Heroes and zeroes

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

Reading time: 7 min

Each week amid the coronavirus epidemic, UniteLIVE has been highlighting the heroes — those who are risking their lives caring for others and making a difference in their communities — as well as the zeroes, those who are taking advantage of the crisis to let us all down.

Here are this week’s heroes and zeroes.


  • Frontline workers who’ve paid the ultimate price.

Ahead of International Workers’ Memorial Day on Tuesday (April 28), Unite pays tribute to the heroes who have died after contracting coronavirus. They put their lives on the line — often without adequate protective kit — to care for and help others.

Today, Real Britain columnist Ros Wynne-Jones highlights the story of Nicu Enciu, who served as a fireman in his home country of Romania before coming to the UK to work as a bus driver. Tragically, he died this month after contracting coronavirus.

Don’t forget to join us for a minute’s silence at 11am on Tuesday, April 28 to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day and honour all those who have died in work – and to demand the protections all workers need.

  • Ambulance workers

In the last several weeks, UniteLive has highlighted different frontline workers in the epidemic, from nurses to supermarket workers, delivery drivers, bus drivers and more. Today we pay a special tribute to ambulance workers, who like other NHS workers are risking their lives to save others.

This week, Unite honoured Unite member Gerallt Davies, the first member of the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust to die with Covid-19.

Gerallt was based at Cwmbwrla Station in Swansea. He joined the Ambulance Service in 1994 and was awarded an MBE in 2019 for services to first aid provision in Wales. He was also the national operations officer for St John Ambulance Cymru.

London Ambulance Service
  • The Larder

Like many community initiatives popping up around the country to support those most in need in the crisis, the Larder in Lancashire is making a massive difference in their community.

The Larder is a social enterprise in Preston that promotes healthy, local and seasonal food. When the coronavirus crisis hit, the folks at the Larder sprang into action and now are providing thousands of nutritious, home-cooked meals to the most vulnerable in their community.

Find out more below and watch out for a special UniteLive story on the Larder next week.

  • Casual hotel workers organising – and winning!

Unite celebrated a key victory in the hospitality sector after Marriott International, which owns one of the leading hotel chains in the world, agreed to furlough all 1,500 of its casual workers at the 60 of its managed UK hotels.

After workers organised themselves and challenged their employer through Unite, casual staff as well as the UK hotel chain’s permanent workforce will now benefit from the government’s job retention scheme, where workers who are forced to stop working because of the coronavirus epidemic will have 80 per cent of their wages covered by the state. In exchange, companies must agree to keep their staff on.

Find out more in our full story here.

  • Louie Whitehill, aged 9, and his social distancing advice

Sometimes kids say the darnedest things — and they also give the best advice. Social distancing is the central measure that is now keeping us all safe. Earlier this week, nine-year-old Louie gave UniteLive readers some tips on social distancing. Find out more here.


  • Unsafe construction sites

Since the beginning of the UK-wide lockdown, Unite has highlighted construction employers that are failing to implement social distancing and other safety measures.

Now, Unite has launched a hotline for construction workers to inform the union whenever workers in the sector feel their health and safety is being compromised.

Find out more in the video below:

  • Safran Seats UK

Unite has called out Safran Seats UK for its decision to axe 399 jobs instead of taking advantage of the government’s job retention scheme to save jobs.

Safran S.A. is a French multinational aircraft engine, rocket engine, aerospace-component and defence company. It employs over 95,000 people and generated 24.64bn euros in sales in 2019.

“Unite is extremely concerned by Safran Seats UK’s decision to announce the redundancy threat to 399 highly skilled workers, totalling 25 per cent of its workforce across its four UK sites,” commented Unite national officer for aerospace Rhys McCarthy.

“The government’ job retention scheme, now extended until the end of June, that trade unions, including Unite, lobbied for was put in place to avoid this kind of knee jerk reaction.

“It is appalling that the company has not used this scheme to its full extent to buy time to look at alternatives to this massive jobs’ cull. It has applied for the JRS and should have continued to go down that route, instead of opting for immediate widespread redundancies as the first option.”

  • Hard Rock Hotels

This week Hard Rock Hotels staffed by GHL has found itself in the spotlight for bullying workers into forced contract changes. They confirmed plans to lay off workers without pay once the government’s job retention scheme ends.

  • Ecobat Battery Technologies

This week a Unite delivery driver reported that when delivering to Ecobat Battery Technologies in Shrewsbury, he was reportedly not allowed to use toilet facilities when he asked.

Unite has warned that denying driver access to toilets and washing facilities is illegal and potentially lethal during a pandemic. The union has long campaigned for driver access to facilities – which is a legal right – and will continue to call out firms who deny workers this right.


If you have an ideas for people or employers who should be on our weekly heroes and zeroes list, get in touch at [email protected]

Also if you’ve been affected by the virus and want to tell us about it then let us know. We’re especially interested if you have any positive news, especially if you’ve been helping or have been helped by others.

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