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

10 May 2021

XPO boss accused of receiving multi million-pound bonus while receiving millions of UK furlough cash

Unions representing workers at XPO Logistics are calling for a full investigation after it emerged the American chief executive of the company received an incentive award of up to $80 million (£57 million), while the company is estimated to have received more than £100 million from the UK government in furlough payments.

The pandemic bonus payment to Bradley Jacobs, XPO chief executive, comes amid growing scrutiny of paying senior managers large bonus and dividend payments while their companies are receiving government support.

Unlike the chief executive, XPO staff - who have risked their health and that of their families by continuing to work throughout the pandemic - will not receive any form of COVID-19 pandemic bonus, despite the unions Unite and GMB lobbying for such a payment to be made.

XPO has also refused to make up the pay of the wages of workers who have been furloughed, who are only receiving the basic 80 per cent government rate.

11 May 2021

Queen’s speech fails workers on fire and rehire - but sounds alarm bells on people's rights and freedoms

Responding to the Queen's speech on behalf of Unite, general secretary Len McCluskey said: "The government's promise to build back safer is noted but if it is serious, then it must get trade unions around the table. Our army of health and safety experts have been incredible during this crisis. They are on the frontline and their knowledge and experience, alongside a reversal in the senseless cuts to funding of our safety regulators, must be put to proper use as we reopen the economy.

“A huge lesson of this pandemic is that our NHS desperately needs a functioning, accessible social care system and the absence of any plan for this in the Queen's speech is a serious absence of leadership, vision and responsibility."

Commenting on the failure of the government to bring forth its promised employment bill or any provisions to outlaw the pernicious practice of fire and rehire, Howard Beckett, Unite's assistant general secretary for legal and politics, added: "Working people will be bitterly disappointed that the prime minister has failed to use this opportunity to outlaw fire and rehire. 

"Instead of desperately needing protection from what the government itself calls a bully boy practice, all workers will get from Boris Johnson's government are warm words.

"But with one in 10 working people being told take a massive pay cut or take a hike, we will keep hounding the Tories on this until they act to end fire and rehire."

Engineers at Leicestershire’s Brush Electrical strike over fire and rehire cuts of up to £15,000

Engineers employed by Brush Electrical Machines, owned by venture capitalists Melrose and based in Ashby de-la Zouch, will stage summer strikes in response to ‘fire and rehire’ pay cuts of up to £15,000.

Unite said the 30 engineers, who service generators around the world, voted overwhelmingly in favour of striking and will stage industrial action every day from 25 May to 16 August.

The proposed contracts include reductions to overtime rates, allowances, holidays and other terms and conditions that would result in a pay cut of between £10,000 and £15,000 a year.

The engineers’ jobs have been threatened if they do not sign the new contracts, which will leave them on pay rates ‘well below the industry standard’.

XPO shareholders reject executive pay plan

Unions have welcomed the decision of shareholders at XPO Logistics to reject a highly controversial executive pay proposal.

At its annual general meeting held online in the United States, shareholders of XPO Logistics rejected the company’s ‘Say-on-Pay’ proposal. This was in response to XPO’s chief executive officer Bradley Jacobs being granted a cash incentive award of up to $80 million.

The proposed executive payment was especially controversial as it has been recently revealed that XPO has claimed an estimated £100 million since the beginning of the pandemic via the UK government’s job retention scheme.

This is the first time in its history XPO’s shareholders have rejected the pay plan and has come despite the company reporting a strong economic performance during the pandemic (last year it recorded $16.5 billion dollars in revenue).

12 May 2021

BMW using COVID semiconductor shortages to attack conditions as workers threatened with being unpaid

Workers at BMW’s plant in Oxford, which produces the Mini, are being threatened with being unpaid as a result of the company’s refusal to use the furlough scheme to cover wages during the ongoing COVID-related semiconductor stoppages.

The problem is a result of the global shortage in semiconductors, which are a critical element in the production of new vehicles. Due to the shortages, BMW, like most major car manufacturers, has on occasion been forced to temporarily halt production of the Mini.

However, although the semiconductor shortage is directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, BMW has decided that it will not use the government’s job retention scheme to furlough workers and ensure they are paid during such stoppages.

Instead the company is looking to alter existing collective agreements, which will weaken workers’ terms and conditions.

13 May 2021

Essential workers fighting to defend their pay from Thurrock Council bosses resolve to continue strike action

Unite members who provided essential services during the height of the pandemic have resolved to continue their strike in a battle to defend their pay from a brutal attack by Thurrock Council bosses.

Workers in the waste and recycling department at Thurrock Council have been on strike since the 13 April 2021. Now, their union has given Thurrock Council notice that the strike will continue until the 18 June unless the council ends its brutal and callous attack on the essential workers' pay and conditions.

The proposed cuts mean the workers who were applauded by Thurrock residents for their contribution during the health crisis, face losing between £1,200 and £3,800 a year which will leave the workers struggling to pay their bills, rent and mortgages.

14 May 2021

Public warned of COVID complacency as restaurants and pubs prepare for indoor service from Monday

The public is warned to keep up their guard when eating and drinking inside restaurants, pubs and fast food outlets from Monday (17 May), as a Unite the union survey reveals hospitality staff are worried about social distancing with restrictions easing.

Unite urged customers not to be complacent and respect waiting staff, especially as concerns about the Indian variant of COVID-19 grow.

Unite is carrying out an ongoing survey of its members at McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza, which shows that lack of social distancing between colleagues and customers, as well as lack of sick pay if forced to self-isolate, remain major concerns.

“Disappointing” council pay offer ignores huge COVID effort of workforce

Unions representing 750,000 council and school support staff across England, Wales and Northern Ireland have criticised the 1.5% pay offer made by the Local Government Association. 

GMB, Unite and UNISON submitted a joint pay claim to the local government employers in February for a 10% pay rise. This would be payable from 1 April 2021. 

The unions say the joint claim represents a decent wage rise that’s both necessary to put a stop to poverty pay in local government and schools, and recognises the crucial role played by staff during the pandemic. 

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.