Heroes and zeroes

UniteLIVE highlights the latest heroes and zeroes amid coronavirus crisis

Reading time: 9 min

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


Unite member Kofi Opoku

This week Unite paid special tribute to Unite member and bus driver Kofi Opoku – who died from coronavirus earlier this week amid the second wave of the pandemic. Kofi worked for Metrobus and was based at the Croydon garage in south London.

Unite has vowed to escalate its campaign to introduce stricter safety measures for London buses.

“The death of Kofi Opoku is a terrible reminder of the horrible human cost of Covid-19,” Unite lead officer for London buses John Murphy said.

“Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.

Find out more about Unite’s campaign fighting for bus driver safety – so that no bus driver meets the same fate as Kofi or any of his dozens of colleagues who likewise perished doing their jobs – in our full story here.

Caerphilly County Borough Council and Unite’s Unity over Division campaign

Unite’s Unity over Division (UoD) campaign has received yet another boost after Caerphilly County Borough Council in Wales became the second employer to sign the campaign’s workplace charter this week – and the first ever local authority in the UK.

It’s also the first time that other unions have jumped on board to embrace the Unite initiative.

Unite, GMB and Unison signed the charter with Caerphilly County Borough Council on Tuesday (October 6) which has committed all parties to work together to promote a more tolerant and inclusive place of work, with a radical vision of equality at its heart.

Unite regional equalities officer Jo Galazka said, “We hope this is the start of something big to encourage other local authorities to do the same. “Caerphilly Council is the biggest employer in the area and they recognise the role they have. It’s not just in the workplace – it’s wider than that. People look to the council as the moral compass; they look to them for guidance and a steer on anything that may be happening in our communities. They also have a very wide reach, since their influence also extends into schools.”

Find out more in our full story here.

Unite’s mental health nurses and the union’s wider psychology family

Saturday (October 10) marks World Mental Health Day and this year Unite pays special tribute to its members working in mental health and psychology, such as Unite’s mental health nurses.

Commenting on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on health workers in general, Unite lead professional officer for mental health Dave Munday said, “Health sector workers themselves have shown how Covid-19 is resting on top of very difficult circumstances. For example one area that Unite/Mental Health Nurses Association has been working on is the distressing research that shows female nurses, pre-Covid-19, had a risk of suicide 23 per cent above the risk in women in other occupations.

“Whilst our members have been less able to come together to support each other in person, we have developed new resources for members so they can come together virtually including our popular weekly #mhTV on the Unite/MHNA Facebook page. Any Unite member is welcome to get involved.”

You can read more about World Mental Health Day, and how the pandemic has shined an even brighter spotlight on mental health in our full story here.

Unite’s Work Voice Pay campaign

Amid the pandemic, there’s been an explosion in home working, and Unite says employers should reach homeworking agreements to avoid an industrial minefield when turning workers’ homes into a place of work.

Unite’s Work Voice Pay has produced a new framework homeworking agreement to assist Unite workplace representatives in their negotiations with employers – major new development in these unprecedented times.

Unite executive officer Sharon Graham said, “Covid-19 is leading to an explosion in homeworking. There are dangers as well as opportunities for workers and it is in everyone’s interest to ensure homeworking is introduced properly and fairly. Unite has produced a set of minimum standards that we expect all employers to adhere to as part of negotiations.

You can read our full story here.


DWP secretary Therese Coffey

DWP secretary Theresa Coffey’s comments this week that cabin crew should retrain as care workers were met with widespread criticism.

Cabin crew – who face the destruction of their entire careers after the government has failed to deliver on its promise to grant the aviation industry sector-specific support as other countries in Europe and globally have done – were especially furious.

Unite national officer for civil air transport Oliver Richardson said, “Therese Coffey’s comments are just crass. They are as insensitive as they are ill informed and only serve to show how out of touch government is.

“Aviation workers throughout the UK are worried sick about their future and quite literally don’t know if they’ll have a job next week,” he added. “Tens of thousands of aviation workers have already lost their jobs. Her focus as minister of work should be on saving as many jobs as possible, not throwing in the towel on a vitally important sector of the economy.”

You can read our full story here.

Heathrow Airport

Horrific pay cuts of up to £8,000 a year being imposed on thousands of Heathrow airport workers are the cost of eye-watering levels of debt and excessive payments to directors and shareholders, Unite claimed this week

Research by Unite, released to coincide with the beginning of an industrial action ballot by members employed at Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL), lays out a catalogue of financial mismanagement and greed at the UK’s leading airport demonstrating that it is this and not the pandemic, as the airport claims, which has brought it to its present unstable financial position.

Unite says that 4,000 workers, many of whom are being asked to lose a quarter of their salary and are facing destitution as a result, are the UK’s latest victims of ‘bandit capitalism’ whereby the costs of bad boardroom decisions and reckless financial practices are dropped onto innocent workers.

You can read our full story here and find out more in the video below:

XPO logistics

XPO Logistics, a major logistics company that Amazon, Ikea, Nestle, Walmart and other popular retailers have relied on to service customers worldwide throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, has been putting its global workforce at heightened risk of contracting and spreading the virus, says a new report released by an international coalition of labour groups. 

XPO Logistics markets itself as a global leader in providing transport, logistics and last mile delivery services. It provides these services to internationally recognised companies, including Amazon, ASOS, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, IKEA, Nestle, Peloton, Starbucks, Target, Verizon and Walmart. XPO operates in 30 countries with 97,000 employeesand 1,506 locations. XPOreported more than $16 billion in total revenue in 2019, and its billionaire CEO, Bradley Jacobs, made $26 million the same year.

The report is the first to examine the logistics company’s treatment of thousands of workers worldwide. In addition to revealing a negligent Covid-19 response and deadly outbreaks in its facilities, the report details how XPO subjects its employees to wage theft and exploitation, hazardous work environments riddled with health and safety violations, pregnancy and gender discrimination, sexual harassment and extreme anti-union tactics.

“Deaths. Discrimination. Wage theft. Sexual Harassment. Health and safety violations. COVID-19 exposure. The list of allegations that XPO has to answer goes on and on, crossing borders to countries spanning the globe,” said Stephen Cotton, General Secretary at International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), of which Unite is a member. 

Find out more in our full story here.

By Hajera Blagg

Related Articles