Heroes and zeroes

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

Reading time: 8 min

In our latest ‘heroes and zeroes’ list of the coronavirus crisis, we hear from more unsung legends who are keeping the country going. And as ever, we never shy away from calling out the zeroes in this crisis who are failing to stand up for their workers and communities at a time of need. Here’s this week’s list.


  • Bus workers

Bus workers have always been heroes in our towns, cities and villages. As the country’s most popular and most affordable mode of public transport, bus services help keep our communities connected, while those who run them work long, hard hours.

But now bus workers have emerged as one of the most vital essential workers in the coronavirus crisis as they transport essential workers like doctors and nurses to and from work. They are very literally risking their lives to help others — earlier this week it emerged that several bus drivers have died after contracting coronavirus.

Unite is now working tirelessly to ensure they get the PPE and other safety protections they need. The union is also reiterating the call to the public to stay at home to save lives.

Hear Unite’s Pete Kavanagh’s message to bus worker members below:

  • Brompton Bicycle workers

Workers for Brompton Bicycle, many of whom are Unite members, have joined in the national effort in their own special way. They’re now hard at work manufacturing the iconic foldable bikes as part of a unique crowdfunding project , called Wheels for Heroes, that aims to provide an alternative mode of transport for NHS staff.

“It’s really amazing knowing that in some way we will be helping to ease the stress of NHS workers getting to and from work without having to worry about public transport,” said Unite member Brian (pictured), who works on the production line at Brompton Bike. “I’m very pleased to be doing something to help those who help us in times of need.”

You can read our full story about the Wheels for Heroes campaign here.

  • NHS superheroes (now as cartoons!)

NHS workers are as ever the epitome of heroism amid a deadly pandemic that continues to claim more and more lives each and every day. They’re risking their lives to treat and care for patients across the UK, both those with coronavirus and without.

Unite Community’s very own Jamie Caldwell has begun a new project to cheer up our NHS workers and the wider public. This is how it works – you nominate an NHS worker you know, send Jamie a picture and he’ll draw a cartoon of your nominee. The cartoons are shared on social media with information about the worker and what makes them a hero.

  • Workers feeding the nation

Workers in the food, drink and agriculture sector — from supermarket shelf stackers to those on food production lines to farm workers and more — are absolutely indispensable in this crisis. And just like NHS workers they are risking their lives to keep us all healthy.

Unite FDA national officers Bev Clarkson and Joe Clarke paid tribute this week to the work of Unite’s unsung heroes, our members who work in food processing, farming, agriculture, supermarkets – all working tirelessly to feed the nation from plough to plate.

“The FDA sector of Unite would like to send a big thank you to all unsung heroes who are currently working to feed the nation,” said Clarkson. “These workers are key workers often working in difficult conditions to bring food to our tables.”


  • Rogue landlords

While the government has announced some protections for private renters during the crisis, including protection from eviction over the next three months, some rogue landlords are still up to their old tricks — shockingly, even with those who are essential workers.

Sky News reports that three junior doctors were asked to leave their property after they told their landlord they couldn’t afford to pay full rent.

You can read more about your rights as a tenant during the coronavirus epidemic on Shelter’s webpage here.

  • ‘Cruel’ hospitality bosses

UniteLive has long been calling out cruel bosses in hospitality who are not doing right by their workers. Today (April 9) Unite higlighted a new bunch of employers in hospitality who are up to no good, including the owners of Hard Rock Cafe and Hotels, Firmdale Hotels, JD Wetherspoons and Queen Margaret Union Glasgow* for the way they’ve treated their bar workers. All have been changing workers’ contracts detrimentally under the radar.

  • ASOS

Online retailer ASOS is in the spotlight after it was revealed it has planned to sack dozens of delivery drivers, despite the government’s job retention scheme which enables firms to keep workers with 80 per cent of their wages paid by the state. Find out more in the petition below

  • Global Foods in Cardiff

A Unite campaign has stopped a Cardiff based food wholesaler from attempting to cruelly sack over a hundred low paid workers.

Global Foods in Cardiff sacked all its 117 workers days after the government’s job retention scheme was announced, leaving workers jobless in the middle of the Coronovirus crisis.

But a handful of workers who belonged to Unite contacted their union and Unite initiated a hard-hitting campaign which ensured the workers were furloughed instead of being sacked.

When Global Foods attempted to argue that workers with less than two years’ service should still lose their jobs, Unite intervened again and the company quickly reversed its decision.

Unite regional officer, Alan McCarthy said, “A hard-hitting campaign by Unite has stopped Global Foods in Cardiff from cruelly sacking workers in the middle of this unprecedented health crisis. Unite’s influence in the workplace combined with political and community pressure ensured bosses at Global Foods reversed their decision and have now thankfully furloughed the workers.”

  • A previous version of this piece incorrectly stated Queen Margaret University Edinburgh instead of Queen Margaret Union Glasgow. This has now been amended and we apologise unreservedly for the error.

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