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

7 September 2020

Government promise of ‘jam tomorrow’ for aviation industry is too little, too late

Government proposals to launch an aviation recovery plan this autumn to provide support for the sector until 2025 will not end the ongoing aviation jobs haemorrhage currently occurring.

Unite National Officer for Aviation, Oliver Richardson, said: “Aviation workers are being promised jam tomorrow when what they need is bread and butter today.

“The government’s recovery programme needs to go much further than rehash previous policies. What we need are genuine solutions which will instil the confidence in the industry that it can recover from the effects of the pandemic and will enable them to plan accordingly.

“The publication this autumn of a report, which is aimed at helping the aviation industry recover by 2025, is not going to stem the tidal wave of redundancies that the industry is facing today.”

8 September 2020

Short time working agreed at Macclesfield aerospace company to reduce job losses

A short time working agreement has been signed at a major aerospace components factory in the North West, reducing the number of proposed job losses.

Members of Unite, employed at BWT Senior Aerospace in Macclesfield, have agreed to a four-day working week with pay also being reduced on a pro-rata basis from 2 November until June 2021.

The agreement will be reviewed on a fortnightly basis and if demand increases then full time working will be re-introduced at an earlier date.

9 September 2020

Unite launches campaign to stop Go Ahead Group using COVID-19 as cover to slash pay and conditions

Unite has launched an international campaign to stop the owners of the Manchester bus company, Go North West, from using COVID-19 as cover for making savage cuts to bus drivers' pay and conditions, while victimising and gagging a Unite union representative.

Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey, has written to Go Ahead Group's CEO, David Brown, to warn him that Unite will be using all available resources to provide "immediate assistance to our members".

"In addition to industrial action this will mean exposing your company’s behaviour to all of your stakeholders, partners and associates. This will include mobilising all of our allies and contacting our significant political network in the Nordic countries, Germany and Australasia."

Despite continuing to make millions in profits, Go North West's parent company, Go-Ahead, is trying to use COVID-19 as cover to make savage cuts to bus drivers' pay, terms and conditions in Manchester. The company is intending to ‘fire’ the entire workforce to get what they want and then ‘rehire’ those that agree to accept inferior contracts. At the same time management is trying to ‘gag’ and sack Colin, a Union Rep who refused to agree the company’s demands.

6,000 job losses at 'ghost town' Gatwick airport demonstrates devastation in UK aviation

The latest analysis of job losses at Gatwick Airport by Unite demonstrates the devastation being wrought across the entire sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights the failure of the government to intervene and protect jobs.

Unite has found that already over 6,000 workers based at airport, employed directly by the airport, by airlines, or in the various supply chains have lost their jobs or at risk of redundancy, since the beginning of the pandemic.

However, the 6,000 figure only includes areas where Unite is organised and does not include the retail, hotel or hospitality sectors which have also witnessed massive job losses.

The scale of job losses at Gatwick, which is the major employer in the locality, is inevitably having a huge knock-on effect on the economic health of the nearby town of Crawley and the surrounding area.  Unite is warning that without urgent government support, the airport and its communities will become a `ghost town'.

Unite response to 860 Lloyds Banking Group job cuts

Unite has reacted with dismay at the news that Lloyds Banking Group has informed 860 employees that they will be losing their jobs.

While the bank has announced plans to create 220 new roles across the organization, these new jobs will not offer any comfort for the nearly 900 staff who will be told that they have lost their jobs.

11 September 2020

MPs join mounting call for job retention measures to avert employment crisis

Momentum is growing across the political spectrum for the government to row back on its intention to cease the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) from 1 November and move to safeguard industry and business as the pandemic continues to buffet the UK economy.

Unite was commenting as the influential Commons Treasury select committee called on chancellor Rishi Sunak to ‘carefully consider’ targeted extensions to the JRS once the current scheme ends next month.

Unite has repeatedly called on prime minister Boris Johnson to think again on a focused sector level extension of the JRS alongside focused industry support to avoid a tidal wave of job losses engulfing UK manufacturing this autumn as employers lose confidence with demand still sluggish. 

The union has launched an SOS for Jobs campaign, backed by MPs, to press the prime minister to support UK manufacturing. Unite has highlighted the fact that the UK’s main European competitors, France and Germany, are extending their support schemes for up to two years, while the UK will end its JRS after only eight months.  

Unite calls for a ‘well-deserved’ 15 per cent pay rise or £3,000 for NHS staff in the COVID-19 front line

NHS workers should receive an early pay rise of 15 per cent or £3,000, whichever is greater, Unite said.

Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, also demanded that pay discussions between the government, the NHS and health trade unions start without delay. 

Unite is writing to the government to lodge its pay claim for the NHS workforce, saying that this claim would be an important step in the journey to restore the pay that NHS workers have ‘lost’ in the decade of austerity since 2010.

Unite said that the continuing seven-month battle against coronavirus had further heightened the public’s appreciation of NHS staff.

Unite’s national health committee voted for an early and significant pay rise of 15 per cent or £3,000, whichever is greater, to be brought forward to an earlier date from next April when the three-year pay deal comes to an end.

Yeovil Leonardo helicopter job losses another reminder that government jobs support urgently needed

Following the announcement that Yeovil-based helicopter maker, Leonardo, is planning to make 150 staff redundant, Unite Regional Officer, Shevaun Hunt, said: “Unite is in consultation with the company regarding the proposed job losses.

“Unite will be working with our shop stewards to support members at this difficult time and will actively explore ways to reduce the number of proposed redundancies.

"This is yet another reminder of the dire state of affairs in this industry, not helped by the fact that in only a few weeks, the jobs retention assistance ends altogether.

“What the aerospace industry desperately needs is for MPs across the south west, including Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh, to lobby government and to show the same commitment to protecting manufacturing jobs that has been seen by governments across Europe.”

12 September 2020

Unite hails victory in row at Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia over notice pay

Unite hailed the news that Arcadia, run by controversial retail tycoon, Sir Philip Green, has now agreed to pay full salaries for head office staff facing redundancy as ‘an amazing victory’.

The row erupted when the media highlighted the fact that Arcadia, whose high street brands include Topman, Topshop and Dorothy Perkins, was only going to pay its head office staff 50 per cent of their notice pay.

Unite had threatened to take legal action for illegal deduction of earnings on behalf of more than 40 head office staff.

In July, Arcadia announced that it was cutting 500 jobs from its 2,500 strong head office workforce.

Unite Regional Officer, Debbie McSweeney, said: “We welcome this news that Arcadia has U-turned and has now promised to pay head office staff full pay during their notice period.

“We understand that it is almost without precedent for Arcadia to apologise for such behaviour towards employees – but this situation should have never been allowed to happen in the first place by Sir Philip Green, one of the country’s richest men.

“Unite would like to sincerely thank our members for the solidarity and personal courage they have shown in standing up to Arcadia’s management and playing their part in righting a flagrant pay injustice. It is an amazing victory.

“This puts down a strong marker to other employers who may be thinking of taking advantage of the government’s furlough scheme – Unite is on high alert for such cases and how they may adversely affect our members.”

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.

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 0800 709 007.