Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 19 July 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 July 2021

Bus drivers briefed on safety rights after government confirms ending of mask wearing rules on public transport

Unite has written to its members setting out their legal rights, after the government confirmed that passengers in England will no longer have to wear masks and face coverings when travelling on public transport.

When it was first announced that the government intended to remove the requirement for passengers on public transport to wear masks and face coverings, Unite described it as an act of “gross negligence”.

Despite lobbying from the government and a YouGov poll showing that 71 per cent of the public support continuing the requirement to wear masks on public transport, the government has confirmed that the rule requiring the wearing of masks will end from Monday 19 July.

Mask wearing should be compulsory in NHS settings as COVID infection rates soar

Mask wearing in hospitals, clinics and other NHS buildings should remain compulsory when COVID restrictions are eased on Monday (19 July).

Responding to Boris Johnson’s press conference, Unite said that mask coverings and social distancing should remain in place for the foreseeable future within the NHS as infections rates are still rising.

Unite understands that some NHS trusts in England will insist that masks continue to be worn by staff, patients and visitors, but the union said that it should be underpinned by law.

13 July 2021

Unite raises Amazon's pandemic profiteering with the Competition and Markets Authority

Unite has submitted the first formal complaint to the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) against Amazon for abuse of its market position in relation to price gouging at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic (a copy of the formal complaint is available on request).

Vulnerable and older people who had to stay at home and those who relied on home deliveries would have been particularly exposed to inflated prices for essential items on the Amazon website. Unite is calling for Amazon to repay the overcharges.

14 July 2021

Unite welcomes Mayor of London’s public transport face mask decision

Unite has welcomed the announcement that the wearing of masks and face coverings will remain mandatory on the capital’s public transport network.

Unite lead officer for London buses, John Murphy, said: “Sadiq Khan has shown real political leadership by maintaining the requirement that face masks will continue to be mandatory throughout London’s public transport network.

“It will not only help to reduce the spread of COVID-19 but it will also help to provide comfort to many commuters who are extremely nervous about returning to the workplace after 16 months.”

Unite welcomes West Yorkshire mayor’s face mask decision but highlights confusion and chaos caused by government's dangerous policy

Unite has welcomed the announcement that face masks will remain compulsory in West Yorkshire bus stations.

The union warned, however, that the patchwork protection of compulsory mask wearing that is emerging in the UK is creating chaos and confusion for workers and passengers alike. Unite said this is a direct result of the government’s reckless announcement that face coverings will no longer be compulsory on public transport from Monday (July 19).

The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, announced that she is using her powers to continue to make the wearing of face masks compulsory in all bus stations in West Yorkshire.

Government warned test and trace isolation pings on ‘verge of shutting’ factories

Test and trace app isolation warnings are on the 'verge of shutting' factories across the UK.

The union has received multiple notices from across industry, particularly the automotive sector, that a huge increase in the number of staff being advised to self-isolate by the NHS app is causing havoc on production lines.

Some sites are struggling to operate due to hundreds of staff being off at once, with one major engine supplier telling Unite that delays to orders are so severe that work may be permanently moved to China.

18 July 2021

Extend furlough and work with us on working protections, amid revelation of 'one rule for the PM, others for everyone else'

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, must be ready to extend furlough and work with trade unions to introduce short-time working protections, or risk tens of thousands of skilled jobs and our economic recovery.

Responding to the revelation that there is one rule for the prime minister and his cabinet, and a different, more punishing set of rules for everyone else, Steve Turner, Unite's assistant general secretary for manufacturing, said:

“How are we meant to get this virus under control when those who set the guidelines don’t even follow them? My members at Nissan and thousands more across manufacturing, health, hospitality, retail and public transport live in fear of being pinged by the app as it means that they can’t work because they have to isolate. Businesses, already reeling from COVID disruption, face more insecurity, downtime, closures and lost services.

“The government has to get this sorted. It’s chaos for employers, the NHS and public transport.”

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.