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Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 09 August 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.

02 August 2021

Green light needed for aviation job support while travel restrictions continue

Commenting on reports that a split is developing between prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak on the easing of travel restrictions, Unite assistant general secretary for civil air transport, Diana Holland, said: “The current traffic light system is not working and there is disagreement within government about how to move forward. While the situation remains uncertain and complex, the government must provide job saving support to our aviation and travel industry.

“Unite is advocating for a sliding scale of support based on the number of people travelling. This would allow employers to deploy staff flexibly depending on demand until the crisis is over. Crucially this would prevent more unnecessary redundancies. 

“Compared to countries like France and Germany, who put in place sector specific support that has allowed their aviation industries to weather the pandemic, the UK civil air transport sector has haemorrhaged jobs.”

Change to COVID app falls short of Unite demands to protect manufacturing

Responding to the government's decision to 'tweak' the NHS COVID app to reduce self-isolation disruption, Steve Turner, Unite's assistant general secretary for manufacturing, said the change of guidance still falls short of the union's calls for the government to exempt the automotive and steel sectors from self-isolation rules.

He said: "Unite has been pressing the government to exempt major manufacturing from the requirement for workers who continuously test negative to isolate if 'pinged' by the test and trace app because we have very real fears that UK work will be moved overseas and that continuous process manufacturing such as steel will be seriously damaged.

"This change may make some difference but it falls short of what we have called for. Manufacturing workers share shifts so the two days decision may make little difference. Sometimes whole shifts have been stuck at home as has been the case of late. The costs are horrific to workers and industry alike and there are real concerns that work will move overseas or even that steel furnaces could be damaged, which would be devastating for this industry. We simply cannot have a situation, for example, where a blast furnace is shut down because workers are stuck at home, testing negatively daily, but forced to self-isolate.”

04 August 2021

Banbury coffee workers vote overwhelmingly in favour of deal that removes ‘fire and rehire’

Workers at JDE (Jacobs Douwe Egberts) in Banbury, Oxfordshire have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new pay and employment conditions’ package that removes the management’s proposal to ‘fire and rehire’ staff.

Unite said that its members had voted by 81 per cent on a 93 per cent turnout to accept the deal that was hammered out after three weeks of intensive talks with management in the long-running dispute affecting employees at the Ruscote Avenue site.

The other components of the package include removal of the management’s controversial ‘fire and rehire’ proposal; safeguarding pay and employment conditions; and compensation if an employee has to change shifts.

05 August 2021

Ministers and bosses ‘dragging feet’ on HGV driver crisis as threat of industrial action grows

Government and haulage bosses have been ‘dragging their feet’ over the escalating HGV driver shortages and should sit down with Unite the union to tackle the underlying causes of the crisis that has resulted in gaps appearing on supermarket shelves across the country – otherwise ballots for industrial action remain on the cards.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates the shortage of HGV drivers at 100,000 and Unite has described the situation as ‘a perfect storm’ in the worst possible way.

Unite accused the employers and government of doing nothing to deal with ‘a brazen lack of respect’ towards drivers as they tried to squeeze ‘the last drop of profit’ from their contracts.

Unite has pinpointed a number of short and long-term factors that have contributed to the current turmoil which include the HGV driver shortage made worse by an ageing workforce who are retiring; the effect of the ‘pingdemic’; the backlog in tests for new entrants due to COVID restrictions; and European Union (EU) drivers who returned home during the pandemic, but are now deterred from returning to the UK due to Brexit bureaucracy.

06 August 2021

Unite to hold a consultative ballot for industrial action over ‘grossly inadequate’ NHS pay offer

Unite will recommend members not to support the UK government’s “too little, too late” three per cent pay award.

The union will hold a consultative ballot of its health service members to see if they wish to take industrial action over the ‘grossly inadequate’ pay offer for NHS workers in England.

Unite’s national health committee decided at its meeting on Friday, 6 August that consultation of its health service members will open on 27 August and will run until 24 September.

There will also be a day of action on 25 August, where Unite members and workplace representatives will be involved in numerous activities to highlight the inadequacies of the pay award.

The consultative ballot comes against a backdrop of an exhausted workforce who have battled COVID for the last 18 months and have seen, in many cases, a 19 per cent pay drop in real terms since the Tories took power in 2010.

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