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Unite Legal Services: Weekly coronavirus COVID-19 latest news round-up – 8 June 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.

2 June 2020

‘Class and race’ biggest factors for victims of coronavirus, says Unite

Unite called for a raft of policies to tackle the ‘systemic failures’ that have led to the disproportionate death toll among the Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and also the poorest groups in society

The union was commenting on Public Health England’s report ‘Disparities in the risk and outcomes of Covid-19’ which highlighted those groups that had been hardest hit in terms of mortality owing to coronavirus.

Gail Cartmail, Unite’s Assistant General Secretary, said: “These wide disparities are detailed in this data and point to age, race and income and accompanying health inequalities as key determinants as to whom has been the worst affected by Covid-19

“This has been amplified among those in undervalued occupations and jobs where zero hours’ contracts and precarious employment are the norm.

“Working hard to provide for your families is no defence against Covid-19 for these groups - these systemic failures need to be tackled urgently and that work should start now.”

3 June 2020

Government must review British Airways’ landing slots, says Unite

Unite welcomed the debate in the House of Commons that raised the issue of British Airways’ landing slots and highlighted BA’s plans to effectively ‘fire and rehire’ its workforce, bringing back those that survive on inferior terms and conditions.

Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey, said: “BA is using this health crisis as cover to impose a long-term plan to slash jobs, pay and conditions. No other employer has threatened to effectively ‘fire and rehire’ its workforce.

“There should be a government review of British Airways’ domination of UK landing slots amid the airline’s betrayal of its workers and the British public.

“There must be consequences to BA’s actions, the airline should not automatically have rights to landing slots as it plans to destroy British Airways as we know it.”

Rolls-Royce job cuts announced

Commenting on the announcement that Rolls-Royce is planning to shed over 3,000 jobs in the UK, Unite National Officer for the aerospace sector, Rhys McCarthy, said: “Today’s announcement by Rolls-Royce is another warning sign that the UK is in serious danger of losing its leading position in aerospace, in addition to losing thousands of skilled jobs.

“Unite understands the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on the aviation and aerospace industries, with the likely scenario of a recovery to passenger demand for long-haul, wide-bodied jets, which Rolls Royce makes the engines for, not expected to recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024/2025. 

“This is why Unite has negotiated with Rolls-Royce the opening of a voluntary severance scheme across the company to mitigate any potential future redundancies and buy some time so that Rolls-Royce can develop the Plan B that our members and other stakeholders so desperately need.”

Oxfam jobs’ axe threatens fight against global poverty, says Unite

Oxfam was due to start the 45-day consultation process on redundancies at its Oxford headquarters today, where it is believed that a third of the 800 staff could be at risk

Unite Regional Officer, Jesika Parmar, said: "The threatened job losses at Oxfam are a tragedy in the global fight against poverty. Many people don’t realise the extent that Oxfam is a world leader in public health, with dedicated staff who risked their lives to defeat the Ebola outbreaks.  

"Without the necessary funding, Oxfam won’t be unable to expand its desperately needed coronavirus work to save thousands of lives across the world. 

"Unfortunately, despite the groundbreaking work over 70 years that Oxfam has done, our members have lost confidence in senior management. The financial crisis due to Covid-19 has been exacerbated by mismanagement over recent years.   

"Oxfam’s directors have refused our requests to open a voluntary redundancy register; to furlough all staff who were made redundant in the last few months; or suspend the redundancy consultation during furlough. Oxfam should not be making redundancies while it can still use funding from the job retention scheme (JRS) to pay for 80 per cent of wages.”

4 June 2020

Aston Martin urged to reconsider 500 job losses

Aston Martin was urged to reconsider the scale and number of the proposed 500 job losses at its luxury sports car plant in Gaydon, Warwickshire, by Unite.

Aston Martin announced 500 job losses across the group, which has a total workforce of 2,600, but Unite says that the threatened losses will fall almost entirely on the Warwickshire plant which employs about 1,600 people.

Unite said that the job losses were a result of the company’s ‘dire’ financial situation, despite a 25 per cent stake taken by a consortium led by Canadian billionaire, Lawrence Stroll. The financial situation had been compounded by coronavirus which had seen the luxury car market collapse.

Unite welcomes mandatory face coverings on public transport

Unite has welcomed the announcement that passengers on public transport will be required to wear a face covering before boarding and throughout their journey.

The new requirements will come into effect from Monday 15 June in England.

Unite first called for it to become compulsory for passengers to wear face coverings last month in order to reduce the risk of transmitting Covid-19, and has been actively lobbying the government on this matter.

5 June 2020

Bentley job announcement another heavy blow for UK auto industry

Unite has described the announcement that Bentley is seeking to make 1,000 workers redundant as another “heavy blow”.

Bentley currently employs 4,200 workers at its factory in Crewe, Cheshire. The proposed 1,000 redundancies, which will be on a voluntary basis, account for just under 25 per cent of the workforce.

6 June 2020

Sunday trading relaxation “grossly unfair” to key workers

Unite has called the government’s plans to relax Sunday trading laws “grossly unfair” to key workers.

Bev Clarkson, Unite National Officer, said: “Retail workers have played a key frontline role in keeping the UK fed and supplied in the last three months in highly challenging circumstances. 

“They are exhausted and deserve to spend time with their families. Extending opening hours will simply exacerbate these problems. 

“The government must understand that many retail workers have to work around childcare and by extending Sunday opening hours it will create additional stress and make it impossible for many workers to juggle work and their caring duties.”

7 June 2020

Unite stands in solidarity with protests in response to George Floyd’s murder

In response to protests in the UK, US and across the globe, Len McCluskey, Unite General Secretary, said:

“Unite stands in solidarity with all those protesting in response to the senseless murder of George Floyd, and the appalling racism both here and across the world.

“The labour movement must be clear in its opposition to racism at all levels. Those of us who have a platform must speak out against yet another killing of a black man by the police. This abuse of power must end now. 

“Unite members stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in America, who feel anger, frustration and hurt over the events of recent days. 

“We in the UK must ensure we are alert to racism that exists in this country. Black people are much more likely to experience state aggression, such as police violence, discriminatory targeting, and recently a greater likelihood of being fined by the police for breaching lockdown rules. The Windrush scandal was a stark example of the discrimination and appalling treatment many black people face.

“Unite will continue to stand up for all workers, and to speak out against all discrimination, injustice, and oppression, wherever it occurs.” 

8 June 2020

New quarantine rules place ‘moral duty’ on government to support aviation

Unite believes that the government has an immediate “moral duty”  to provide financial support to the aviation sector following its decision to introduce quarantine requirements on people entering the UK.

Unite National Officer, Oliver Richardson, said: “Covid-19 is the greatest challenge the aviation sector has ever faced and the government’s introduction of quarantine further adds to it.

“This only reinforces the fact that the government has a moral duty to support the aviation industry during this time of crisis, as it has promised to do on numerous occasions.

“While we are not questioning medically based measures, Unite is supportive of positive measures such as air bridges and effective track and tracing all of which help to generate confidence and will boost a return to flying.

“The aviation sector is crying out for an integrated plan a financial support programme to get it back on its feet and is looking to the government for that leadership.”

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.