Coronavirus news round-up

Read all the latest UniteLive news on the coronavirus epidemic

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British Airways furlough deal

Members of Unite employed by British Airways have overwhelmingly voted to approve a deal to furlough the airline’s workers and preserve employment today April 8.

Following a ballot of the union’s members at the airline, Unite members voted by 99 per cent in favour of the deal.

The deal includes a modified version of the government’s job retention scheme, with workers furloughed on 80 per cent of pay – but without any cap on earnings; workers able to divert their pension contributions into their pay for a short period of time; no unpaid temporary layoffs; no redundancies during this period and the redundancy process that had already begun has been halted.

“Unite members at British Airways have recognised the seriousness of the situation facing the aviation sector during this unprecedented crisis, and so have voted to accept the deal negotiated by their union,” said Unite AGS Howard Beckett.

“Unite will continue to work on ensuring that members who are still flying remain fully protected,” he added.

Mitie blasted for breaking Living Wage promise to cleaners

Outsourcing giant Mitie has been blasted by Unite (April 8) after it told low paid cleaners helping to prevent the spread of coronavirus at Heathrow Airport that they will not receive the pay increase to the London Living Wage promised for April.

Mitie told the key workers, who clean shared spaces such as seating areas and toilets at Heathrow Terminal 5 for the minimum wage of £8.72 an hour, that their hourly rate will now not rise this month to the London Living Wage of £10.75. The company has given no indication of when the delay will be reversed and the London Living Wage introduced.

Unite, which represents nearly 200 Mitie cleaners at Heathrow, said the firm had tried to justify the move by saying it was a result of coronavirus cost cutting measures introduced by Heathrow Airport bosses.  The union said Mitie, which reported operating profits of £88.2m in 2018/19, should shoulder the costs instead of trying to pass them off to hard working staff who are ‘putting themselves and their families at risk to help stop Covid19’.

“Unite is incredibly disappointed that our members, working on the frontline to keep things operating at the airport, will stay on minimum wage rates. Without them, Heathrow Airport could not safely function during this crisis,” said Unite regional officer Clare Keogh.

“It should not be low paid cleaners – who are putting themselves and their families at risk to help stop Covid19 – taking a financial hit. Mitie can afford to shoulder the costs of introducing the London Living Wage, and should do so.

“Unite will be taking all available action to ensure that Mitie keeps its Living Wage promise and monitor the furlough arrangements throughout the coronavirus crisis.”

Faurecia will furlough workers following pressure from Unite

Staffordshire firm Faurecia Interiors has confirmed that its workforce will be registered under the government’s job retention scheme following pressure from Unite.

Staff at the auto-interiors firm, which employs about 400 people at two sites at Fradley in Staffordshire as well as at other location across the UK, will now be able to receive 80 per cent of their wages from the government, Unite said today (Wednesday April 8).

Unite welcomed the move by Faurecia, which had previously refused to comment on whether it was intending to register its workforce, and called on the firm to pay workers as normal until the government support comes through.

“Unite welcomes Faurecia’s decision to register its workers under the government’s job retention scheme,” said Unite regional officer Melvyn Palmer.

“Faurecia’s management must now pay workers as normal until the funds from the job retention scheme come through,” he added.

Rolls-Royce coronavirus package puts safety centre stage, says Unite  

Unite has hammered out a package, with health and safety at its heart, with engineering giant Rolls-Royce to financially protect the 20,000 UK workforce during the coronavirus emergency.        

Unite regional officer Tony Tinley, responsible for the union’s members at the 12,000-strong Derby workforce, said,  “Our reps have worked really hard to achieve a stringent health and safety regime, with such features as a one-way system, which will enable the required employees to continue to work during the coronavirus emergency.        

“Throughout the constructive talks with management, Unite has adopted a three-pronged approach: the vital importance of health and safety; protecting the jobs and incomes of our members in the short-term; and securing the long-term employment future of our members and the prosperity of the company.”      

Two key features of the deal are a 10 per cent pay delay for the year from April 2020, which will be paid back in the year starting April 2021. This applies to Rolls-Royce’s global workforce. And for the next three weeks, workers, who are not required, will be furloughed on full pay under the government’s job retention scheme which guarantees 80 per cent of pay, with the company paying the other 20 per cent.      

Talks are on-ongoing as to what happens after the end of the month. Rolls-Royce closed production at Derby last week, but is opening up gradually this week, under the new safety regime, and up to 60 per cent of the workforce could be employed on a rotation shift system.        

Unite regional officer Tony Tinley added, “Airplanes are still flying bringing in medicines and other supplies, so there is a current demand for Rolls-Royce’s superb products.        

“What we have achieved at Rolls-Royce is a template that other companies could follow in terms of workers’ incomes and safety protections.”    

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