Heroes and zeroes

UniteLive highlights the latest ‘heroes and zeroes’ amid coronavirus epidemic

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Each Friday here on UniteLIVE we bring you a new list of heroes and zeroes amid the coronavirus crisis. Here are this week’s latest.


Marcus Rashford

He’s more well-known for his stunning football skills as a player for Manchester United and England’s national team, but footballer Marcus Rashford this week will go down in history for his intervention in support of children facing hunger.

On Monday (June 15) he wrote an open letter to MPs, calling on them to extend free school meal vouchers in England through the summer holidays, as the government agreed to do in April and May. The letter quickly went viral. At first the government refused to extend free school meals, but a day later it made a U-turn as Rashford and others piled on the pressure.

The government announced a £120m Covid summer food fund and said that all children now eligible for free school meals will have access to the vouchers in the summer.

Find out more in our full story here.

Frontline Live

A group of tech volunteers have built the country’s first real-time map of PPE needs for health and social care workers. Called Frontline Live, the platform connects frontline NHS and care workers with suppliers so that they can get the PPE they need fast.

Unite has now teamed up with Frontline Live to help them build the most up-to-date map and help members report PPE shortages.

You can find out more in our full story here.

Unity Over Division and Nottingham Community Housing Association

Unite’s Unity Over Division campaign has been given a big boost after an employer in Nottingham was the first to sign the anti-racism initiative’s charter.

Unite and the Nottingham Community Housing Association (NCHA) signed the groundbreaking Unity Over Division charter on June 16 which has committed them to working together to promote a more tolerant and inclusive place of work, with race equality at its heart.

Unity Over Division was launched by Unite in January last year in response to the rise of the far right in Britain and across Europe.

The Unite campaign is aimed at ensuring that the government’s vicious austerity policies are exposed and that progressive solutions are argued in every workplace where the union organises.

It’s also aimed at equipping Unite officers and activists with the counter arguments to challenge the far right’s narrative, including myths around immigration and migration in Britain, the welfare state, NHS, education and women’s rights.

Find out more in our full story here.


Takeaways ‘taking the pee’ out of couriers

Takeaway deliveries have become especially popular during lockdown. But did you know delivery couriers who work for companies like Deliveroo and Uber Eats are being denied toilet access at many takeaways and fast food chains?

Unite has been contacted by many self-employed food delivery couriers who have reported having to urinate in bushes and that they have no proper method of cleaning their hands at a time when public toilets are closed during the pandemic.

The drivers say that the takeaways,which include household names, are using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to prevent couriers from using their premises.

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said,“This is a serious public health matter.

“When the government’s key advice is to wash your hands it is alarming that takeaways are actively preventing drivers from doing this and then expecting them to deliver food to people’s homes.

“Takeaways and fast food outlets have got to stop taking the pee out of delivery drivers and instead ensure that they have access to toilets when they need them.”


HSBC said in March that it would pause its restructuring programme, which could entail cuts of 15 per cent of its workforce, so that workers would not be left to look for new jobs amid the pandemic. Now, HSBC said it would press ahead with the restructure, which could entail the loss of 35,000 jobs globally.

“The scale of the restructuring programme by HSBC is the cause of great apprehension amongst the workforce,” said Unite national officer Dominic Hook. “The news that some 35,000 colleagues are once more at risk of losing their livelihoods is extremely concerning to Unite the union. The question that must be asked today is ‘Why now HSBC?’. At present vast numbers of HSBC staff are making massive sacrifices working from home or taking risks travelling into offices and bank branches to help customers, why now?

“HSBC in the UK is a profitable and successful organisation, in no small part because of its dedicated and highly skilled workforce. The bank must stand by its team now more than ever and recognise their ongoing efforts in making the organisation effective in delivering incredible service to its customers.”

Government for failing to offer sector-specific support packages

Unite has continued to press the government over the need for it to offer sector-specific packages of support to make sure they have a future after the pandemic is over.

Earlier this week, the Spanish government announced a £3.3bn bailout for its auto industry underpinned by green goals, and has followed the lead of over countries such as France and Germany in supporting their key sectors.

Unite asssistant general secretary Steve Turner made the case for sectoral support when he gave evidence to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee on Thursday (June 18). Find out more in the video below:

By Hajera Blagg

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