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Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 10 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.

04 May 2021

Dudley hospital staff and patients at risk of COVID exposure due to Mitie failures

Unite is warning that due to systematic failures by outsourcing giant Mitie, which holds the facility management contract for the NHS Dudley Hospital Trust, staff and patients could be exposed to COVID-19.

In a rare and unusual step, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a notice of contravention on the company in relation to COVID safety. Rather than close the facility, the HSE has given Mitie time to improve its COVID procedures.

Unite has described Mitie as running a “lassiez faire” regime with regards to COVID security at its headquarters at the Russells Hall Hospital. The facility management staff are not confined to the headquarters but work throughout all Dudley Group hospital buildings, greatly increasing concerns about COVID security.

Unite has identified a number of major concerns with Mitie’s practises including: social distancing being non-existent, a lack of ventilation, a failure to require staff and visitors to sign in, a lack of security about who can enter the building and a failure to provide hand sanitiser.

Ministers told to buttress European holiday hopes for aviation industry with certainty and support

Commenting on reports that popular European travel destinations will be added to a UK government ‘green list’ for holidaymakers by the end of June, Unite national officer for aviation, Oliver Richardson, said: “The fact that borders are set to reopen, and people will once more be able to venture abroad is positive news, both for the travelling public and those whose jobs are dependent on aviation taking off again.

“The last year has been catastrophic for the aviation industry and certainty and clarity from the government on the path to reopening is vital if recovery for the sector is to be sustained.

“With continuing restrictions, even a best-case 2021 summer season will not be enough to get the industry back into the air without targeted government support.

“When families face paying hundreds of pounds extra for COVID-tests to leave and re-enter the country, it is critical that ministers make sure holidaymakers are not priced out of travel abroad.

“Government must also provide as much advance notice as possible of what restrictions will and will not be in place.”

05 May 2021

Climate conference in Glasgow should be catalyst for global hotel group reset on employment rights

Unite the union called on IHG bosses ‘to do the right thing’ in the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference (1-12 November), after they terminated the employment of more than 300 workers at its two prestige Glasgow hotels Grand Central and The Blythswood.

Unite organiser, Bryan Simpson, said: “As one of the largest and most profitable hotel chains in the world, Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) could and should have retained these workers using the job retention scheme (JRS).

“Instead, they terminated over 300 workers at their two Glasgow flagships Grand Central and The Blythswood - using the furlough scheme to pay the notice pay of redundant workers. If that wasn’t morally reprehensible enough, they then invited some workers back on reduced hours and wages.”

07 May 2021

Unions and MPs join forces to call for fire and rehire ban as pressure builds on government to take action

Trade unions representing millions of UK workers, Labour MPs and Lords from across the country have issued a joint call for the government to ban fire and rehire as pressure builds for ministers to take action.

Nearly 20 unions and more than 140 MPs and Lords joined together as part of Unite the union’s campaign to prevent employers from using the UK's weak employment laws to raid wages and cut terms such as sick pay.

In a letter sent to Boris Johnson, the unions and politicians called on the prime minister to use the Queen’s Speech on 11 May to introduce legislation outlawing the controversial practice.

Pressure is mounting on the government to take action as soon as possible, with a Unite-commissioned poll released last week finding that 70 per cent of the public want it made illegal.

Re-opening of travel is chink of light but alone doesn’t end aviation crisis

Following the government’s announcement that air travel for leisure purposes can resume later this month, Unite warned that the aviation sector will need transparent decision-making, effective logistics and further assistance in order to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government has announced that 12 countries will be placed on the green list, including Portugal, from where passengers returning to the UK will not have to quarantine.

However, with major holiday destinations including Spain, France and Italy not yet being included on the green list, the hope of the aviation industry for a full summer season are likely to be wide of the mark.

Unite believes that the current threat to jobs means unless the government extends the job retention scheme beyond September for the aviation sector, and provides additional sustainable sector specific support, Unite fears there are likely to be thousands of additional and unnecessary job losses in the sector.

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.