Tag Archives: pandemic

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.

Talks tomorrow over lack of Covid-19 measures at Bexley refuse depot

Crunch talks are due to take place tomorrow (Tuesday 7 July) to resolve health and safety concerns over the lack of Covid-19 prevention measures at the Crayford refuse depot which serves the borough of Bexley.

Pressure from Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, has prompted the talks with controversial outsourcing giant Serco which runs the council contract.

This follows criticism from the Health and Safety Executive over the failure to have adequate social distancing measures in place at the Thames Road depot, Crayford, Kent from where about 200 employees work.

The HSE’s criticisms from an inspection visit in May included that cleaning was ‘not robust enough’; inadequate monitoring of those visiting the site; and people passing on the stairs with no social distancing.

Unite also said that there had been two separate serious injuries recently when one member had his foot run over by a lorry and another nearly lost the use of his fingers.

Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon said: “What we are seeking from tomorrow’s talks is a dramatic step-change for the better in the health & safety regime which we think should mean a change of management at the Crayford depot. Our members’ lives have been put at risk due to managerial incompetence.

“Our members, many of whom are on ‘poverty wages’, have been working right through the pandemic ensuring that the refuse of Bexley residents is collected regularly – so, at the very least, they deserve the best Covid-19 preventive measures in the depot and their working environment when they are on their collection routes.

“The HSE’s damning inspection report was a marker that Serco urgently needs to get its health & safety act together – there needs to be a radical change of culture in this area. Cost should not be a factor when combating coronavirus.

“I do not say this lightly, but the workforce at Serco Bexley has completely lost confidence in the local management’s ability to be responsible for their safety.”

Earlier this year, Unite’s 125 members working on the Bexley contract took a day-and-a-half of strike action over the ‘dire’ pay they receive from Serco – but called off further industrial action as the lockdown came into force in March. The refuse workforce was earning about £4 an hour less than their counterparts in Greenwich.

Union warns that there will be no`build, build, build’ unless government acts to avert construction apprenticeship crisis

he prime minister’s recent promise to `build, build, build’ the UK back to economic health will not be `get very far’ unless urgent action is taken to avert a crisis in skills and apprenticeship development, the country’s leading construction union has claimed today Monday 6 July .

Lethal combination

Unite the union says that a lethal combination of employers’ long-standing reluctance to invest in apprentices, allied to widespread redundancies because of the pandemic and a reluctance to recruit new entrants due to the ongoing economic uncertainty, is likely to result in there being 20,000 fewer apprentices across the sector this autumn, vastly down from the 47,284 in England last year (2019).

Industry forecasts have also indicated that there will be a sharp decline in the construction apprenticeship intake this autumn. Without the skills needed to support the sector, Unite fears that some construction contracts will have to be cancelled placing more construction workers on the dole.

Redundancy fears

The union also understands that at least 50 per cent of electrical construction apprentices are currently furloughed, with growing concerns that as the job retention scheme winds down they will be made redundant.

Such is the union’s concern, it has written to the chancellor Rishi Sunak requesting that the Chancellor uses his upcoming economic statement to “implement without delay economic policies that can help save existing construction apprenticeship jobs and ensure the summer 2020 intake of construction apprentices is of a level to meet the industry’s future needs.”

Failure to recruit

For decades the construction industry has failed to recruit and train sufficient apprentices but the skills crisis has been masked by the heavy reliance on migrant labour.  However, with changes to government policy on immigration that option will no longer be so easily available.

Additionally, construction has an ageing workforce and many workers are forced to leave the industry before state retirement age due to illness or injury.

Workforce needed

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “The prime minister’s pledge to build, build, build the country’s way out of this pandemic-caused crisis won’t get very far without a workforce.

“Construction apprenticeship training is in danger of collapsing as an after-effect of the pandemic, which is why we’re calling on the chancellor to make it clear when he announces his plans for recovering the economy this coming week that our young workers will be given a chance of a career in construction.

“At the moment, for every one good quality apprenticeship, there are one thousand applicants. Young workers have to scale this huge mountain so it is only right that they have the chance to complete their apprenticeship and have a job at the end of their training. 

“Furthermore, without these young skilled workers the industry will struggle to recover from the recession as contracts will be cancelled because there is a serious lack of expert workers.

