Heroes and zeroes

UniteLIVE brings you the latest heroes and zeroes amid the coronavirus crisis

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


easyJet and Dnata Catering members fighting for their livelihoods

This week, Unite members working for two aviation companies which have made brutal cuts on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic brought their call for the government to provide long-promised support to the sector to Parliament.

The workers – all members of Unite, which organised the demonstration – included those currently employed by low cost airline easyJet and Dnata Catering UK, the UK’s leading inflight caterers, as well as those who have recently lost their jobs with easyJet.

easyJet workers protested the airline’s decision on August 31 to close its bases at Newcastle, Southend and Stansted airports with the loss of over 600 cabin crew jobs. In total the company is in the process of making over 1,200 cabin crew redundant, one quarter of its entire cabin crew workforce. 

Meanwhile, Dnata Catering members are facing a ‘fire and rehire’ scenario which will see them have their pay and conditions cut and will be employed on contracts of just 20 hours a week, plunging them into poverty.

A number of Labour MPs, including Angela Rayner and Seema Malholtra among others, stood with the protesting workers in solidarity as they called for chancellor Rishi Sunak to step in and support the aviation sector.

Unite’s Unity over Division and the Battle of Stockton Campaign

Unite’s Unity over Division campaign is this year again supporting an event commemorating the Battle of Stockton, when the people of Stockton on Teesside came out in force to chase Sir Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists out of their town.

This year, because of Covid-19 restrictions , the event will be held on Facebook Live on Sunday September 6, at 11 am.

Battle of Stockton Campaign chair Sharon Bailey said, “We are proud to be supported by Unite again this year. We will be joined by Unite’s Barry Faulkner who, under the umbrella of their Unity Over Division Campaign, will be holding a discussion as part of this year’s event with young members from our region around Trade Unions role in the fight against fascism.”

Find out how you can join the Facebook Live event and a full list of speakers in our story here.

The Labour party – for supporting British shipbuilding

Following our story in UNITElive earlier this month on the campaign to build the Royal Naval Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ships within the UK, the Labour party is now backing Unite and the other unions involved, with a new campaign ‘Built in Britain’ and a petition.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner for manufacturing welcomed Labour’s support and urged everyone to sign the petition.

He said, “If ever there was a ‘shovel ready’ project, it is FSS – and it’s great to hear that Labour supports that view. It will pump prime £1.3bn into regional economies and protect 40,000 jobs in the supply chain.

“Labour believes in our incredible workforce so why can’t the government?  It’s simple – building our Royal Naval Fleet Support Ships here in UK shipyards is essential to maintain both jobs and essential skills between the end of the carrier programme and future naval procurements.”

You can read our full story here.


Health secretary Matt Hancock – for failing low-waged workers

We’ve featured health secretary Matt Hancock on zeroes list before, and again Hancock finds himself in the spotlight this week, for offering a measly £13 a day for low-waged self-isolaters.

Last week, the health secretary announced that the new ‘self-isolation payment’ applies to benefit claimants who live in areas where there are high numbers of coronavirus cases.

From Tuesday, those who claim Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit and cannot work from home will get the new ‘self-isolation payment’ – roughly the same as statutory sick pay (SSP) – equal to £13 a day.

Unite health and safety adviser Rob Miguel slammed the government’s decision to scrimp on self-isolation pay.

“Scrimping on decent pay while workers are self-isolating is a false economy and disastrous to health. There’s a temptation for workers not to isolate if they are not given enough to live on,” Miguel commented.

He added, “In turn more people will get infected which increases the risk of vulnerable people catching the virus, getting ill and possibly dying. There would be obvious increased costs as matters spiral out of control. The government needs to wake up and smell the coffee, put their hands in their pockets, save money in the long run, and most importantly save lives.”

You can read our full story here.

A new app which could open the door to more construction blacklisting

An app which rates the performance of asbestos workers could potentially be used to blacklist and discriminate against workers, Unite has warned this week.

The app was launched on Tuesday (September 1) by the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA).

However, after a close reading of how the app appears to work and in particular the way that contractors rate operatives, Unite is concerned that the app could be used to victimise and blacklist workers.

Unite has written to Jason Day, the chairman of ARCA raising its concerns.

“Unite is fully committed to the underlying principle that asbestos removal work must be undertaken by trained workers who undertake the work safely,” Unite national officer for construction Ian Woodland said.

“However, Unite fears that in an attempt to ensure competency levels, ARCA has created a system which allows unscrupulous contractors to victimise and blacklist workers who, for example, may have challenged dangerous working practices, giving them a low score when rating their ability.”

You can read our full story here.

Heathrow Airport

This week Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) issued section 188 notices, which means they can now fire and rehire up to 4,700 of its employees on inferior contracts.

The action of Heathrow airport follows negotiations between HAL and Unite last month on the company’s proposals to cut pay by 24 per cent for some workers, slash allowances, impose inferior conditions and to also close the company pension scheme.

Unite is currently formally putting the proposals to the workforce in a consultative ballot.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said, “HAL’s actions are extremely unhelpful and further undermine confidence in the industry.

“HAL’s actions have made already difficult negotiations even more fraught.

“It should not be forgotten that HAL is an incredibly wealthy company at the start of the pandemic it boasted of a £3.2 billion war chest,” he added. “These attacks in pay are not about survival but introducing measures to boost future profits.

“Unite urges HAL to withdraw this ill-judged attack on its loyal workforce and to return to the negotiating table as had been previously agreed.”

Find out more in the story below.

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke last week slammed the potential decision by the UK government to appoint the discredited former Australian prime minister Tony Abbot as a trade envoy for the UK.

Unite has joined a growing chorus of voices, including the Labour Party, against the appointment of Abbott.

Burke wrote in a comment piece for UniteLIVE, “According to one senior Aussie trade union official who Unite has a good working relationship with, Abbott is loathed even by his own Liberal Party, and on his watch the Australian automotive industry closed. Our source went onto say, ‘He has no negotiating skills to speak of, is a complete novice on world trade as well as being a climate change denier and a misogynist.’

“In 2021 the UK is hosting the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow,” Burke continued. “Hiring a man who called climate change “absolute crap”, likened climate action to “killing goats to appease volcano gods” and repealed Australia’s carbon price, looks like another appalling decision.

“As my union comrade down under told me, ‘Abbott should fit right into Johnson and Cummings’ Britain.’ I’m sure it won’t take us long to see just how right that view is.”

You can read Tony’s full comment piece here.

By Hajera Blagg

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