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Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 22 June 2020

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.

16 June 2020

Employer signs groundbreaking agreement with Unite to promote more tolerant workplace

Unite and Nottingham Community Housing Association (NCHA) signed a ground-breaking agreement committing to working together to promote a more tolerant and inclusive place of work, with race equality at its heart.

NCHA becomes the first employer to sign up to Unite’s Unity over Division charter, launched by the union as part of its campaign to tackle racism and the far right in its members’ workplaces and within communities.

Paresh Patel, Regional Secretary of Unite East Midlands, said: “We welcome the signing of the first ever Unity over Division Charter by a major employer within the East Midlands. This charter forms a solid basis to ensure that race equality remains at the heart of our industrial agenda and our work to stamp out racism.  I am immensely proud that both Unite and NCHA are together, leading the way to strive for inclusivity and race equality proactively by signing up to the principals contained within this charter.”

UK government must follow Spain’s ‘time critical’ support for auto industry

Commenting on the Spanish government’s £3.3 billion support package for the country’s automotive sector, Unite Assistant General Secretary, Steve Turner, said: “Spain has followed France and Germany in providing time critical support to keep their automotive industries on the road and playing their part in meeting the need to switch to low and zero carbon transport.

“Government must move beyond the soundbite to ‘take back control’ of how we spend taxpayers’ money. Public procurement policy should prioritise the purchase of UK built vehicles, supporting further investment in domestic supply chains and infrastructure. Tens of thousands of good, skilled jobs are at risk.”

18 June 2020

PM must show same 'dedication' to saving aerospace as he has to painting official plane

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, must show the same ‘dedication’ to the lockdown-hit aerospace industry as he has to the £900,000 paint job being given to his official plane, Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, said.

Unite said skilled workers at Marshall’s, which has been awarded the contract to paint the plane in Union Jack colours, will welcome the work which could ‘secure jobs in the short term’.

But the union warned that without significant state support for the wider aerospace sector, such as that provided by the US, French, German and Spanish governments, thousands of UK jobs will be put at risk. 

19 June 2020

Employers have ‘duty’ to safeguard staff and public as more meat factory coronavirus outbreaks ‘suspected’

Unite has received reports that more coronavirus outbreaks are suspected at meat processing factories and has warned that employers must do more to protect staff and the public from the disease.

The union called on employers to implement stringent health and safety protections, as well as to provide financial support to often low paid staff who need to self-isolate so that individuals are not forced to disregard their symptoms because of financial pressures.

Unite National Officer, Bev Clarkson, said: “Unite has warned time and again that coronavirus outbreaks at meat processing factories throughout the UK were likely. The union has been in touch with the management of all three closed factories to insist that staff only return to work when it is safe to do so and when further outbreaks can be prevented. Unfortunately, we are also aware of suspected Covid-19 outbreaks at other sites across the UK.”

Bus companies must ‘get a grip’ on face coverings

Unite has called on bus operators to “get a grip” to ensure passengers wear face coverings on buses.

From last Monday (15 June), it has been a requirement under the condition of travel that all passengers (unless exempt) must wear a mask or face covering when travelling on buses and all forms of public transport, to help reduce the transmission of Covid-19.

Although the measure has been widely supported there have been concerns raised about non-compliance in some areas.

Unite National Officer for Passenger Transport, Bobby Morton, said: “Unite has been receiving concerns about passengers not wearing a face covering.

“It is not the responsibility of the bus driver to enforce the wearing of a face covering. Given the challenges and risks they have faced during the pandemic they already have enough on their plate.”

22 June 2020

Heathrow Airport accused of ‘sheer greed’ in attack on workers’ pay and conditions

Unite has accused Heathrow Airport Limited of using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to permanently cut the pay and conditions of its workforce, a move Unite has described as being about ‘greed, not need’.

Unite Regional Co-ordinating Officer, Wayne King, said: “These are not well paid workers as it is but they have worked extremely hard to make Heathrow the highly profitable airport that it is today.

"To attack their pay and conditions in this way and at under the cover of the public health crisis is a disgraceful act from a business with billions in the bank.”

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.

For more information on coronavirus (COVID-19) related benefits, Unite has set up a dedicated benefits advice line which members can access by calling 0333 202 6563.

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.