Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 1 June 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.

28 May 2020

easyJet jobs threat underlines urgent need for government support for UK aviation

Unite has described the announcement that easyJet is planning to launch a consultation process which could result in 30 per cent of its workforce being made redundant as “unnecessarily hasty”. 

The union says that the news is another reminder of the perilous state of the aviation sector and underlines the urgent need for the government to bring forward the package of support promised in March. 

Unite warns construction procedures are placing ‘workers at risk’

Unite has sent an open letter to Mark Reynolds, the skills workstream lead of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), warning that the organisation’s site operating procedures (SOP) are placing workers at risk.

Unite is primarily concerned about the section which deals with Work Planning to Avoid Close Working, which states: “If you are not able to work while maintaining a two-metre distance, you should consider whether the activity should continue." It goes on to say "that management should minimise the frequency and time workers are within two metres of each other.”

Unite has called for site work to be planned in a way that allows social distancing to be maintained with appropriate protection for workers on the very rare occasions when this is not possible and working within two metres of each other cannot be avoided.

However, the SOP version four says: “Workplaces should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against Coronavirus (COVID-19).” The union says that it will not support any guidance that could deny construction workers the appropriate PPE.

In the open letter (published in full here) to Mark Reynolds, Unite Construction Officer, Jerry Swain, states: “The SOP could and should be revised to explicitly state that the job should not be undertaken without appropriate PPE, which of course would include masks.”

29 May 2020

Unite warns time is running out to save airports at heart of regional economies

New research, commissioned by Unite, has revealed the importance of securing the future of various airports across the UK in order to protect the wellbeing of regional economies and job security.

In several news stories, Unite revealed that airports with jobs hanging in the balance included:

  • Birmingham Airport
  • Newcastle Airport
  • East Midlands Airport
  • Southampton Airport
  • Luton Airport
  • Standsted Airport
  • London City Airport
  • Gatwick Airport
  • Manchester Airport
  • Bournemouth Airport
  • Bristol Airport
  • Cardiff Airport

The research also highlighted the critical nature that Heathrow’s financial wellbeing has on the surrounding area and both the regional and national economy.

Unite’s research details the vast economic contributions airports make to regional economies as well as the devastating effect that closure of an airport or severe reductions in activity would have on the local area. An estimated 1.2 million UK workers rely on aviation for their employment, many of them in the airports, airlines, retail, services and transport jobs associated with air travel.

Furlough changes welcome but fragile economy needs further assistance

As the Chancellor announced changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Len McCluskey, General secretary of Unite, said that he was pleased that unions had been listened to and that short-term working will be supported from July.

McCluskey said: "The Chancellor has listened to trade unions like Unite who have been calling for flexible and incremental changes to the Job Retention Scheme to allow businesses to get back on their feet, protecting jobs in the process.

"However, there is no doubt that the requirement for employers to meet pension and national insurance contributions from August, as employees have been doing all along, with further incremental changes to employer funding of the JRS from September, will reveal exactly how fragile much of the economy is.  

“There is also the fact that many businesses are simply not ready to bring people back to work because demand for their goods and services has evaporated.”

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.