Tag Archives: Health

Poll of passengers and public finds British Airways damaging brand

New poll:  British Airways damaging brand and should face review of privileged landing rights, say public and passengers in response to ‘fire and rehire’ move 

  • 70% of the public say BA’s ‘fire and rehire’ scheme wrong.
  • By a 3-1 ratio (61% vs 20%) public say BA is taking advantage of a national crisis to boost shareholder profits.
  • 69% believe the current landing slot arrangements should be reviewed.

A new poll reveals that the British public backs tough action against British Airways over its ‘fire and rehire’ plans, with both Conservative and Labour voters giving strong support for the introduction of legislation to strip the nation’s flag carrying airline of its privileged access to UK landing slots.

The poll of over 2000 people, including over 1219 BA passengers across the UK, conducted by Survation, reveals that 69% of all those surveyed believed the government should review the UK’s current arrangements on landing slots (vs just 16% saying the government should not) with 76% of Conservative voters backing a review.

British Airways stands accused of using a global health pandemic as cover to impose a long-term plan to ‘fire and rehire‘ the majority of its staff in order to re-engage them on inferior terms and conditions while making up to 12,00 redundant.

The majority of those polled believe BA is wrong to terminate staff and re-employ them on reduced terms and conditions in the middle of a health crisis (70%) and just 14% of those polled trusted BA to give out fair and accurate information.

Unite executive officer, Sharon Graham said:“It’s clear that Britain wants the government to get tough on the nation’s flag carrying airline for its disgraceful plans to fire and rehire its staff while cutting thousands of jobs. 

“The airline is stripping its loyal workforce of their terms and conditions while sacking thousands in the middle of a health crisis. If BA press ahead to create a new and unrecognisable airline, it should not continue to benefit from its domination of lucrative legacy take-off and landing slots.

“British Airways has lost the trust of its workforce, politicians and the country. The only way British Airways can retrieve its reputation as the world’s best loved airline and protect its lucrative landing slots, is to withdraw its unprecedented attack on staff and enter into sensible negotiations.”

In a statistic that should alarm BA, the poll revealed that almost half (49%) of those polled who have travelled with BA in the past say they are less likely to use the airline in the future given the dispute, with the number rising to 53% for respondents who fly with BA three times a year.

Danger of ‘second spike’ if no action on public transport to enforce face coverings and social distancing

Unite, which represents workers throughout public transport including over 80,000 bus workers, is warning that a ‘second spike in Covid-19 infections is becoming ever more likely due to increasing non-compliance with face covering and social distancing rules on public transport.

Unite warning

Unite issued its warning today (Friday 26 June) after transport secretary Grant Shapps announced that bus and rail timetables will return to 85 per cent of normal services in early July.

However, Unite is increasingly concerned that the rules on wearing masks/face coverings and maintaining social distancing on public transport are frequently being ignored, which dramatically increases the risk of infection.

Police powers

Only the police have the power to fine someone for flouting the rules on face coverings. It is responsibility of bus operators, not bus drivers, to prevent overcrowding and to order passengers not following the rules to leave a vehicle.

Second spike

Unite national officer for public transport Bobby Morton said: “Unite members are increasingly reporting the rules on face coverings and social distancing on public transport, especially buses, are being flouted.

“With the frequency of public transport increasing and passenger numbers rising, the danger of a second spike will be greatly increased unless decisive action is taken to ensure the rules are followed.

“It is not the role of bus drivers, nor do they have the power, to prevent someone without a face covering from boarding a bus.

“The failure of bus operators and the police to deal with this increasing problem is potentially risking the health of bus workers and passengers, and could have disastrous consequences for the nation’s public health.”

Labour supports calls for an immediate commitment to pay talks for NHS workers

Speaking at a virtual NHS rally this afternoon, Labour Leader Keir Starmer will say:

“This weekend we celebrate the anniversary of our National Health Service and the incredible staff who make our NHS what it is: our nation’s proudest achievement, and our greatest asset.

“In recent months, NHS staff have served selflessly on the frontline against Covid-19. For every life tragically lost, many more have been saved by the actions of our NHS heroes.

“That’s why Labour supports those calling on the Government today to make an immediate commitment to pay talks for NHS workers.

