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

12 April 2021

Unite stepped up campaign to tackle employment abuses of Turkish/Kurdish community in London

Unite stepped up its campaign to eradicate pay and employment abuses of members of the Turkish and Kurdish communities in London that surfaced during the pandemic.

The union held a socially distanced event, conforming to Covid-19 regulations, outside the library at 187-197A High Rd, Wood Green, London N22 6XD at 15.00 on Friday (16 April).

Unite said the workplace problems identified over the last 12 months have included abuses of the furlough scheme; failure to pay the London living wage, currently £10.85 an hour; and employers failing to pay contractual sick pay, so workers have to rely on statutory sick pay (SSP) of £96.35 a week, if they have had to self-isolate during the pandemic.

Victory for striking Leicester SPS workers after agreement ends £3,000 ‘fire and rehire’ threat

Strikes at aerospace parts firm SPS Technologies have been called off after a deal was reached to end ‘fire and rehire’ threats that would have resulted in its Leicester staff losing up to £3,000 a year.

Out of around 200 Unite members at SPS’s Barkby Road site, more than 90 per cent voted to accept the deal, which sees the initial reductions proposed by the company slashed by more than half.

The new agreement covers a range of terms and conditions including overtime pay, sick pay, paid breaks and shift premiums.

SPS workers have taken more than 10 days of strike action since 12 March but will now return to work as normal.

14 April 2021

Compulsory vaccinations for care home staff must be thought through carefully and handled sensitively

Unite urged the government to carefully examine the pitfalls, as well as the advantages, of requiring care home staff to be compulsorily vaccinated for Covid-19.

Unite voiced its concerns following the announcement on Wednesday, 14 April, that the government is consulting on the requirement that all staff working in care homes in England with residents aged over 65 be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Unite national health and safety advisor, Rob Miguel, said: “This is an area of great sensitivity, with certain aspects causing concern for our members in this sector.

“Unite is promoting uptake of the vaccine when offered, however this has to be on the basis of consent, which has proved effective in the past. The UK does not generally mandate medical treatment and the union agrees with this position, as well as the recommendations from the World Health Organisation that the decision whether or not to have the vaccine remain voluntary.”

15 April 2021

Time to stop ‘Tory cronyism’ in the NHS

The revelations over scandal-hit Greensill Capital and the role of David Cameron should set alarm bells ringing about the accelerating pace of NHS privatisation and sleaze.

Unite said that ‘a culture of Tory cronyism is rapidly enveloping the NHS’ and only maximum transparency and openness could start to reverse this trend.

Unite said that health secretary and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, meeting former premier David Cameron and financier Lex Greensill for a private drink in 2019 to discuss a new payment scheme for the NHS, is the latest revelation which shows the NHS is being lined up for further privatisation.

This follows on from the vast sums splashed out in controversial contracts for PPE to those with close links to the Tory establishment and the £37bn spent on the flawed private sector-led ‘test, track and trace’ programme that was heavily criticised by the cross-party Public Accounts Committee which said that the costs were ‘unimaginable’.

15 April 2021

Fresh London bus strikes as peace talks fail

Londoners face fresh public transport disruption as Unite, the UK’s leading union, announced further strike action involving bus drivers employed by London United, a subsidiary of the French owned company RATP, in the long running dispute over pay and attacks on workers’ conditions.

Workers at all seven London United bus garages took strike action on Thursday 15 April. The striking bus drivers operate from the Fulwell, Hounslow, Hounslow Heath, Park Royal, Shepherd’s Bush, Stamford Brook and Tolworth garages. The highest level of disruption to commuters will be on routes in South and West London that the depots serve.

Unite regional officer Michelle Braveboy said: “Unite’s members are on strike and will take further industrial action until RATP makes a fair and reasonable pay offer.

“Our members have worked throughout the pandemic, risking their health and that of their families and frankly the offer put forward by RATP is insulting.”

15 April 2021

London councils urged to support employees who have suffered domestic abuse during pandemic

The increase in domestic abuse across the general population caused by the pressures of the pandemic has prompted Unite the union to write to all 32 London boroughs asking them to instigate a three-point blueprint to support those employees who may have suffered such abuse.

Unite has offered to meet local authority managers to chart a way forward as employers, after the union said there had been ‘a sharp increase in domestic abuse’ across the population since the first lockdown in March last year, which would include council employees.

In the letter to the councils, Unite regional officer Onay Kasab, wrote: “You will, of course, be aware that this has increased during the pandemic, exacerbated by lockdowns and economic pressure. We hope that you also agree that domestic abuse is a workplace issue.

“It can affect employment through absenteeism. Particularly in light of the increase, we believe that now is the time to relook at policies and procedures.

“We do not pretend for one moment that these proposals solve the problem. But equally, we do not believe that those suffering abuse should also have to worry about pay and formal warnings regarding absence.”

16 April 2021

Supermarket shortages expected as workers at Banbury coffee plant start overtime ban from 1 May over ‘fire and rehire’ plans

Nearly 300 employees at the JDE (Jacobs Douwe Egberts) site in Banbury, Oxfordshire, will start a continuous overtime ban from Saturday 1 May over ‘fire and rehire’ plans, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, announced today (Friday 16 April).

And the union warned that the accumulative impact of the overtime ban, starting on 00.01 on 1 May, could lead to shortages of the nation’s favourite coffee brands, such as Tassimo, Kenco and L’OR Coffee, on supermarket shelves as the industrial action started to bite during May.

It is planned that the action will escalate to full-scale strike action in June, unless the management enters into constructive negotiations with the union.

Unite national officer for the food industry, Joe Clarke, said: : “During the 14 months of the pandemic, our members have worked flat-out to meet the estimated 40 per cent increase in coffee drinking by UK consumers – and Unite is not prepared to see this loyalty and hard work being repaid by pay cuts, and inferior terms and conditions.

16 April 2021

Staff at The Royal College of General Practitioners vote overwhelmingly for Unite to be their recognised trade union

Staff members at The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) have voted overwhelmingly in favour of Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, being their recognised trade union to represent them on pay and employment issues.

The 200 plus staff members voted by 87 per cent on a 76 per cent turn-out in favour trade union representation, following two rounds of redundancies at the RCGP since the start of the pandemic last year.

The RCGP, founded in 1952, is the professional body for more than 50,000 GPs. The employees work to maintain and encourage standards in general medical practice, as well as supporting GPs through all stages of their career.

16 April 2021

New Magellan development exposes a “devastating miscalculation”

Unite the union has reacted with surprise at the announcement by Magellan Aerospace that the company has secured planning permission for future development at its site in Llay, Wrexham. The planning development which is in line with pre-Covid assumptions relating to future demand within the aerospace sector, comes with a promise of 120 new jobs.

This announcement has come on the back of the company making 240 of its workforce redundant in October of last year.

Dave Griffiths, Unite regional officer, commented: “Our members who were made redundant last year on statutory redundancy terms will today be wondering why they lost their jobs when the company was at the same time planning to increase future capacity and production at the plant.

"Magellan Aerospace has serious questions to answer in relation this expansion."

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.