x

Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 12 October 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 October 2020

Hackney drivers and escorts of disabled children are ‘pathfinders’ in national campaign to recognise COVID-19 pressures

Drivers and passenger escorts on school buses for disabled children in Hackney are ‘the pathfinders’ in a national campaign to get a one-off £500 payment and an extra day’s holiday for risking their health working through the pandemic.

Unite said its members across England had rejected the now imposed national pay award of 2.75 per cent from April this year – and that’s why they were mounting local campaigns, of which Hackney in east London is the first.

Unite is seeking nationally:

• A one-off £500 payment for frontline workers to compensate for the added pressures of working throughout the pandemic.
• A reduction of the working week to 35 hours from 36 with no loss of pay (pro-rata for part time staff).
• An extra day of holiday, dependent on service.

Unite Regional Officer, Onay Kasab, said: “Unite believes that these claims are reasonable and achievable, and in fact, several councils have already implemented these polices in part and for a limited period.”

Len McCluskey’s statement on Rishi Sunak speech

Responding to the speech made by the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, Unite dismissed it as 'thin gruel for fearful workers'.

Len McCluskey said: "Warm words and sympathy do not put food on the table. I'm afraid to say that when the country hungers for a hearty diet of jobs saving and creation, the chancellor has offered little more than thin gruel for fearful workers.

"The country is braced for mass unemployment; what we want to hear is what the government is going to do to fend that off. Where is the plan? We need plans to stimulate growth of new sectors now, to nourish them so that they are in a position to provide jobs to those sectors devastated by the virus, and we need action to stop millions of people being tipped overnight into poverty.

"These are unique times with the gloomiest economic outlook for three hundred years, so it is the duty of government to use all the powers at its disposal to drive a new economy for all.”

6 October 2020

Allianz UK must step in and stop job loss chaos at LV

Unite has expressed anger at numerous failures by LV in its blind determination to cut 350 staff.

The union has called on Allianz (which now owns LV) management to halt the chaotic process currently underway, which could result in nearly 350 unnecessary job losses from LV in Birmingham.

As a result of numerous failings by LV, Unite will launch a consultative ballot of its membership ahead of this dispute escalating.

Ian Methven, Unite Regional Officer, said: “Allianz must now step in and get its house in order before LV go too far in this chaotic and damaging job loss consultation. Unite has been left with no choice but to ballot its Birmingham workforce following the complete failure by LV to conduct meaningful discussion with the recognised trade union.

“Despite all the evidence amid a global health pandemic LV has claimed that homeworking is not in the culture of LV and consequently 350 experienced and skilled employees face losing their livelihoods.”

140 aerospace jobs in Bournemouth set to be lost because of COVID-19

The news that that 140 jobs at Magellan Aerospace’s operation in Bournemouth will be lost when the site closes next February is ‘a devastating blow’ to the Dorset economy.

Unite said that the closure was due to the loss of orders from Airbus and Boeing for which the company supplied aerospace parts. The aviation industry has been badly hit by COVID-19 and the collapse in air travel.

MPs challenge Heathrow bosses over cuts to workers’ pay and conditions

At a meeting with Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL), MPs representing constituencies around the airport challenged chief executive officer, John Holland-Kaye, over the company’s decision to make permanent cuts to the pay, terms and conditions of thousands of employees.

The MPs particularly criticised the airport for making these cuts permanent, rather than considering temporary changes to get through the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The workers face losing up to £8,000 per year, around 25 per cent of their total income. Over 4,000 workers are affected by HAL’s proposals.

Members of Unite employed directly by Heathrow, including security officers, engineers, airside operatives and firefighters, began balloting on Thursday 8 October, after Heathrow decided to issue formal notice of their intention to ‘fire and rehire’ staff.

7 October 2020

Manchester airport job losses a direct consequence of government failure to provide aviation support

Responding to the announcement that Manchester Airport is intending to make dramatic job cuts Unite has said it is a direct consequence of the government’s ongoing failure to provide sector specific support to the aviation sector.

The job losses, which equate to the equivalent of 465 full time posts, will impact on directly employed workers at the airport including: security officers, engineers, customer service staff, bus drivers and car park attendants.

Unite will immediately begin negotiating with Manchester airport and will seek to mitigate job losses, pressing the company to utilise the government’s new job support scheme to save jobs and attempt to ensure that redundancies are voluntary rather than compulsory.

East Midlands airport job losses a direct consequence of government failure to provide aviation support

Responding to the announcement that East Midland’s airport is intending to make around 70 job cuts, Unite has said it is a direct consequence of the government’s ongoing failure to provide sector specific support to the aviation industry.

The job losses will impact on directly employed workers at the airport including security officers, customer service staff and car park attendants.

Unite will immediately begin negotiating with East Midlands airport and will seek to mitigate job losses, pressing the company to utilise the government’s new job support scheme to save jobs and attempt to ensure that redundancies are voluntary rather than compulsory.

8 October 2020

Blame for vicious assault on Heathrow workers' wage laid firmly at boardroom greed not coronavirus, research reveals

Horrific pay cuts of up to £8,000 a year being imposed on thousands of Heathrow airport workers are the cost of eye-watering levels of debt and excessive payments to directors and shareholders.

Research by Unite, released to coincide with the beginning of an industrial action ballot by members employed at Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL), lays out a catalogue of financial mismanagement and greed at the UK's leading airport demonstrating that it is this and not the pandemic, as the airport claims, which has brought it to its present unstable financial position.

Unite says that 4,000 workers, many of whom are being asked to lose a quarter of their salary and are facing destitution as a result, are the UK's latest victims of 'bandit capitalism' whereby the costs of bad boardroom decisions and reckless financial practices are dropped onto innocent workers.

