the Scottish plant.

The announcement of fresh job losses is a result of the severe downturn in the aerospace industry, which is directly a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike many other European countries, the government has failed to provide specific support to the aerospace sector, leading to far higher job losses than would otherwise have been the case.

The job losses will include making some of the company’s apprentices redundant – the first time in over 30 years that there have been job cuts among this group of workers.

The fresh Rolls-Royce job losses will also have a major impact on the company’s supply chain. For every job loss at Rolls-Royce, there are likely to be four job losses in the supply chain.

Further education unions express 'outrage’ at pay offer and breakdown of trust in employers

Trade unions representing staff in English further education colleges have slammed the decision by the Association of Colleges (AoC) to offer a 1% pay increase and demanded to know what the additional government funding had been spent on.

In a joint pay claim submitted in October, the unions (UCU, UNISON, NEU, Unite and GMB) made clear that college staff had suffered a real-terms pay cut of 30% since 2009 with over 24,000 teaching staff leaving the sector.

This year colleges saw a significant £224m increase in base rate funding, yet it is unclear what employers spent this on instead of investing in staff. Only full transparency into where the money was spent will give staff the answers they need.

The unions said that after years of campaigning with employers for more money for staff, now is not the time for excuses on pay but instead an investment in staff so that further education can provide the skills for a post-COVID recovery.

The unions also called on employers to publicly commit to working towards closing the £7,000 pay gap between school and college teaching staff and introduce the foundation living wage.

Stuart Fegan, GMB national officer, said: “College staff have been on the frontline in supporting communities during our efforts to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic. What has been offered by the AoC amounts to a real terms pay cut, which our members will only be deeply disappointed and angry to receive. We call on the AoC to have a long hard think on how much they value brave, hard-working college staff.”

04 December 2020

Swissport urged to rethink job losses at Jersey Airport, as vaccines on the horizon

The redundancy programme involving Swissport workers at Jersey Airport is ‘going under the radar’ and needs a rethink now that COVID-19 vaccines are on the horizon.

Swissport have already made more than half their 100-strong workforce redundant over the past year, with their operation in Jersey badly affected by the pandemic.

On Tuesday 1 December, a further 11 staff left the business, with more staff laid off temporarily, bringing the total number of employees down to a bare minimum.

Under Jersey law, the most staff an employer can make redundant in a 30-day period is 11, without initiating formal “collective consultation” measures.

Alarmingly, Swissport has since informed Unite that a further 11 staff are to be put ‘at risk’ of redundancy, suggesting the company is taking an ‘under the radar’ approach to job losses.

Unite is urging the Government of Jersey to liaise with Swissport to discuss further measures to maintain as many jobs as possible until the expected pick-up in air travel to the Channel Island in spring next year.

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