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Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 21 December 2020

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.

15 December 2020

Unite launches Gatwick Community Hub offering free advice, practical support and educational opportunities

Unite’s Gatwick Community Hub, offering free access to advice, practical support and educational opportunities, has been launched. 

Unite, working in conjunction with the local Labour Party, Ruskin College and other partners, has created an online hub for Unite members and non-members in the Crawley area, which gives access to: 

  • Work and non-work related legal advice
  • Financial and pension advice
  • CV writing and employability skills
  • Redundancy advice
  • Over 1,400 short courses, including fully funded accredited courses and information and communications technology (ICT) courses
  • Benefits advice
  • Specific support for young people and BAEM communities
  • A live job page 

Unite regional officer, Jamie Major, said: “Crawley has gone from a town of very low unemployment to being the one of the most at risk places in the UK for joblessness because of the pandemic.

“The Gatwick Community Hub offers support, practical skills and training to the local and surrounding community, which has been so badly impacted by COVID-19.”

Unite statement on Greenwich schools

Unite continues to back the original decision made by Greenwich council to move classes online.

Unite accused the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, who has ordered the south London council to keep the schools open, of “a lack of forward planning”.

Unite regional officer, Onay Kasab, said: “We all want to see children back in school. However, the action taken by the council shows something that the government has lacked throughout this crisis – a coherent forward planning strategy.

“If local health experts can see that action needs to be taken to deal with rising infections, then why wait until things get worse?

“We have previously made the point, when the government chose to rely on the likes of the controversial outsourcer Serco, that local health experts must be utilised fully – they know their communities best with a good understanding of cultural sensitivities.

“Rather than education secretary Gavin Williamson threatening the council with legal action for taking a common sense measure based on forward planning, the government should be concentrating on getting its own house in order.”

Unite launches comprehensive COVID-19 construction guide

Unite has launched a comprehensive construction guide to help ensure the safety of construction workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The guide titled Construction Sector: COVID-19 Guide is specifically aimed at Unite’s construction representatives but can be utilised by all workers.

The document is especially relevant as there have been rising cases of COVID-19 on construction sites, thought to be a result of the worsening weather and a subsequent lack of social distancing.

The industry’s existing safety measures have also been questioned following the belated realisation by ‘experts’ that a great deal of construction work is not conducted outdoors, dramatically increasing transmission risks if mask-wearing and social distancing are not observed.

Unite’s guide is far more comprehensive and stringent than the industry’s Site Operating Procedures, which have been heavily criticised for failing to make the wearing of masks compulsory when social distancing cannot be maintained and which allows workers to work face to face for 15 minutes at any one time.

As well as issues such as social distancing on sites, the importance of ventilation and advice on face coverings, Unite’s guide also covers advice on travelling to and from site and guidance on how the COVID-19 pandemic can have an impact on workers’ mental health.

16 December 2020

JLR workers raise £50,000 for five Birmingham charities as thousands face bleak Christmas

Big-hearted car workers at the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) Solihull branch have raised £50,000 for five charities in the Birmingham region, as thousands in the city face a bleak COVID-19 Christmas.

Unite said that its 9,000 JLR branch members had dug deep to support the charities with £20,000 going to SIFA Fireside, the day centre for homeless and vulnerably housed adults; and £20,000 to the St Basil’s Youth Hub which helps homeless young people to find a home and employment.

The remaining £10,000 has been split between Sutton Coldfield Baptist Church Foodbank (£3,000); Erdington Baptist Church Foodbank (£3,000); and Crisis Skylight Birmingham (£4,000).

New Welsh Government COVID Measures “A sacrifice worth making”

Unite the Union fully supports the announcement made by the Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford, in respect of the new measures that will be introduced to protect the health and wellbeing of the people of Wales.

Unite members working in health and social care are reporting the pressures on them are increasing on a daily basis. Staff are working heroically but the strain on them and their families is immense. COVID is devastating the lives of Unite members and the communities in which we live and work. The measures being taken by Welsh Government are therefore proportional and vital.

Ports congestion: Workers must not pay with their health or welfare

Unite has responded to a call by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) for an investigation by parliament into the congestion at Britain’s ports, to warn that any proposed solution must not risk the health and wellbeing of the workers involved.

The blame for the congestion at some UK ports has been attributed to a ‘perfect storm’ caused by a number of factors including: an increase in imports following the end of the first lockdown, Brexit related stockpiling, the usual pre-Christmas extra demand for goods and issues regarding the non-collection of PPE at ports.

Unite members working at the ports are also keen to remind MPs and business, however, that rules to ensure social distancing mean that it takes longer to unload ships safely.

A further problem is a shortage of labour at some ports, which is linked to previous rounds of redundancies.

Last week, Unite expressed its deep concern that the government’s initial response to the congestion at the ports was to relax the regulations governing how long lorry drivers can drive for until the end of 2020.

Unite is also concerned that workers in the food, drink and retail industry could be forced to work excessive hours as port congestion is tackled, resulting in a surge of goods delivered via supply chains.

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.

Unite has set up a register for all our members to record their experiences of working during the COVID-19 crisis. The survey should only take a few minutes to complete - but by taking this time, you're helping your union keep Unite members safe. You can complete the survey here