“There has been a long-term skills and training crisis in the construction sector but the Covid-19 pandemic along with the changes to immigration law have brought this to a head.

 “Unite is working closely with responsible employers and trade associations in order to tackle the challenges on apprentice recruitment but to really conquer the challenges we face, the government must step in to support existing apprentices and ensure that new recruits will have a pathway into construction employment.”

Action required

Unite is calling for the chancellor and the government to adopt the following measures:

  • Extension of apprentice wage support to safeguard jobs
  • Repurposing of the apprenticeship levy funds to fund all first year apprentices’ pay
  • Public sector procurement policies that ensure the recruitment of high quality apprentice
  • The extension of the job guarantee scheme so that apprentice opportunities are delivered in public-funded infrastructure projects.

Covid-19 reinforces the case for a ‘substantial’ pay rise for NHS staff, says Unite

The coronavirus pandemic reinforces – not diminishes – the strong case for the NHS workforce to receive a ‘beyond substantial’ pay rise for 2021-22, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Friday 3 July).

Unite has joined with 13 other health unions and professional organisations to launch a campaign today to demand that pay talks start as soon as possible out of respect for the dedicated NHS staff who have battled Covid-19.

Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health sector, said that the last three year pay deal had started to rectify the pay deficit, but this now needs to be substantially built on.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “Warm words of praise by ministers and the weeks of Thursday evening clapping by a grateful nation are only part the story – and that’s why a generous pay rise is required to repair the damage of the last decade when pay in real terms was eroded by an estimated 20 per cent.

“A ‘softly, softly’ approach will fall on fallow ground, as the Tory ‘mask’ on the NHS begins to slip away – last week some 331 Conservative MPs opposed a motion that would have led to weekly testing of NHS workers and care staff.

“This hard-faced attitude was also highlighted by care minister Helen Whately who confirmed the government had ‘no plans’ to backdate a new financial support package that is set to be introduced for students starting this autumn.

“Now the lockdown is being eased, it was clear the Tories are reverting to type when it comes to their distaste for public services, of which the NHS is ‘the jewel in the crown’.

“Doctors, nurses and health workers of all hues, including student nurses and those who came out of retirement, stepped up to the plate big-time when the lockdown was imposed in March and the NHS was under severe pressure – and, sadly, more than 300 NHS and social care workers have now died after being infected with coronavirus.

“NHS staff don’t want ministerial platitudes on pay on the eve of the NHS’ 72nd birthday on Sunday (5 July), but a beyond substantial pay rise for their commitment, especially over the last few months when they have put their lives on the line, literally.

“As society returns slowly to the ‘new normal’, the government cannot be allowed to forget the dedication of NHS staff.”

Before lockdown, NHS Digital reported that between January and March this year, there were 84,393 advertised full-time equivalents in England – these ‘recruitment and retention’ issues are still relevant and important, and need to be addressed by health and social care secretary Matt Hancock.

An uplift in pay will start to tackle these recruitment problems.

Unite has signed-up to the plan of the joint health unions to bring about better pay for NHS staff, which Unite believes has widespread public support.

Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe added: “People are fully engaged with the concept that without the NHS and its staff, the appalling death toll of nearly 44,000 would be even worse – and that the years of underfunding must cease. Increased funding must include budgets to tackle the backlog in non-Covid operations and procedures.

“Many, including prime minister Boris Johnson, owe their lives to the NHS – and now is the time to recognise that 24/7 commitment with a decent pay rise that reflects the sentiments of a grateful and relieved country.”

Sharp rise in construction deaths coincides with plunge in inspections

Unite, the UK’s construction union, is warning that the large increase in construction deaths could be related to a steep fall in proactive inspections and prosecutions being undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive.

It was revealed this week that construction fatalities increased by 33 per cent in a year from 30 in 2018/19 to 40 in 2019/20, a third of all work related deaths.

Decrease in inspections

A freedom of information request by Unite has uncovered that the increase in deaths corresponds with at least a 25 per cent decline in proactive (unannounced) construction inspections.

In 2018/19 there were a total of 9286 proactive inspections compared to just 6381 in 2019/20, a decline of 31 per cent.

