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Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 17 August 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.

10 August 2020

Heathrow airport protesters demand chancellor keeps aviation promise and stops regional ‘devastation’

Aviation industry workers staged several protests at Heathrow airport and in the local community to demand chancellor Rishi Sunak prevents ‘devastation’ within the aviation industry by fulfilling his promise to provide support for the sector. 

Around 60,000 jobs – equivalent to the population of Tunbridge Wells – from the industry have already been lost, including at Heathrow Airport. In contrast to the crisis the industry is currently facing, August 9 marked the busiest day of 2019 for global air travel.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer, Wayne King, said: “Aviation workers are pleading with the chancellor to keep the promise he made in March and provide support for the sector. They have now been waiting for months and hundreds of jobs across the region have been lost as a result.”

Industrial action not out of the question at Heathrow as ‘greed, not need’ forces huge pay cuts on workers

The likelihood of industrial action at Heathrow airport is increasing after Unite began consulting members on proposals by the employer to cut pay by nearly a quarter for some workers.

Unite accuses ministers of ‘abandoning’ workers as a third of firms expect September layoffs

Commenting on a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) that found one in three companies expect to make redundancies by the end of September, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said:

"We warned that the tapering of the jobs retention scheme would see redundancy notices fly around like confetti and sadly this is coming to pass.

"But this crisis is being made infinitely worse by the very different approach the Westminster government is taking to that of our competitor countries where targeted support is helping vital sectors weather this storm, saving jobs in the process.

"This will not be forgotten or forgiven by industries and communities that have long-served our country, and are desperate for the chance to continue to do so, only to be ignored by the government in their hour of need.”

11 August 2020

CITB workers facing immoral triple whammy of attacks on pay, conditions and jobs

The entire workforce at the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), which employs around 700 staff, is facing a triple whammy of cuts to pay, conditions and jobs.

The CITB has said the cuts are necessary as the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the collection of the construction training levy, which is a major component in the funding its activities.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer, Mark Robinson, said: “These are grim times for workers at the CITB who are facing an immoral triple whammy of attacks on pay, conditions and jobs.

“To ask hard-hit workers to agree a cut in redundancy pay when the CITB has already announced that they want to cut jobs is like turkeys being asked to vote for Christmas.”

Local government should lead the ‘test and track’ programme after Serco’s ‘failure’

Money earmarked for controversial outsourcing companies to provide ‘test and trace’ for Covid-19 should be immediately diverted to local government as the best vehicle to reach those who may be affected.

Unite said such a redirection of funding could herald ‘a renaissance in local government’, which already held the public health portfolio, such as health visiting and school nursing services.

Unite national officer for local government, Jim Kennedy, said: “This foolhardy and expensive reliance on private sector companies by the Tory government to deliver a comprehensive ‘test and trace’ programme is just another example of a misguided outsourcing policy that includes the ignominious failure of G4S to provide adequate security for the 2012 Olympics.”

13 August 2020

Manchester bus workers to hold consultative ballot on industrial action, as rep suspended for carrying out trade union duties

About 500 Manchester bus drivers will hold a consultative ballot on whether they want to take industrial action after a senior Unite rep at bus company, Go North West Limited, was suspended for carrying out legitimate trade union activities.

Unite said that the ballot follows the suspension of the rep, who is also a Unite branch chair, as the union highlighted plans to reduce the wages of 500 Manchester bus drivers by an estimated £2,000-a-year.

The company has attempted to railroad changes to the terms and conditions of the bus drivers - while 80 per cent of the drivers, including all of the Unite reps except for the senior rep, were furloughed - via the offer of a one-off payment of £5,000.

14 August 2020

Drax power station workers holding strike ballot over broken ‘no redundancy’ pledge

Workers at the Drax power station in north Yorkshire were starting to vote this week in a ballot for strike action over 230 proposed redundancies.

Unite regional officer, Shane Sweeting, said: “The management has continually failed to live up to the terms of last year’s pay agreement when they stated verbally that there would be no compulsory redundancies amongst the workforce.

“Our members, who worked flat-out through the pandemic, have even offered to take a pay and bonus freeze to improve redundancy terms and maintain jobs, but that was rejected by the bosses.

“There is a still a generous window of opportunity before the strike ballot closes for the management to sit down with Unite for constructive negotiations to avoid industrial action. Unite’s door is open for such talks 24/7.”

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.