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Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 27 April 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.

21 April 2020

An update on London bus workers and coronavirus

Unite provided an update on what is being done to protect London bus workers and what more is needed. Lead Officer for Buses in London, John Murphy, said: “Since the start of this outbreak Unite has strongly raised the concerns of our members on London buses with bus operators, TfL and the Mayor. We are also applying pressure at the highest levels of government.

“The deaths of those members of the London bus ‘family’, to whom we pay heartfelt tribute, makes the need for continuing safeguarding a paramount concern. Their deaths can’t be in vain.

“So far, we have secured the introduction of steps such as sick pay from day one, to make sure ill people weren’t starved into going to work. We have ensured operators adopted enhanced cleaning regimes, sealed assault screens and provided hand sanitisers for every driver.

“We have recently secured rear door boarding and every garage has a Unite safety officer monitoring all of these things and addressing issues as they arise.

“There is more to be done - personal protective equipment like sanitising wipes, masks and gloves must be available to drivers if they want it – and not all do – and face coverings should be compulsory for people using public transport. Testing in even the simplest form must be carried out urgently.”

22 April 2020

Woolwich Ferry workers to receive 100 per cent of pay, if furloughed

Unite the union has successfully negotiated that members working on the Woolwich Ferry will receive 100 per cent of their pay, if they are furloughed.

Unite is currently in talks with Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd as to how many of its 56 members will be furloughed as the service is now reduced to one boat instead of two as passenger travel in London plummets.

Unite Regional Officer, Onay Kasab, said: "This agreement shows once again the vital role that unions have to play in protecting jobs, pay and conditions. Where we are organised, we have been able to ensure that our members are protected during the course of the pandemic.

“This particular ‘win’ is an excellent example for contractors with public service contracts to follow - it shows that there is no excuse for cutting pay and jobs.”

Unite victory as 1,500 Marriott hotel workers go on Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Unite welcomed the decision by Marriott International to put its 1,500 casual workers onto the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Unite Officer, with national responsibility for the hospitality sector, Dave Turnbull, said: “Unite has been campaigning strongly and lobbying the company hard ‘to do the right thing’ and put all its casual workers, who play such a key part in Marriott’s commercial success, onto the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS).

“We welcome this announcement and will be monitoring how this works out in practice for our members in the coming days and weeks and will raise any problems with the Marriott management.”

Watered-down COVID-19 construction guidance is unsafe, warns Unite 

Unite has warned the government that the latest guidance on how construction sites should operate during the current COVID-19 pandemic is unsafe and places construction workers at unnecessary risk.

The latest of the site operating procedures (version three) published by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), is noticeably weaker than previous versions. It was issued to coincide with a return to work at a large number of sites last week, particularly in the London area.

Unite is principally concerned about the fundamental reduction in the requirement for workers to socially distance at work. The guidance now says that where workers are required to work within two metres of each other they should: “work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face”

Unite has written to Alok Sharma, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, stating that the new watered down guidance is endangering the lives of construction workers, their families and the general public. The letter says: “We would go as far as to say it undermines the safety of workers on construction sites and may even become a contributory factor to the spread of Covid-19 in our communities.”

24 April 2020

Furloughed Transport for London workers should act as a ‘spur’ for government financial rescue package

Following the furlough of some 7,000 TfL workers, Unite has stated that this should spur the government to intervene with a financial package to support the transport network through the current pandemic and beyond.

Unite Regional Officer for TfL, Simon McCartney, said: “This news was not unexpected given that London mayor, Sadiq Khan, had warned that TfL was running out of money as commuters stay-at-home and London’s lucrative tourist industry has all but ceased.

“Unite, and the other transport unions, have been in regular dialogue with TfL management and the mayor and we are pleased that those 7,000 staff, who will be furloughed, will receive 100 per cent of pay, including pension contributions.

“However, this situation has been on the cards for the last month and the news today should act as a spur for the government to provide a substantial financial package for TfL not just in the short-term, but in the longer term, as the mayor indicates, it won’t be business as normal once the lockdown restrictions are eased.”

27 April 2020

Unite warns that houses are being put before health

As many house builders return to work from today, Unite warns of the growing fears that building new homes is being put ahead of the health and welfare of construction workers and their families.

Unite is calling on the construction sector to uphold maximum safety protection to keep workers and their families safe.

Unite proposes radical aviation blueprint for post-COVID world

Unite has developed a radical aviation blueprint to allow the sector to continue to operate and meet new demands in a post-COVID world.

Len McCluskey, Unite General Secretary, has written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, setting out what steps Unite believes need to be taken to secure the long-term viability of the UK aviation industry. Mr McCluskey was clear that these should form the basis of the previously promised, but as yet undelivered, government aviation package.

Read the key elements from Unite’s letter.

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.