Inspections suspended

In March 2020, the HSE ceased making proactive inspections due to Covid-19.  Notwithstanding this development, the fall in construction inspection still amounts to a massive 25 percent reduction in the number of inspections when compared to the corresponding 11 month period in the previous year.

Construction workers in danger

Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain said: “These figures are alarming and raise serious questions about the safety of construction workers.

 “Each of the fatalities was a terrible tragedy, a loved one went to work one day and never came home again.

 “It is simply no coincidence that the drop in inspections has occurred at the same time that there has been a steep rise in deaths.

 “We need to be honest, the constant cuts to the HSE since 2010 have had an awful impact on workers’ lives.  The simple way to protect construction workers and to help stop the loss of life in our workplaces is to restore funding to the inspection and safety agency.

 “It has always been the case that there are employers in construction that are prepared to cut corners on safety to boost profits – only the threat of action by the HSE keeps them in check.

 “With the added problems of the Covid-19 pandemic, regular inspections by the HSE have never been more important.

 “For employers who are trying to ensure that they follow the complex rules on social distancing, there is a real danger they could take their eye off the ball when it comes to other safety measures.

 “With the unscrupulous employers, the rogues will consider the current crisis a good excuse to play fast and loose with all safety requirements in the unfortunately correct assumption that they are unlikely to be caught.

 “Over the past decade, the HSE has been cut to the bone. The recent meagre increase in funding it has received is a drop in the ocean compared to the funding it has lost.

 “If the HSE is going to keep workers safe and healthy, able to deal with the twin challenges of Covid-19 and workplace safety, then it must be given the resources by the government to do so.”

London and South West biggest reduction

The sharpest decrease in inspections was in the South West where inspections declined by 54 per cent but the most alarming decrease was in London which accounts for 30 per cent of the UK’s construction work and where inspections halved. There were also sharp declines in the West Midlands (-49 per cent), South East (-48 per cent) and Eastern England (-33 per cent).

Unite’s FOI also revealed that the total number of enforcement notices issued by the HSE concerning breaches of safety laws has declined by 30 per cent in 2019, while the number of prosecutions heard in courts for serious safety failures was down by 24 per cent.

Welsh aerospace industry at ‘five to midnight’ as government stays silent on support

The union is appealing to the people of Wales to get behind its campaign to keep jobs and incomes in their communities.

Unite’s warning comes as more than 1,700 jobs have been lost this week at Airbus, which could have a huge impact at the company’s flagship site at Broughton, North East Wales.

With a huge decline in new orders and maintenance work – a knock-on effect from the pandemic hit to the aviation sector – many more jobs are at risk in the industry right across the country. More than 13,000 aerospace redundancies have already been announced in the UK.

Unite issued its jobs warning following the publication of a new report by economic experts Acuity Analysis, which details the challenges facing the both the Welsh and the UK aerospace sector. The analysis profiles the importance of the sector to Wale’s economy and reveals:

  • Wales is heavily reliant on the aerospace sector, with 11,700 workers being employed in the sector.
  • There are 235 employers across Wales split between 50 manufacturing companies and 185 companies specialising in the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of aircraft.
  • Major aerospace employers in Wales include Airbus, GE, BAE and Safran.
  • The sector is incredibly valuable for the region generating more than £1.4 billion in gross value added per annum.
  • The greatest number of aerospace employers is in West Wales and The Valleys.

According to Unite, which has been battling for sector support since March, large-scale job losses would have a crippling effect on both Wales’ and the UK’s economies: 10,000 aerospace jobs lost would see more than £4 billion wiped off the UK’s economic output.

Unite has been pressing the UK government to follow the lead of competitor nations such as France and Germany to establish an investment programme for the sector to survive, rebuild and recover. A central call from the union is for the government to extend the jobs retention scheme to prevent the premature loss of more jobs and skills while the sector works to build back.

Unite regional secretary for Wales, Peter Hughes, said: “Aerospace is absolutely crucial to the Welsh economy but the lack of action at Westminster means we now stand at five to midnight and could be looking at a very bleak future.

“Jobs are going by the day and our world-leading status is slipping away as other nations sense the competitive advantage in the UK government’s inaction.