“We know that valuing our NHS workforce, through fair pay and conditions, is crucial to tackling the many vacancies across the NHS.

“And we urge the Government to agree this deal as soon as possible, in recognition of the bravery and sacrifice shown by our healthcare heroes during this crisis.

“We cannot clap our carers for weeks, then fail to back it up with meaningful action. We must show our NHS staff the same commitment they have shown our country in its hour of need.”

Many waiting longer than 24 hours for coronavirus test results – Madders

Justin Madders MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, responding to figures that show many are waiting longer than 24 hours for coronavirus test results, said:

“We are now three weeks into the supposed world leading test and trace system and there are still a quarter of people not being contacted. There is no doubt that this is well below the levels we need to effectively contain the virus and the Government seems to be too slow again to react to these failings.

“As we now begin to see localised lockdowns we need Ministers to be far more rigorous about getting to the bottom of why the contact rate isn’t improving. The performance so far simply isn’t good enough and far from the world leading system we were promised.

“We know for there to be an effective testing and tracing system to be in place that results need to be back quickly so it’s both disappointing and concerning that the Government is moving the goalposts on its 24 hour turnaround for tests . Ministers need to come clean about the problems meeting this target and what they are going to do to put it right. The Government has been too slow on lockdown, too slow on PPE, too slow on social care – we cannot afford for it to be too slow on this as well.”

Jo Stevens responds to allegations in the Sunday Times that Boris Johnson promised to change the maximum legal jackpot for Health Lottery to £1million

Jo Stevens MP Shadow Culture Secretary, responding to allegations in the Sunday Times that Boris Johnson promised to change the maximum legal jackpot for Health Lottery to £1million, said:

“These revelations raise further questions about the cosy relationship between Richard Desmond and the Conservative Party.

“The government has already said they plan to review gambling legislation.

“But the conversations reported in the Sunday Times do nothing to allay fears that the Tories are looking out for their friends and Party donors’ best interests, rather than addressing the need for fit for purpose gambling legislation that ensures transparency across the industry and protects those who are at risk.

 “This appears to be yet another example of behind the scenes dodgy dealing and raises more questions for the Prime Minister to answer.”

Address inequality to protect Black workers against Covid-19, says UNISON

Dave Prentis writes to Boris Johnson urging immediate action on all Public Health England’s recommendations

The government must act immediately to protect Black workers from Covid-19 by closing gaps that create health inequalities and poverty and ensuring workplaces are safe, says UNISON today (Tuesday).

The union has written to ​the Prime Minister urging him to implement all Public Health England’s (PHE) recommendations such as developing comprehensive risk assessments for Black staff to reduce their chance of coronavirus exposure and infection.

It follows ​the publication last week of a PHE report ​which concluded ​that the risk of dying is higher among BAME people than in white ethnic groups – a finding ​that UNISON says needs urgent answers.

The letter from general secretary Dave Prentis calls on the Prime Minister to take action including closing ethnicity and disability pay gaps, bringing into force laws to ask public authorities to consider how their policies increase or decrease inequality, and to set up a race advisory board to inform ​government policy-making.

In the letter, ​Dave Prentis says: “Coronavirus is inextricably linked to inequality. Urgent action is needed to close the gaps in health inequalities and poverty that accelerate susceptibility to coronavirus and life expectancy.

“​Poverty is a political choice. Ending deprivation and rising inequality must be a government priority as the UK deals with the economic, health and social challenges of the pandemic.

“Black workers and communities deserve to have the PHE report acted upon and their lives valued and protected as all others.”

Government must act immediately on second PHE BAME report

Commenting on the second report published today (Tuesday) by Public Health England (PHE) on the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black communities, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said:

“The government must act now. Words and promises to do something in the future won’t cut it any longer.

“The pandemic has brought home just how many frontline care and health employees are from Black communities. They’ve suffered a heavy toll and need better protecting now, before the almost inevitable second Covid spike.

“The government’s failure to release the PHE data and recommendations together was a huge mistake. It’s caused further mistrust and damage to the Black community at a time when people need reassurance, not dither, delay and excuses.

