Heroes and zeroes

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

Reading time: 7 min

Each and every week, heroes and ‘zeroes’ have emerged in the coronavirus crisis. Here are this week’s latest


  • Rainbow kids

As UniteLIVE higlighted earlier this week, many people from all walks of life have been putting rainbows in their windows to try and spread some joy in these difficult times and to show our love and appreciation for our NHS and key workers.

A Facebook group set up to get children to draw and display rainbows so that other local children can go rainbow spotting when out for some daily exercise now has over 121,000 members and is still growing daily.

Unite has this week hosted a rainbow contest – the winner will be announced later today on Unite’s Instagram. Unite salutes all those children and adults who are putting out rainbows and doing their bit – however small – to cheer up everyone suffering through the crisis.


  • Local Government Association (LGA) pay offer

Local government workers, from refuse collectors to street cleaners to carers, crematorium workers, teaching assistants and others have played an absolutely vital role in the coronavirus crisis. They deserve our utmost gratitude — and the most tangible way we can honour their work is with a decent pay rise.

That’s why Unite has slammed the LGA for announcing a paltry pay rise of 2.75% for 2020/21 — far short of the 10% claim for this year. The LGA has already asked the government to fund an additional pay increase – Unite and other unions are now calling for employers to send a joint letter to the government urging them to reward staff properly.

Unite national officer for local government Jim Kennedy said, “This is a totally unrealistic offer, especially given the current crisis where it is our frontline local authority workers who are protecting our communities and vital services, caring for our young and our vulnerable elderly, collecting our rubbish, cleaning our streets, and working in our crematoria to ensure dignity for those who have, sadly, fallen victim to this terrible virus.

“We know the public are appreciative and supportive of our frontline council workforce. Unfortunately, the local government employers are not mirroring public opinion with this low offer, seemingly oblivious to their many years of cynically undervaluing some of the public sector’s lowest paid workers.”

A rash of arson attacks on phone masts have been attributed to people peddling the false conspiracy theory that 5G roll-out is linked to coronavirus.

One phone mast that was set on fire served the Nightingale Hospital in Birmingham, which left people unable to say goodbye to their dying loved ones.

Anti-racist organisation Hope Not Hate also discovered a link between these conspiracies theories and far-right groups.

Hope Not Hate researcher Gregory Davis said, “People seeking out information on the 5G controversy in Facebook groups will soon find themselves exposed to any number of alternative conspiracy theories, many only tangentially related to 5G. Many of these theories are implicitly or explicitly anti-Semitic, with the rollout of 5G and many other alleged crimes being laid at the feet of prominent Jewish individuals or organisations.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock was widely mocked this week after announcing a new pin badge for care workers with the word ‘care’.

Hancock said, “This badge will be a badge of honour in a very real sense, allowing social care staff proudly and publicly to identify themselves, just like NHS staff do with that famous blue and white logo.”

Care workers and others were quick to point out that what care workers need with urgency is not empty gestures but PPE, testing and a decent wage After all, despite risking their lives caring for our loved ones, carers are among the UK’s lowest earners.

Conservative councillor Rupert Turpin, who is also a director for council outsourcing firm Norse Medway was caught red-handed with posts on Twitter making light of PPE. This has happened against a backdrop of Unite being in dispute with Norse Medway over refuse workers’ safety. The union had raised concerns over lack of proper social distancing, PPE, sanitizers and washing facilities. While Unite had won some concessions, Norse Medway has since derecognised Unite.

Turpin’s Twitter posts were met with harsh criticism given Norse Medway’s attitude to safety for refuse workers. Turpin has since taken down the posts but not before Unite captured them.

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