Unite welcomes Sheffield University pause of face-to-face teaching

Unite has welcomed the University of Sheffield’s decision to pause face-to-face teaching after the union raised numerous concerns about the spread of COVID-19 among staff, students and in the wider community.

The union has been raising concerns that the University has been pushing ahead and opening too quickly while responding too slowly when Unite health and safety representatives have pointed out valid concerns about potential hazard points.

The Vice Chancellor, Professor Koen Lamberts, has now written to the University’s staff to announce the temporary suspension of face-to-face teaching between Friday 9 October and Sunday 18 October, with face-to-face teaching resuming from Monday 19 October.

Unite is calling for the university to work with the joint campus unions to develop proper risk assessments and safe working practices and to resolve the hazard points raised by the union's health and safety representatives.

Stansted airport job losses a direct consequence of government failure to provide aviation support

Responding to the announcement that Stansted airport is intending to make 376 job cuts, Unite has said it is a direct consequence of the government’s ongoing failure to provide sector specific support to the aviation industry.

The job losses will impact on directly employed workers at the airport including security officers, customer service staff and car park attendants.

Unite will immediately begin negotiating with Stansted airport and will seek to mitigate job losses, pressing the company to utilise the government’s new job support scheme to save jobs and attempt to ensure that redundancies are voluntary rather than compulsory.

Rise in homeworking requires negotiation and agreement not imposition

Unite says employers should reach homeworking agreements to avoid an industrial minefield when turning workers' homes into a place of work.

The explosion in home-working, caused by COVID-19, means trade unions will have an increasingly important role to play in minimising the dangers and maximising the advantages of working from home.

Unite has produced a new framework homeworking agreement to assist Unite workplace representatives in their negotiations with employers.

The number of people working from home is expected to double following the coronavirus pandemic, new research suggests. A survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that employers believe 37 per cent of staff will regularly avoid the journey into the office following COVID-19, up from 18 per cent before the pandemic. The number of people expected to make their work-from-home arrangements a permanent fixture stands at 22 per cent, up from nine per cent pre-lockdown.

Cabinet minister's crass comments on cabin crew jobs show government has thrown in the towel on UK aviation

Comments by work and pensions secretary, Therese Coffey, made in an interview with the Spectator magazine, in which she suggests that cabin crew who lose their jobs could retrain as carers or nurses, have been branded as 'crass' and suggest that the government has given up on UK aviation according to Unite.

Responding, Unite National Officer for Civil Air Transport, Oliver Richardson, said: “Therese Coffey’s comments are just crass. They are as insensitive as they are ill-informed and only serve to show how out of touch the government is.

“Aviation workers throughout the UK are worried sick about their future and quite literally don't know if they'll have a job next week. Tens of thousands of aviation workers have already lost their jobs. Her focus as minister of work should be on saving as many jobs as possible, not throwing in the towel on a vitally important sector of the economy.”

Increase in North West lockdown restrictions must come with increase in economic support warns Unite

In response to the increase in North West lockdown restrictions, Unite Regional Secretary for the North West, Ritchie James, said: “The first and foremost priority during this crisis must be to save lives.

“If a tiered lockdown system is required to achieve that then Unite will support it, especially if the need for a blanket approach that causes even more damage to people’s freedoms, livelihoods and general wellbeing is prevented.

“Unite has thousands of members across the North West, from manufacturing and the food and drink sector to the NHS and local government, and it is absolutely crucial that an increase in restrictions is accompanied by an increase in support for impacted communities.

“By all indicators, the crisis is set to worsen over the winter months. It is essential that the government implement localised furlough schemes for all staff who cannot work from home and ban evictions for those in danger of being cast into the street.”

easyJet call for bespoke government support echoed across entire aviation sector

easyJet’s warning to the government that it is likely to need “bespoke financial assistance", is echoed across the entire aviation industry.

Unite National Officer for Aviation, Oliver Richardson, said: “easyJet’s financial predicament is the opposite of an isolated call, aviation companies across the UK, from airlines to airports and throughout its supply chain, are crying out for bespoke support.

“The chancellor first promised sector specific support to the aviation industry in March, seven long months ago. An aviation recovery plan was first mooted over a month ago, but neither have materialised.”

9 October 2020

Unite vows to step up demands for stricter COVID-19 safety measures on London buses as second wave claims life of bus driver

Unite has vowed to escalate its campaign to introduce stricter safety measures for London buses after it emerged that Unite member, Kofi Opoku, who worked for Metrobus and was based at the Croydon garage, died from COVID-19 earlier this week.

The issue of bus driver safety is particularly sensitive as during the height of the pandemic earlier this year, male London bus drivers were the profession at greatest risk of dying from Covid-19, with at least 29 succumbing to the disease.

Unite has met with both the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, and Transport for London (TfL) about its continuing concerns that there needs to be a concerted effort and urgent action to further improve bus safety, in order to better protect drivers and passengers, as the virus continues to spread.

Support for Northern jobs is much needed, but could be too little, too late

Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey, released a statement in response to the Chancellor’s announcement of jobs support directed to northern communities forced into further coronavirus restrictions.

"Every lever must be pulled by government to save jobs and avert jobs carnage this winter,” McCluskey said. “Today's announcement helps and is much needed, but we fear it may again be too little and too late to save many jobs.

"Wages support for the north as the region battles this disease is certainly welcome, however we have to question why it is set at only two thirds of wages and not the 80 per cent provided in March. Bills haven't fallen, so why has the level of wage support? Workers need to know that the mortgage and rent can be covered, and that food can be put on the table, but employers also need to feel that they are getting the support they need to keep people in employment.”

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.

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.