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Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 14 June 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.

07 June 2021

GE workers strike ballot on the cards over swingeing cuts to their retirement incomes

Bosses at global conglomerate GE have been accused of using the pandemic to slash the retirement incomes of about 2,600 employees to the tune of thousands of pounds a year.

Unite said that the American-owned multinational’s proposals to switch the pension scheme from final salary (defined benefit) to a defined contribution one, which is at the mercy of fluctuations in world stock markets, was ‘a savage kick in the teeth’ for the workers.

Unite said that such was the rising tide of anger amongst its members, many of whom had given decades of loyal service, that a ballot for industrial action, including strike action, this summer was very much on the cards.

The loss of pension income depends on an individual’s circumstances, but could, in certain cases, be more than £11,000 a year, if the changes are allowed to be imposed from 1 January 2022.

Outsourcing closes the final chapter on centuries-old Oxford printing heritage

Centuries of printing history is ending due to the ‘short-sighted and disloyal’ decision by Oxford University Press (OUP) to close its subsidiary Oxuniprint in August, with the loss of 20 jobs.

Unite blamed the OUP’s increasing use of outsourcing abroad and its failure to take up the government’s furlough scheme as greatly contributing to the closure of the Kidlington site on 27 August.

For the first time in its history, none of the output of OUP, which stretches back to the 1660s, will be printed in Oxford.

08 June 2021

Re-heated watchdog proposals fail to address biggest issue facing UK workers – fire and rehire

The Conservative government has failed to address the single biggest threat to workers' rights in the UK – the plague of fire and rehire currently ripping through workplaces – Unite has said.

Unite was responding to the announcement by business minister Paul Scully of a new watchdog to tackle abuses in the workplace, such as enforcing the minimum wage and protecting agency workers.

But Unite says the failure to announce any measures to address fire and rehire confirms that the government is not serious about stopping the widespread assault on the wages of tens of thousands of workers by big business employers.

Government must reintroduce face coverings to minimise Covid disruption in schools

Four education unions representing teachers and support staff are calling on the government to reinstate face coverings in schools to limit coronavirus spread.

With infections on the rise once more, the unions have issued a joint statement demanding a range of safety measures to keep education on track and reduce the risk of further closures.

Read the full statement here.

10 June 2021

Weetabix strikes announced at Northamptonshire sites over company’s disgraceful fire and rehire plans

Engineers employed by Weetabix at its factories in Northamptonshire will begin strike action later this month in a dispute over the company’s plans to fire and rehire them resulting in a huge cut in pay.

The workers, who are members of Unite, voted for strike action in the dispute where the workers are facing pay cuts of up to £5,000 a year.

Unite has repeatedly raised the alarm over an outbreak of ‘fire and rehire’ disputes across the UK as unscrupulous employers look to exploit workers using COVID-19 as an excuse.

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.