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

20 September 2021

Weetabix strikes begin at Northamptonshire factories over fire and rehire plans

Engineers employed by Weetabix began strike action on September 21 as a result of the company’s plans to carry out an extensive “Fire and Rehire’ programme with the workforce. If workers accept the new terms, many will lose up to £5,000 a year in wages.

The workers are based at the company’s factories at Burton Latimer and Corby in Northamptonshire. Both sites will have picket lines in place.

The strike lasted for 48 hours and there will be a further 48 hour strikes throughout the autumn, with the final strike scheduled to begin on 30 November.

Chesterfield bus passengers face serious disruption if pay strikes at ‘penny pinching’ Stagecoach go ahead

Chesterfield bus passengers face serious disruption this autumn and winter if Stagecoach bus drivers and cleaners vote for strike action over a pay dispute.

Unite said Stagecoach, which operates as the Yorkshire Traction Company in Chesterfield, is citing the pandemic for refusing to offer the workers, who are based at the Stonegravels depot, a reasonable pay rise.

The union said Chesterfield staff are ‘incensed’ that the company is using COVID-19 as an excuse when they worked right through the pandemic to provide safe transport for key workers despite the risks to themselves and their families.

Stagecoach failed to give the workers a pay rise in 2020, even though the company remains extremely profitable. Notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic, Stagecoach's latest accounts reveal the group made a profit of £58.4 million and it has £875 million of available liquidity.

21 September 2021

New health bill is ‘a smokescreen’ for more NHS privatisation

The government has been accused using the pandemic as ‘a smokescreen’ to push through the Health and Care Bill that will open the floodgates for more NHS privatisation.

Unite, which has 100,000 members working in the health sector, said the bill that has its Third Reading in The Commons in mid-October is a recipe for more privatisation and cronyism in England with an adverse impact for patients as waiting lists for treatments continue to soar.

If the bill becomes law, it would allow for so-called Alternative Provider Medical Services (APMS) to cherry pick services and undermine current working practices. APMS contracts are not in the interests of either the public or health care professionals.

Unite is emailing its members to write their MPs urging them to vote against the bill dubbed as a ‘Trojan Horse’ for profit-hungry private healthcare companies.

22 September 2021

Manchester Stagecoach bus drivers to vote for strike action over pay

Bus passengers in Greater Manchester could be facing severe disruption to their journeys if drivers employed by Stagecoach, vote for strike action in a dispute over pay.

Stagecoach, which operates as Greater Manchester Bus Company South, is refusing to make a pay offer which in anyway meets the aspirations of the drivers and is blaming the COVID pandemic for its actions.

The company’s refusal to make a realistic offer, despite extensive negotiations has infuriated the workforce who continued to work throughout the pandemic in order to ensure that key workers in Manchester could get to work – at times risking their health and that of their families.

The ballot covers over a thousand bus drivers based at the company’s depots in Hyde Road, Shaston, Stockport and Ashton. The company operates routes which go as far as Wigan, Oldham and Rochdale. Stagecoach is the largest bus operator in Greater Manchester.

Scotland’s bus routes could be brought to a ‘halt’ in Stagecoach ballot

Scotland’s major bus routes could be brought to a ‘halt’ this autumn if 1,500 Stagecoach Group workers vote for industrial action over a pay dispute.

The ballot covers major bus depots including Angus, Ardrossan Ayr, Brodick, Cumbernauld, Dumfries, Dundee, Fife, Inverness, Highlands and Islands, Kilmarnock, and Perth. Stagecoach routes run across the Islands, and into all major cities and towns from Orkney to the Borders.

If the ballot for industrial action is successful then major bus routes, remote local communities and events are expected to be ‘severely disrupted’.  The workers involved in the dispute are drivers, engineering staff, administrative workers and cleaners. Any industrial action, it is anticipated, will also involve disruption to the COP26 climate change conference being held in Glasgow between 31 October – 12 November 2021.

If members vote for industrial action, then strikes, and actions short of strike, could begin by late October and into late January. The Stagecoach Group, which operates in practice through various local bus companies, is offering below inflation pay offers to workers across Scotland. The Stagecoach Group has blamed the pay offers on the COVID pandemic, despite the company being ‘extremely profitable’.

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.