Heroes and zeroes

UniteLIVE highlights the latest heroes and zeroes of the coronavirus crisis

Reading time: 10 min

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


Unite’s Davy Kettyles and actor Adrian Dunbar, of Line of Duty fame

Unite Ireland senior regional organiser Davy Kettyles and his old friend, actor Adrian Dunbar, who plays Superintendent Hastings in the BBC series Line of Duty have teamed up in support of the NHS.

Davy had written a song inspired by the coronavirus crisis; he then called his friend Adrian up to help promote a fundraiser for the NHS fundraising charity Asks for Masks, where people can raise funds by downloading Davy’s song, called No tears at your grave.

You can find out all about Davy and Adrian’s partnership and fundraiser in our full story here.

Taxi drivers

We’ve highlighted taxi drivers before and this week we highlight them again to shed light on all the incredible work they’re doing despite not being supported by the government like they should be. From giving free rides to NHS workers, to helping with deliveries to those who are self-isolating and more, they’ve really stepped up for their communities throughout the crisis.

Stay tuned for a UniteLive feature where we catch up with Unite’s cab drivers and we also highlight the inspiring story of taxi firm owner Abid Hussain, who turned his business into a kebab shop to help ensure those drivers who worked for him still received an income.

Marras of the Gala

The 136th Durham Miners’ Gala as it usually runs may have been cancelled, but it will continue in spirit through a special online event.

Ahead of this event on July 11 Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has recorded a special message thanking key workers and urging us all to become Marras of the Gala.

You can read McCluskey’s message here or watch the video below.

Ryanair cabin crew

Unite welcomed securing a deal with Ryanair which will mean no job losses for its cabin crew.

The union has hailed the airline’s ‘constructive’ approach as being in direct contrast to other employers in the aviation sector.

Since that announcement Unite has been in talks with Ryanair to ensure that job losses and the potential closure of Ryanair’s bases in the UK were averted.

Now a deal has been struck which will entail temporary pay cuts for workers but the saving of their jobs.

Unite has hailed Ryanair cabin crew and their tenacity, as well as the airline for coming to the negotiating table.

Unite national officer for aviation Oliver Richardson said, “That these reductions are temporary and tiered to ensure the lowest paid are least affected was an important outcome of our negotiations and critical to our members voting to accept the proposals.

“Unite has always maintained that temporary problems require temporary solutions. Ryanair’s management have shown that it is possible to reach an agreement on exactly that basis,” he added.

“It is always difficult for members to accept reductions in pay but in order to preserve jobs it is exactly what our cabin crew have agreed to do.”

You can read our full story here.


Chancellor Rishi Sunak

Topping our zeroes week this week is chancellor Rishi Sunak, who delivered a speech this week where he refused to extend the furlough scheme beyond October. Unite strongly believes this will further exacerbate the tsunami of job losses expected this summer and in the coming months.

The union has also criticised the chancellor for failing to offer sector-specific support packages as governments in France and Germany have done.

Reacting to the chancellor’s statement, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said, “No gimmicks, no spin – people wanted serious action today to protect their jobs and incomes and on a scale up to the enormous test before our country.  

“Redundancy notices are already flying around like confetti so today was the day we needed the Chancellor to put a stop to this with policies as bold and as necessary as the jobs retention scheme,” he added.

“This statement failed that test.  With no modification to the JRS, that dreaded October cliff-edge for businesses and workers has now been set in stone.  Our fear is that the summer jobs loss tsunami we have been pleading with the government to avoid will now surely only gather pace.”

You can read our full story on Sunak’s speech here, as well as an insightful comment on Sunak’s announcements from Joy Johnson, of Unite’s political department, here.

The government – for signalling a return of NHS car parking charges

The government confirmed earlier this week that NHS car parking charges, waived in late March as the lockdown came into force, will resume as the coronavirus pandemic eases.

Although no timeline has been announced, and the decision itself has been called into question, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that free parking will continue for only “key patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances” once the pandemic subsides.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe slammed the potential decision.

 “Scrapping car parking charges for NHS staff in England was the very least the government could do to show their appreciation for their hard work – it is an unconscionable slap in the face for them to learn now that they will have the rug pulled underneath them as car parking charges are potentially set to be reintroduced,” he said. “Unite is also very concerned to learn that some trusts are planning to increase their already extortionate car parking charges once the government gives them to the go-ahead to resume charging – this is a callous, opportunistic move and must be stopped.”  

 “Unite has long called for NHS car parking charges in England to be scrapped permanently and we reiterate this call today,” Jarrett-Thorpe continued. “Health minister Edward Argar justified the possible reintroduction of parking charges last week by saying ‘support cannot continue indefinitely’. If this is the case then how have both Wales and Scotland scrapped NHS car parking charges long before this pandemic? If it is possible for Wales and Scotland then it is possible for England – all we need is the political will.”

You can read our full story here.


Unite has slammed the car manufacturer Nissan for the firm’s ‘disdain and disregard’ for workers impacted by plans to close its defined benefits pension scheme

The union said there was growing anger at Nissan’s ‘opportunistic’ plans, which will affect around 1,800 staff, as well as its refusal to offer an industry standard lump sum usually provided when such schemes are closed.

Unite said that without ‘substantial movement’ by the company on the scheme’s closure, which would result in staff losing tens of thousands of pounds from their pensions, there could be industrial action at Nissan in Sunderland for the first time.

Unite has now planned a socially distanced rally in Sunderland on Saturday (July 11) to send the message loud and clear. You can read our full story here.

Meat factory employers

They’ve been on zeroes list before but again this week UniteLIVE highlights these exploitative employers, many of whom have refused to pay workers, whose work sites have become hot-spots for outbreaks, to self-isolate. This has only further spread the virus and caused unimaginable hardship among already very low-paid workers.

There has recently been one exception to the rule in the food processing industry, thanks to Unite’s negotiations with management – at Rowan Foods in Wrexham, where the firm agreed to pay their workers company sick pay for anyone who must self-isolate.

Unite welcomed the news on Thursday (July 8), but there are still far too many food processing workers, many of them exploited migrants, who are being placed in an impossible situation – forced to choose between their health or their livelihoods.

You can read our full story, where one meat factory worker ‘Alex’, speaks out about their dire situation, here. You can also listen to Unite’s Scott Walker speak on the Jeremy Vine show on the issue in the clip below:

By Hajera Blagg

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