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

20 July 2020

UK government aerospace support lags behind European competitors despite new £200m announcement

Commenting on Business Minister Alok Sharma’s announcement of £200 million worth of grants for the aerospace industry, Unite National Officer, Rhys McCarthy, said: “These grants through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) will bring some support for wing, engine, power and cabin systems development. But while these grants offer a 50/50 investment split with industry, in France and Germany the R&D ratio is 80 per cent from government and 20 per cent from industry. 

“Compared to the overall levels of assistance provided by our European neighbours for their aerospace industries, which have also been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that UK ministers are not doing enough.

“The UK still does not have an in-depth strategy of support that countries such as France, Germany and the US have put in place. 

“Unlike France, Germany, Spain and The Netherlands, we are lacking a government aircraft replacement scheme to stimulate the aerospace industry and get more environmentally friendly planes in the sky.

“The German government has also recognised the need to provide flexible support, including short time working for aerospace jobs to stop redundancies, retain skills and protect the economy. The UK government has yet to put forward any such measures for when the furlough scheme ends in October.”

21 July 2020

Sunak’s ‘selective memory’ over council workers’ pay

Unite has accused chancellor Rishi Sunak of having ‘a selective memory’ when it comes to public sector pay - rewarding some but ignoring hundreds of thousands of others. 

While welcoming the 3.1 per cent pay rise as ‘a step in the right direction’ for 900,000 public sector workers, including doctors, teachers and police officers, Unite said that, yet again, council workers seemed to be ‘the forgotten army of public service’, currently being offered a pay rise that amounts to £1.83p a day.

Unite National Officer for Local Government, Jim Kennedy, said: “What the chancellor has announced for 900,000 public sector employees is a step in the right direction and a recognition of the vital role they have played in the fight against coronavirus.

“But the chancellor has a selective memory when it comes to finding cash for local government employers to pay their workers a decent pay rise – they are the forgotten army of public service.

“Council workers – including schools, refuse collection, cemeteries, child protection, and the care of our elderly and vulnerable – have been working throughout the pandemic. They are the glue that keeps services for local communities running on a daily basis through good times and bad.

“However, currently the employers are offering their staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland a derisory and insulting £1.83p a day – and this has to be seen in the context of a decade of attacks on pay and conditions that has resulted in a 20 per cent cut in pay in real terms in local government over the last 10 years.

“We know the public is appreciative and supportive of our frontline workforce. Unfortunately, neither Rishi Sunak nor the local government employers are mirroring public opinion.

“If the government is serious about ‘levelling up’ society, the chancellor needs to find the money to fund a decent pay rise for council workers.”

22 July 2020

DFDS Immingham using COVID-19 ‘excuse’ for redundancies and attacks on T&Cs

Unite has accused Immingham ferry operator, DFDS Seaways, of using the coronavirus pandemic as an ‘excuse’ to drive through redundancies and ‘brutal’ attacks on its workers' terms and conditions.

Unite said DFDS’ plans to cut 62 positions from its 600 strong Immingham workforce and reduce overtime rates and other benefits for hourly paid staff are unnecessary given steadily increasing freight volumes since the lockdown’s peak in April. 

DFDS, where Unite has around 300 members, wants to cut overtime rates from time and a half to basic, and implement other measures that will negatively impact hours, shift patterns and pay for workers on hourly wages. 

The company operates both freight and automotive shipping routes between a number of European ports and Immingham.

23 July 2020

Call for Robert Jenrick to reimburse Nottingham council for COVID-19 costs, as jobs threatened

Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, has been urged by Unite to get out his cheque book to plug the hole in Nottingham city council’s finances due to coronavirus and avoid more than 150 posts being axed.

The city council is planning to plug the £62 million financial shortfall due to extra costs racked up by the pandemic by cutting more than 150 posts.

Unite has called on Robert Jenrick, who represents the Nottinghamshire seat of Newark, to reimburse the city council for the extra costs generated by combating COVID-19.

24 July 2020

Durham health visitor and school nurse job losses ‘incomprehensible’ with COVID-19 still prevalent

The threat to cut health visitor and community nurse jobs in County Durham, while COVID-19 is still widespread, has been branded as ‘incomprehensible’ by Unite.

Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust (HDFT), which is taking over the County Durham 0-25 family health service contract from 1 September, wants to axe about 37 whole time equivalents (WTEs), while the coronavirus is still widespread across the country.

Although HDFT also says it wants to employ 21 WTE new posts, there will be a net loss of 16 WTEs out of a workforce of about 230 WTEs.

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.