“More thorough risk assessments, targeted testing and moving vulnerable workers out of reach of the virus are paramount. That means recommending the use of masks and face coverings in care homes and schools too.

“People will also want to see exactly how structural and institutional racism in all areas of employment, housing, education and every other aspect of life in the UK are to be eradicated.”

Care worker pay deductions must be tackled to stop hardship and control virus spread

Some workers going unpaid while following safety guidance

Huge disparities in financial support for care workers during the pandemic show the government must act to ensure staff are not left in financial peril and become more willing to take health risks, says UNISON today (Monday).

Staff in the care sector, who need to self-isolate, shield or have the virus, have told UNISON they’re being forced to take unpaid leave or survive on minimal statutory sick pay (SSP), leaving them hundreds of pounds out of pocket each week.

Some have been told by their employers to use up annual leave or make up time for free when they return to work.

UNISON research shows the situation varies widely between employers. Many care workers complain they are being left high and dry with next to no income, even though their workplace may have been where they contracted the virus.

It means a significant number have no choice but to carry on working against public health advice because they can’t afford time off, increasing the risks of spreading the virus at work and to their family, says UNISON.

Ministers must make sure care staff who need to take time off or reduce their hours don’t lose out financially and feel compelled to work whatever the cost, says UNISON.

The union wrote to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock calling for the government to ensure that financial aid intended for care staff actually reaches them and isn’t kept by employers to cover costs.

But the response from care minister Helen Whately makes clear that cash-strapped councils will have to absorb the financial burden of monitoring and enforcing the distribution of the funding.

UNISON says the potential costs of doing this mean it’s unlikely local authorities – often with dozens of care providers in their areas – will have the resources to pursue employers who don’t pass on the cash to their staff.

The union’s research has revealed that pay arrangements for care workers who take time off while ill, isolating or shielding differ wildly.

While some good employers have allowed workers to stay off on full pay, others have fallen far short, says UNISON.

Situations reported by workers include being paid just 10% of their usual salary; receiving sick pay for a week and then SSP of £95.85 for any remaining time; being temporarily furloughed; taking time off as holiday and using up their annual entitlement; and being told to take time off as unpaid leave.

Some say they’ve been kept in the dark about arrangements, with one worker finding their wages had been reduced by £500 following a two-week absence, with no explanation about how this was calculated.

For those who have needed to shield – either for themselves or family members – just 31% were fully paid, a UNISON analysis of responses from care workers found.

More than one in five (22%) received only SSP, while 9% were told they had to carry on working and 8% told they would receive no pay at all.

The analysis showed one in ten care workers said they were aware of colleagues who continued working despite having Covid-19 symptoms.

Other staff have told the union their income is dropping in other ways with care home workers saying their shifts have reduced because the number of residents has fallen dramatically.

Some care staff working out in the community say they have fewer people to look after because some clients are in isolation or shielding, affecting their payments.

UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “It’s a confusing picture for care workers who are being treated very differently depending on where they work.

“But the bottom line is thousands are facing heartbreaking choices about whether to stay off work or pay the bills

“Already on incredibly low pay and in precarious work, they feel compelled to carry on simply to make ends meet and keep their jobs.

“Around one in ten of those who’ve been in touch know colleagues who’ve continued working when they should be isolating, while some are avoiding being tested because they can’t afford to take time off.

“It’s scandalous that less than a third of those shielding had been offered full pay especially when the government says care workers shouldn’t be penalised for following public heath advice.

“Ministers have to make sure care staff are not out of pocket so we can halt the spread of the virus for the sake of carers and the vulnerable people they look after.”
Some of the care workers contacting UNISON said:

