Heroes and zeroes

UniteLIVE highlights the latest heroes and zeroes amid coronavirus crisis

Reading time: 7 min

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


Unite hospitality members

People working in the hospitality sector have been among the worst-hit amid the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown. Many have been made redundant or face redundancy in the weeks and months to come. Despite the bleak picture, Unite hospitality members aren’t going to give up without a fight.

This week, they held two socially-distanced in London and Belfast, to press their case to central and devolved governments and demand specific measures to save their jobs. They have also called out hospitality employers, who Unite has argued are abusing the furlough scheme by taking money from the government but then sacking or planning to sack their workers.

You can find out more in our full story here.

Labour MP and BEIS select committee chair Darren Jones

Another hospitality hero this week is Labour MP Darren Jones, who serves as the chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee, for raising the issue of tipping legislation in the Commons this week.

Unite has long campaigned on reform of tipping practices, so that waiters and others in the hospitality industry get to keep 100 per cent of their tips. Successive Tory governments have for the last four years promised to introduce legislation on tipping but have so far broken their promises.

Watch Darren Jones raise the issue in the video below – and read our full story here.

Unite easyJet cabin crew

Another group of workers standing up for their jobs and the future of their vocation are Unite’s cabin crew members at easyJet.

This week they’ve staged a series of socially distanced demonstrations at Southend, Stansted and Newcastle Airports after the airline announced it would be closing crew bases at each of the airports, putting more than a 1,000 jobs at risk.

The demonstrations are part of Unite’s new Orange Outrage campaign. You can find out more about the campaign here.


The government – for threatening public sector pay ‘restraint’

This week’s public sector pay announcement – where less than a fifth of public sector workers were granted a pay rise – was followed almost immediately by the government warning of continued austerity.

While only a fraction of public sector workers were given pay rises of up to 3.1 per cent, including doctors, dentists, teachers, prison guards, armed forces staff and a few others, the announcement this week raised hopes that there may be more pay rises for a wider swathe of public sector workers in the months to come.

But those hopes were dashed after it was revealed that chancellor Rishi Sunak quietly sent a letter to the heads of government departments warning that future pay rises may be off the table.

The letter read, “Furthermore, this financial year’s public-sector pay awards will be significantly more than the average in the private sector… therefore for reasons of fairness, we must exercise restraint in future public-sector pay rewards. Departments’ pay modelling should reflect this fairness.”

The letter also warned of ‘tough choices’ to be made on various budgets, prompting fears of a return to austerity.

Most NHS staff are part of an Agenda for Change pay deal – and so incredibly didn’t receive any pay rise this week despite all their sacrifices amid the pandemic.

The Agenda for Change pay deal, struck in 2018, doesn’t expire until next year, but Unite is pressing the government to award these workers an early pay rise. The union is also calling for other public sector workers to be included in a significant pay rise, such as care and local authority workers.

You can read our full story here.

Sexist bosses

This week UniteLIVE has highlighted how sexism in the office doesn’t end when office workers are asked to work from home, as a majority of them are now amid the pandemic.

A new poll found that a third of women working from home amid the pandemic have been subject to sexist requests from their bosses, such as being asked to ‘dress sexier’ for work video calls.

Unite has condemned this behaviour, which is unlawful, and urges women to join a union. You can read our full story here.

Immingham ferry operator DFDS Seaways

Far too many employers are taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis to attack workers’ pay and terms and conditions. The latest example is Immingham ferry operator DFDS Seaways, which plans to cut 62 positions from its 600 strong Immingham workforce and reduce overtime rates and other benefits for hourly paid staff. Unite has said this is wholly unnecessary given steadily increasing freight volumes since the lockdown’s peak in April.

DFDS, where Unite has around 300 members, wants to cut overtime rates from time and a half to basic and implement other measures that will negatively impact hours, shift patterns and pay for workers on hourly wages.

Unite regional officer Mike Wilkinson said, “DFDS Seaways is using Covid-19 as an excuse to cut jobs and make brutal attacks on its Immingham workforce’s terms and conditions.

“While many companies have rewarded their staff for working through the lockdown, DFDS at Immingham has chosen instead to punish its employees with redundancies and pay cuts. We consider this action by the company to be grossly unfair and opportunism of the worst kind.”

You can read our full story here.

By Hajera Blagg

Related Articles