“Without the support this sector is crying out for we will lose thousands of the highly skilled, secure jobs that we are told the UK needs and that the government wishes to encourage.

“It is a travesty that the government has not followed the lead of other countries including France and Germany to provide specific support for what is a world class industry. Worse still, the UK government’s silence on support gives our competitors a business advantage.

“We are pleading with the government. Waste no more time.  Be clear that the JRS will be extended for the sector to preserve skills and jobs, and bring forward a package of support for the aerospace sector which would not only preserve jobs in Wales but be the shot in the arm the entire UK economy desperately needs.”

Unite is urging everyone who is employed directly in the aerospace industry or indirectly associated with it to contact their MP and ask them to lobby the government for support for the sector.

Peter Hughes added: “If you work in the Welsh aerospace sector or know someone who does, then please help us save this flagship industry and keep our communities in work. Pick up the phone to your MP or drop them an email. Only by speaking up together can we win the future our workers absolutely deserve.”

West Midlands aerospace industry at ‘five to midnight’ as government stays silent on support

Unite, the West Midlands’ leading union, is warning that the region’s world-beating aerospace industry is at ‘five to midnight’, staring at the loss of thousands of highly skilled jobs and billions in economic contribution unless the sector receives urgent support from the government.

The union is appealing to the people of the region to get behind its campaign to keep jobs and incomes in the community.

Unite’s warning comes after Collins Aerospace announced 300 potential redundancies at its sites in Wolverhampton, Birmingham Marston Green as well as at Banbury in Oxfordshire. Aerospace parts firm SPS Technologies has also announced 100 job losses at its factory in Rugby. Meanwhile West Midlands employer Rolls Royce is planning to shed 3,000 jobs across the UK.

With a huge decline in new orders and maintenance work – a knock-on effect from the pandemic hit to the aviation sector – many more jobs are at risk in the industry right across the region. More than 12,000 aerospace redundancies have already been announced in the UK.

Unite issued its jobs warning following the publication of a new report by economic experts Acuity Analysis, which details the challenges facing the West Midlands’ and the entire UK aerospace sector. The analysis profiles the importance of the sector to the region’s economy and reveals:

  • The West Midlands region is heavily reliant on the aerospace sector, with 5,100 workers being employed in the sector.
  • There are 100 employers in the region split between 50 manufacturing companies and 50 companies specialising in the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of aircraft.
  • Major aerospace employers in the region include BAE, Bombardier, GKN, Rolls Royce and Collins Aerospace.
  • The sector is incredibly valuable for the region generating £756 million in gross value added per annum.

According to Unite, which has been battling for sector support since March, large-scale job losses would have a crippling effect on both the West Midlands’ and the nation’s economies: 5,000 aerospace jobs lost would see more than £2 billion wiped off the UK’s economic output.

Unite has been pressing the UK government to follow the lead of competitor nations such as France and Germany to establish an investment programme for the sector to survive, rebuild and recover. A central call from the union is for the government to extend the jobs retention scheme to prevent the premature loss of more jobs and skills while the sector works to build back.

Unite regional officer for the West Midlands, Andy Taylor, said: “Aerospace is absolutely crucial to the West Midlands’ economy but the lack of action at Westminster means we now stand at five to midnight and could be looking at a very bleak future.

“Jobs are going by the day and our world-leading status is slipping away as other nations sense the competitive advantage in our government’s inaction.

“Without the support this sector is crying out for we will lose thousands of the highly skilled, secure jobs that we are told the UK needs and that the government wishes to encourage.

“It is a travesty that the government has not followed the lead of other countries including France and Germany to provide specific support for what is a world class industry. Worse still, the UK government’s silence on support gives our competitors a business advantage.

“We are pleading with the government. Waste no more time. Be clear that the JRS will be extended for the sector to preserve skills and jobs, and bring forward a package of support for the aerospace sector which would not only preserve jobs in the West Midlands but be the shot in the arm the national economy desperately needs.”

Unite is urging everyone who is employed directly in the aerospace industry or indirectly associated with it to contact their MP and ask them to lobby the government for support for the sector.

Andy Taylor added: “If you work in the West Midlands’ aerospace sector or know someone who does, then please help us save this flagship industry and keep our communities in work. