Heroes and zeroes

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

Reading time: 7 min

Each Friday on UniteLIVE, we bring you all the latest heroes and zeroes amid the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the devastating crisis we’ve been thrust into, countless people have managed to help others and stand up for what’s right. Meanwhile, others – from employers to certain government advisers (ahem) – are failing us just when we need them to show leadership. Here are this week’s heroes and zeroes:


Health and safety reps

They’ve always been the lifeblood of trade unions, making sure one of our most fundamental rights — a safe working environment — are maintained to the highest standards. But now health and safety reps have assumed an even greater importance against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

Find out what Unite and its health and safety reps are up to now to ensure a safe return to work for its members in the film below:

Celebrities backing BA workers

Last week, Unite launched a campaign to pressure British Airways to do the right thing, after it emerged the airline plans to sack its entire workforce of more than 42,000 workers and rehire them on worse contracts. These new contracts could see staff lose up to 70 per cent of their pay. The plans are on top of another announcement BA made outlining proposals to permanently sack 12,000 workers.

Celebrities from actors to presenters, comedians and more have backed Unite’s campaign to defend loyal BA staff. Here are some of the latest celebrity endorsements:

Trade union members!

That’s right – every single one of you is a hero and deserves recognition for collectively fighting for better workplaces for all. This week new figures showed that trade union membership has increased for the third year running, with a massive rise of 91,000 new members in the last year alone.

You can read our full story here. And if you haven’t yet joined a union, find out more here.

Ed Miliband – for standing up for steelworkers

Shadow business secretary and former Labour leader Ed Miliband this week wrote to the government calling on ministers to stand up for steel workers, who need their support if they are to make it through this crisis.

“Ministers should boost the steel industry now as a cornerstone sector for a strong and sustained economic recovery,” Miliband wrote.

“Britain will need a resilient and revitalised manufacturing base in order to provide construction and infrastructure projects with a stable supply of domestic steel.

You can read our full story here.


Dominic Cummings

At the top of our zeroes list this week is government adviser Dominic Cummings for brazenly breaking lockdown rules and later refusing to resign despite mounting pressure from all political parties and the wider public.

Unite believes Cummings’ behaviour is a slap in the face to all the essential workers who are risking their lives in this pandemic, as well as all Britons who have made great sacrifices to stick to the rules – including in some cases not being able to say goodbye to loved ones who succumbed to the virus.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner hit the nail right on the head in his tweet.

British Airways

As explained in our heroes list, British Airways’ treatment of its workforce at this time of crisis is truly beyond the pale. Its plans to sack 12,000 workers permanently and force tens of thousands more on contracts that will slash their pay by 70 per cent will cause needless suffering at a time when government support is available.

This week it emerged that BA’s top boss Willie Walsh wrote a shocking email to MPs, pledging to force through the job cuts despite the mounting criticism he faces.

Even Tory MP Huw Merriman agrees that British Airways’ actions are deplorable and must be stopped.


Budget airliner easyJet is another company in aviation who makes our zeroes list this week. On Thursday, they announced plans to make about 4,500 of their workers redundant – which accounts for 30 per cent of its total workforce.

Unite branded the decision ‘unnecessarily hasty’, with Unite officer for easyJet Lindsey Olliver highlighting that the airline has benefited from the furlough scheme and a government backed loan. She also noted easyJet has failed to consult with the union on the proposed job losses.

You can read our full story here.

Cleaning companies

Commercial cleaning companies have always been known for their notoriously poor treatment of their workforce. But during the pandemic, they’ve doubled down on their ruthlessness by forcing many cleaners to return to work without adequate PPE.

Unite’s Janet MacLeod explains in the clip below:

By Hajera Blagg

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