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Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 22 February 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.

15 February 2021

Broad welcome for JLR’s Reimagine strategy by Unite

Unite the union has broadly welcomed the announcement by Jaguar Land Rover (JRL) of its Reimagine strategy that will mean no plant closures and no compulsory job losses.

Unite said that this is “good news in challenging economic times” for the company’s estimated 40,000 UK employees.

The strategy aims to promote and develop Jaguar as an all-electric luxury brand from 2025.

Unite national officer for the automotive industries, Des Quinn, said: “Unite understands the need for a re-evaluation of the direction of travel for the Jaguar Land Rover brands and the challenges facing the business given the events of recent years.

“These pressures included the slump in global automotive sales; the fallout of ‘Dieselgate’ and tighter regulation around emissions which have been compounded by lack of confidence due to the Brexit process and the effects of the worldwide pandemic.”

16 February 2021

Unions call for a ‘substantial' pay rise for council and school workers

Three local government unions, including Unite, ​have submitted a pay claim ​for 2021/22, which they say begin​s to redress a decade of cuts and recognise​ the key role ​played in the pandemic ​by school and council staff.

Unite, UNISON and GMB want to see a ‘substantial’ pay increase from this April with a wage rise of at least 10 per cent for all council ​and school support employees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

​Under the claim, the pay of the lowest paid workers would go above £10 per hour – lifting them above the ​real ​living ​wage of £9.50 per hour (outside of London).

Council employees include refuse collectors, library staff, teaching assistants and care employees – key workers who help communities to function, say the three unions. 

The COVID crisis has been a reminder that local authorities are vital to the communities they serve, especially during the past hugely challenging year. Staff deserve better pay and working conditions

18 February 2021

Over 650 Rolls-Royce jobs safeguarded after Unite secures agreements in Renfrewshire and Coventry

More than 650 Rolls-Royce jobs have been safeguarded from compulsory redundancies for at least five years after Unite secured agreements at the company’s plants in Inchinnan, Coventry, Renfrewshire and Ansty.

The signing of the memorandum of understandings (MoU) for the Inchinnan and Ansty sites, comes just weeks after Unite struck a ground-breaking deal with Rolls-Royce’s management to secure the future of the company’s Barnoldswick operations, saving an additional 350 jobs.

Around 575 people are employed at Rolls-Royce’s Inchinnan site, which produces turbine blades and aero foils, while more than 85 are employed at Ansty, where engine fan cases are made.

Unite assistant general secretary, Steve Turner, said: “Coming hot on the heels of the Barnoldswick deal, these agreements show exactly what can be achieved when employers and unions work together in a genuine and positive way.

“But, as we face the triple challenge of recovering from the pandemic, adjusting to the UK’s new position outside of the EU and tackling climate change, it is clear that the government now needs to play its part. That means supporting, investing in and procuring from UK manufacturers enabling the transition to a greener economy.

 ‘Creeping culture’ of ‘fire and rehire’ across retail and distribution sectors

A line in the sand needs to be drawn over ‘the creeping culture’ of ‘fire and rehire’ across the retail, distribution and logistics industries.

Unite said its shop stewards were reporting attempts by employers across the sectors to ‘salami slice’ pay and terms and conditions, blaming ‘current market conditions’ for their actions.

Unite’s warning follows a ruling by the Court of Session in Edinburgh stopping Tesco from forcing some of the staff at the Livingston distribution centre onto a new contract, which would result in them losing thousands of pounds in pay each year.

Unite’s shop stewards from Argos, Eddie Stobart, Co-op, Gist, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Wincanton have all expressed concern at the proliferation of ‘fire and rehire’ proposals. 

19 February 2021

London bus bosses accused of using pandemic as ‘a smokescreen’ for attacks on pay, as 2,200 drivers set to strike

London bus passengers will face serious disruption as Unite confirmed that 2,200 bus drivers employed by RATP will strike over a sustained attack on their pay packets.

Unite accused the French-owned RATP of using the pandemic as ‘a convenient smokescreen’ to attempt to implement pay policies that could see some of their drivers lose up to £2,500-a-year.

RATP operates three subsidiaries across the London bus network: London United, London Sovereign and Quality Line.

Workers at London United, which provides bus services in south and west London, will take strike action on Monday 22 February, Tuesday 23 February and Wednesday 24 February. Due to the proposed contracts, drivers face wage cuts of £2,500 which will reduce wages to 2015 levels.

 

Workers at Quality Line, based at its depot in Epsom, Surrey, will take strike action on Monday 22 February and Tuesday 23 February in a dispute over pay. The drivers earn £2.50 an hour less than drivers at RATP’s other subsidiaries. The workers have been offered a derisory pay offer of 0.5 per cent (seven pence an hour).

Unite members at London Sovereign, who operate services in north west London, will take strike action on Monday 22 February in a pay dispute. The workers have been offered a pay increase of just 0.75 per cent, which is well below what has been offered by other operators. A further strike date has been announced for Wednesday 3 March.

 ‘Deep concern’ at Ulster Bank’s exit from Republic of Ireland with 3,000 jobs under threat

Unite the union has expressed ‘deep concern and solidarity’ for the 3,000 employees working for the Ulster Bank as NatWest announced its exit from the Republic of Ireland.

Unite also called for a moratorium on job losses across the NatWest Group as it announced a £351 million pre-tax loss.

In a separate move, Unite has written to the NatWest Group chief executive, Alison Rose, calling for a moratorium on all restructuring and job losses until the full impact of the pandemic on the NatWest business has been evaluated.

The letter said: “Throughout the pandemic, our members have been pillars of strength and certainty for the NatWest Group, adapting, changing and working at pace to ensure they were there for bank customers when they needed them the most.

“However, many of your NatWest colleagues are understandably worried about their futures. They are dealing with reduced income and family unemployment caused by the COVID crisis.

“They have wrestled with the challenges of homeworking, home schooling and the debilitating impact of the prolonged lockdown.

“It is not just the pandemic that has tested the resilience of the workforce.

Years of constant change and restructuring, coupled with thousands of job losses, branch cuts and office closures, has had a marked impact on your staff.”

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