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Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 24 August 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.

16 August 2021

Unite vows to protect homeworkers from attacks on their pay and conditions

Unite has produced a blueprint to protect homeworkers from attacks on their pay and conditions from unscrupulous employers.

Unite executive officer, Sharon Graham, said: “COVID-19 has changed the way we work, but it is absolutely imperative that we stand up to bad bosses who try to attack workers’ pay and conditions.

"Unite has produced a framework homeworking agreement to assist Unite workplace representatives in their negotiations. The protection of pay and conditions is a cornerstone of the agreement. Homeworking can be good for some, but agreements need to be in place to protect workers, for example the right to disconnect.”

17 August 2021

Unite Wales consulting NHS membership on three per cent pay offer

Unite has opened a ballot of NHS members in Wales and will be asking its members whether in principle they accept or reject the three per cent pay rise that Welsh government will be implementing.

Unite lead officer for NHS membership, Richard Munn, stated: “Our members in the NHS have worked tirelessly during COVID and will be dealing with the aftermath for years to come. They have risked so much and it is time that the rate for the job they do is increased to properly reflect the most important contribution, which NHS workers have made. Since 2010, the Conservative government’s programme of austerity has meant that NHS staff have seen their pay erode in real terms.  Some of our members are reporting accounts of real financial hardship.

"Week after week the country applauded the NHS workers for their heroic effort. It is now time to that NHS workers are recognised financially.”

Education unions make joint call for urgent action on ventilation in schools

Education unions, together with Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP, have written to Gavin Williamson urging the government to take firm action to improve ventilation in schools to reduce further COVID disruption.

The unions - NEU, Unison, NASUWT, ASCL, NAHT, GMB and Unite – say proper measures to increase airflow in time for the start of the next academic year will make a difference to health and limit the damage to learning for pupils.

In their letter they say “the benefits of ventilation in the control of airborne diseases are already well understood and accepted”. They point to carbon dioxide monitors – to ensure air is flowing adequately – and micro filters for removing harmful particles as measures that will make a significant difference and should be properly funded.

Jim Kennedy, Unite national officer for education, said: “Public health experts have identified that proper ventilation is a key prerequisite as we enter the next stage in containing coronavirus. Free-flowing air circulation in schools, as well as workplaces and other places where people gather, should be a government priority.”

19 August 2021

Job cuts at UK vaccine licensing agency branded as ‘lunacy’

Unite has branded the announcement that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the only body able to licence COVID-19 vaccines in the UK, is set to cut 20 per cent of its staff as ‘lunacy’.

The redundancy programme for the 1,200 strong workforce is understood to be related to Brexit and severe reductions in funding from the European regulatory system.

The job cuts raise serious concerns about whether the cuts will compromise or slow down the MRHA's ability will to test and approve new COVID-19 vaccines, or modifications of ones that have already been approved to combat different variants of the virus.

Shrewsbury Radius Aerospace job losses on day furlough ends ‘hammer blow’ for staff

More than 60 Radius Aerospace job losses in Shrewsbury, the first of which could occur on the day furlough ends, are a ‘hammer blow’ for staff.

Radius Aerospace, which manufactures aircraft parts, has announced plans to shut its ‘precision’ operations at its Whitchurch Road site and move production to the company’s Bramah site in Sheffield.

It is understood that the plans are directly linked to a collapse in orders of Rolls Royce Trent engine parts because of the pandemic.

Unite reiterated its call for government to protect the aerospace supply chain and aid its post-COVID recovery by adapting the furlough scheme for short time working.

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.