Why furlough when you can sack?

Cases of no furlough pay and even sackings – UNITELive investigates two stories of bad bosses

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A Giant tale of ‘bad faith’

Our first story takes us to Derby and Washington, where the Giant agency has been accused of ‘bad faith’ after appearing to renege on a promise to furlough about 300 workers working on Rolls-Royce contracts – which means they have not been paid for a month.

Unite reported today (May 6) that Giant had promised on April 17 that the workers would be furloughed under the government job retention scheme (JRS) – meaning they would receive at least 80 per cent of their pay.

But Unite said the members had not received a penny in the last month – leaving them in dire financial straits, with confusion reigning, and the company sending out mixed messages over the progress – or not – of the JRS application.

Unite estimates that about 270 workers were on the Derby contract and 27 at Washington.

Unite officer with responsibility for Rolls-Royce in Derby, Tony Tinley, said, “Both ethically and morally, Giant should be accessing all monies available to ensure employees receive pay.  We urge Giant to do the right thing – otherwise, it is guilty of bad faith, as the agency promised in April that the workers would be furloughed, after work finished for them at the end of March.”

‘Worst possible predicament’

“Giant agency workers have been left in the worst possible predicament – they have not received any wages for well over a month which is causing financial hardship for their families and impacting on their mental health,” commented Unite regional coordinator Suzanne Reid, on the situation for members on assignments at Rolls-Royce Washington.

“We’ve had mixed messages from the company over whether the JRS application is being progressed or not. It appears that they could be reneging on what was agreed in mid-April,” added Reid.

Tinley and Reid’s views were echoed by Washington and Sunderland West MP, Sharon Hodgson.

“I am bitterly disappointed that Giant have failed to ensure their employees receive the financial support they are entitled to,” Hodgson said.

“As our country faces the biggest challenge in peacetime, it is unforgiveable that companies are placing their workers in such financial difficulty.

“Alongside Unite, I have been contacting Giant on behalf of several constituents of mine for weeks, asking them to do the right thing and providing them with clear guidance from the government. This delay and obfuscation cannot continue,’’ Hodgson added.


Sacking replaces furlough for Ryanair’s ground handler workers

And in our second disturbing report, Unite today accused Blue Handling at Stansted Airport – a firm which provides services to Ryanair – of cruelly sacking over a hundred workers instead of using the government’s job retention scheme (JRS).

In March the company wrote to 110 staff to terminate their contracts and a second letter was sent out confirming they would not be furloughed.

“Unite has been working with the company to find ways to minimise any potential costs,” reported Unite regional officer Mark Barter.

“The union has made a number of proposals but their employer ABM has decided not to do the right thing for their former employees.

‘Extreme distress’

“Instead of using the government’s job retention scheme to furlough the workers, management callously sacked staff in the middle of a pandemic to minimise costs, causing their families extreme distress. This decision goes completely against the purpose of the government’s Job Retention Scheme.

“The Stansted branch of Unite are demanding that Blue Handling rehire these workers and take advantage of the government’s scheme without delay. Our momentum at grass roots level to oppose ABM’s decision is growing considerably,” continued Barter.

He concluded, “This demonstrates why the government needs to change the law so that employees can claim unfair dismissal from day one rather than having to suffer insecurity and exploitation for two years before having any employment protection.”

Blue Handling was set up by Ryanair and OmniServ in February 2019 to provide ground services to Ryanair at Stansted. OmniServ became ABM Aviation UK Limited on January 23, 2020. The company provides services including, check-in, baggage handling, and runway services.

Sign the petition

  • The workers have created a petition calling on ABM management to reinstate the workers and place them on furlough – sign today to support them.

Compiled by Amanda Campbell @amanda_unite  

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