Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 31 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.

25 August 2021

Unions write to home secretary demanding police staff pay freeze is overturned

Unions representing police staff, including control room operatives, 999 calls handlers and forensic specialists, have written to the home secretary Priti Patel asking her to urgently reconsider the decision to impose a pay freeze on the majority of police staff this year.

In July, the Police Staff Council decided that police staff earning over £24,000 a year would have their pay frozen for 2021/22, with those earning below that figure receiving an increase of just £250 a year.

In their letter, the unions highlight that police staff are the only group of emergency responders to have had a pay freeze imposed on them. NHS emergency responders have been offered a three per cent pay increase, while firefighters will receive a 1.5 per cent pay rise.

Police staff, who continued to work throughout the pandemic, often in very difficult and trying conditions, are particularly incensed at the pay freeze after the home secretary wrote to them last November thanking them for their “tireless work” and describing “control room staff in particular as the unsung heroes of the crisis”.

Sainsbury’s empty shelves threat as Dartford DHL lorry drivers willing to strike over pay

Sainsbury’s stores in London and the South East could face empty shelves after DHL lorry drivers at the supermarket’s Dartford distribution centre signalled their willingness to strike over pay.

Unite, the UK’s leading union, held a consultative strike action ballot of HGV drivers employed by DHL at the Dartford distribution centre over a one per cent pay offer put forward by the logistics company. 

The ballot of around 200 Unite HGV driver members resulted in a 98 per cent vote in favour of taking industrial action, including strikes.

DHL is contracted to run Sainsbury’s Dartford regional distribution centre, including driving and warehouse operations.  

Unite regional officer, Phil Silkstone said: “National HGV driver shortages are all over the news, so how DHL thought it was going to get away with an insulting offer of a one per cent pay rise is beyond me."

26 August 2021

Booker's attempt to ‘hoodwink’ lorry drivers on pay, increases strike threat

Unite, the UK’s leading union, has warned that a cynical attempt by Booker Retail Partners to hoodwink its lorry drivers on pay has dramatically increased the likelihood of widespread industrial action at the company.

The company, which is part of the Tesco empire, has attempted to bypass negotiations with the drivers' union, Unite, by putting a pay proposal directly to staff.

The offer, however, is far below the settlement that Unite negotiated for its drivers based at Booker’s depot in Hemel Hempstead in July.

Unite regional officer, Paul Travers said: “Our drivers are not going to be hoodwinked into accepting a deal which is lower than what they have already been offered."

27 August 2021

Supermarkets must take responsibility for HGV and food labour shortages

Supermarkets must take responsibility for the HGV and food industry labour shortages engulfing their supply chains, said Unite, the UK’s leading union.

The union called on the supermarkets and the employers in their supply chains to properly address the longstanding issues of insecure work, low pay and unpleasant working conditions that are the root causes of the labour shortages. 

Unite national officer for food, drink and agriculture, Bev Clarkson said: "Workers are the only ones who can fix the supply chain and at the moment they are not being incentivised to do so."

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.

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 0800 709 007.