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Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 11 May 2020

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.

5 May 2020

Len McCluskey’s statement to members on government back-to-work proposals

General Secretary, Len McCluskey, issued a statement detailing Unite’s position on the government’s developing back-to-work proposals. He reassured members that “we will not be driven by any desire for a media-friendly soundbite. Your safe working comes first.”

Over 3,000 Virgin job losses ‘threatens future of Gatwick Airport’, says Unite

3,150 jobs lost across the Virgin airline and holiday businesses delivered another blow to the UK’s aviation sector, increasing the urgency for the government to step forward with a comprehensive, industry-wide financial support package.

The news also saw Unite express fears regarding the future of Gatwick Airport as a viable economic entity.

6 May 2020

UK trade unions and the FDF: working together to feed the nation

Unite, Usdaw, BFAWU and GMB trade unions and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) joined together for the first time to commend the efforts of all those employed in food and drink manufacturing. Together, they issued a statement highlighting the importance of collaboration, at this exceptionally demanding time, to ensure the safety and protection of the workforce.

7 May 2020

British Airways staff are paying for ‘massive error’ on fuel price hedging with their jobs

Unite commented that British Airways staff are paying with their jobs after the company made ‘a massive error’ in losing €1.3bn on hedging fuel prices.

Unite was also critical that the company had accessed a £300 million coronavirus corporate loan, administered by the Bank of England, while at the same time announcing that it was planning to axe 12,000 BA employees.

UK wide survey: Britons want major economic reform – now and after the COVID-19 crisis

A new national poll, on behalf of the Unite, found that the country was 'hungry for major change' surrounding the functioning of our economy and how our key workers are rewarded.

8 May 2020

Measures outlined for safe reopening of schools

The TUC issued a joint statement outlining the measures needed for the safe reopening of schools to the Secretary of State for Education on behalf of unions with members in the education sector.

Unite National Officer, Jim Kennedy, commented: “As the Prime Minister moves impatiently to a premature easing of the lockdown, it is essential we have in place the safeguards that protect our workers and communities. 

“Our school support staff, teachers, pupils, parents and relatives are rightly concerned and alarmed at the thought of a hasty programme to reopen our schools, therefore the school support staff unions including Unite, teaching unions and the TUC have set out the key principles and tests that must be met before that can happen.” 

11 May 2020

Len McCluskey comments on Johnson’s address to the nation for lifting lockdown

Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s address to the nation on Sunday evening, Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey, called for clarity and caution as the country begins to emerge from lockdown while continuing to combat coronavirus.

McCluskey said: “The decisions taken by the UK government in the coming days will shape the health and wealth of this country, not just in the immediate term but for generations to come.  

"It is absolutely vital then that the UK government proceeds with total clarity and maximum caution as it works to pull the country out of lockdown - and that it gets the sequencing of the return to work right.

"People cannot get to work safely unless there is safe transport for them to use. Yet there is now a real risk that in a few hours' time, workers will be cramming onto public transport, putting at risk their lives and those of others. This has not been thought through and the failure to do so places working people in danger.

"Similarly, issuing safety guidance to employers instead of definite, mandatory instructions is not acceptable. This runs a huge risk that some employers will follow the advice while others do not, and we urgently need to hear more from the government about how it will install the inspection and enforcement systems necessary to support safe working.

"Unions like Unite have a wealth of health and safety expertise and we are already working with responsible employers to ensure that working people can be confident that they can be safe both at work and on the way to work.”

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.

For more information on coronavirus COVID-19 related benefits, Unite has set up a dedicated benefits advice line which members can access by calling 0333 202 6563.