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Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 20 September 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.

13 September 2021

Unite members at Stagecoach South Wales to be balloted for industrial action

Unite Wales members at Stagecoach South Wales, based out of Cwmbran, Brynmawr and Blackwood depots, will be balloted for industrial action in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Scheduled pay talks in 2020 were abandoned by the employer while it focused on running services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bus driver pay in the surrounding area has finally risen to £10.50 per hour in response to driver shortages across the industry, fueled in part by drivers moving to the HGV sector in pursuit of a decent living wage.

Unite Wales regional officer, Alan McCarthy, commented: "This is an insult to hard working essential workers in South Wales, and does nothing to help the company attract or retain staff. Our members carried this company during COVID, and will not be repaid by pickpocketing.”

14 September 2021

Unite repeats its opposition to the mandatory COVID vaccinations for NHS and social care staff

Unite strongly reiterated its opposition to any health and social care worker being forced to have the COVID vaccine or risk losing their job.

Unite said that it would be making a robust submission in response to the government’s six-week consultation, which started on 9 September, into the mandatory vaccination for frontline health and care staff.

Unite’s reinforcement of its position, first outlined in January this year, came about after the government announced its anti-COVID measures for the autumn and winter.

15 September 2021

Unite launches national day of action to end Fire and Rehire

Unite held a national day of action as part of its campaign to end fire and rehire. The union's general secretary, Sharon Graham, called the practice - in which employers sack their workers only to rehire them on lower pay and worse conditions - “an abhorrence” and “one of the scandals of our age”.

Unite members around the country mobilised outside the offices of 30 Conservative MPs, the Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack, the UK Parliament and a Tesco distribution centre to protest the practice and demand action.

Unite’s general secretary Sharon Graham has pledged to build industrial strength to defeat employers using fire and rehire.

Unite ballots Petrofac members in offshore contract dispute

Unite confirmed that around 70 members working on the Canadian Natural Resources (CNR) contract for offshore contractor Petrofac will be balloted for industrial action. The Unite members involved the ballot are employed on the Ninian Central, Ninian South and Tiffany platforms. The ballot will close on 18 October.

The contract dispute relates to Petrofac in 2020 reducing wages by 10 per cent, and the company introducing one week ‘clawback’ on the workforce, which is a week extra worked without any increase in wages. The offshore contractor blamed the cuts due to the downturn in oil and gas prices, but stated the decision would be reviewed in the future.

John Boland, Unite industrial officer, said: “Last year, Petrofac on the instruction of their client Canadian Natural Resources (CNR) cut all of the wages by 10 per cent, and imposed a week’s clawback on the workforce as a result of the low oil price and COVID. As it was at the height of COVID, and people were being put on furlough, there was an understandable reaction not to fight against the cuts.

“However, most of the workforce have now had the cuts reversed including CNRs own employees, yet Petrofac workers exclusively have been left behind. We are slowly coming out of COVID and the oil price is at around $70 per barrel. Unite’s members feel rightly aggrieved at this situation, and believe that now is right time to fight to have these cuts reversed.”

17 September 2021

Tesco faces empty shelves this winter as workers reject meagre pay offer

Lorry drivers and warehouse workers at four Tesco distribution centres have rejected a below inflation pay offer. If members vote for strike action, Tesco’s shelves will quickly become empty this winter, potentially affecting the Christmas period.

Following a consultative ballot, workers overwhelmingly rejected Tesco’s ‘full and final pay offer’ of a 2.5 per cent pay increase. This is a substantial real terms pay cut with the RPI inflation rate currently running at 4.8 per cent.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Tesco’s staff have kept working throughout the pandemic and that alone surely means they deserve a decent pay rise. Instead, they are being offered what is, in effect, a pay cut.

“Tesco’s shareholders will be well rewarded out of Tesco’s three billion pound profits. Unite is preparing for industrial action now to make sure the workers get their share as well.”

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.