  • “I was isolating for seven days and only received SSP. This had a massive impact on my financial circumstances as I am the only earner at home and still had bills to pay.”
  • “I was Covid-positive after contracting it at work and was off for three weeks. I have a mortgage to pay and bills, and I don’t know how I’m expected to survive. I put my life on the line, survived and was repaid with SSP. Although I was eventually symptom-free, I felt I returned to work too soon as my fear and anxieties went through the roof and had to be given medication from my GP.”
  • “I was told I could stay off but would only receive statutory sick pay. I had to continue working although I have diabetes and was advised to take 12 weeks off but obviously couldn’t afford to.”
  • “I had to self-isolate for 14 days due to a member of my household having symptoms. I received SSP from day one. I do not feel this is enough to cover the cost of living as both myself and my partner were off as he had the virus. As a result I had to borrow money from a family member to pay my bills. I was told I required testing before returning to work and was not allowed back, which meant I lost more wages. My GP said it was not necessary to be tested at that time as 14 days had passed and I remained symptomless.”
  • “I am so stressed and disappointed. They deducted more than I should be earning. They robbed me. Honestly, if I knew that the deduction would be this much – more than the usual sickness deduction – I would not have isolated.”
  • “It’s very unfair that if we catch Corona in the workplace we are only entitled to SSP (plus a small subsidy, in the case of our employer) but people on furlough get 80% of their pay without going in. We deserve better especially as we’re contracting it from the workplace.”
  • One of my family had symptoms, which I disclosed to my office. I was asked to isolate for two weeks and only got SSP. I rang the owner of the home who confirmed I wouldn’t get any pay from my company – for doing the right thing and isolating.”

Takeaways accused of ‘taking the pee’ as food couriers denied toilet access

Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, has demanded that takeaways and major fast food chains stop breaking the law and allow fast food couriers to use their toilets.

Fast food couriers

Unite has been contacted by several self-employed couriers who work via platforms such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats, who are concerned that they are increasingly being denied the right to use a toilet when collecting food from takeaways.

Public toilets closed

With public toilets closed due to the pandemic, drivers report having to urinate in bushes and that they have no proper method of cleaning their hands.

The drivers say that the takeaways,which include household names, are using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to prevent couriers from using their premises.

Toilet dignity

Unite has been running a long-term campaign highlighting the frequent lack of toilet dignity in the workplace.

As part of its campaign in November 2017, Unite secured a significant victory meaning that delivery drivers (and fast food couriers) now have the right to use the toilets of commercial customers (not the toilets of private householders) and hand washing facilities. A portaloo is not considered adequate and hot water should also be available.

Denied access

Since the pandemic began Unite has had an increasing number of HGV delivery drivers report that they have been denied access to toilets.

Following lobbying from Unite, a letter jointly signed by Baroness Vere, the parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Transport, and Sarah Albon, the Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Executive, has been produced reminding businesses of their responsibilities and reassuring drivers they have a right to use a toilet when making a delivery.

Safety breach reporting

The TUC has set up a direct link where workers can report safety breaches which includes the refusal to allow access to the toilet directly to the HSE by completing a simple form

Unite will name and shame employers who fail to follow the law and who refuse to act when issues are highlighted.

Public health matter

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said:“This is a serious public health matter.

“When the government’s key advice is to wash your hands it is alarming that takeaways are actively preventing drivers from doing this and then expecting them to deliver food to people’s homes.

“Takeaways and fast food outlets have got to stop taking the pee out of delivery drivers and instead ensure that they have access to toilets when they need them.

“The problem of a lack of access to toilets is not confined to fast food couriers; throughout the pandemic, delivery drivers have regularly reported that they have been denied access to toilets.

“After intense lobbying by Unite, the government is finally taking this issue seriously, and workers denied access to toilets should immediately report this to the HSE.

“Companies who refuse to provide will be named and shamed because their actions are risking the public’s health.”

Unite thanks Rashford for exposing out of touch government on holiday hunger

Commenting on the campaign by the footballer Marcus Rashford to force the government to act and prevent holiday hunger this summer, Unite national officer for local government Jim Kennedy said:

“Marcus Rashford is doing an incredible job in exposing how out of touch this government is but it shouldn’t have to be left to this young man to shame the government into doing the right thing.

“The public will be watching on in horror as government ministers defend the policy of denying support to hungry children over the summer school holidays.

“Holiday hunger is already at scandalous levels in this country; the coronavirus crisis will make this even worse as unemployment rises and even more families struggle.

“It is simply not good enough for the government to pass this responsibility down to already hard-pressed local authorities.

“The £63 million that the government says it has provided local authorities will not go very far when divided across the 343 competing bodies.

“The prime minister should intervene now.  The vulnerable children in Scotland and Wales will be fed this summer.  Do the right thing for England’s children, now.”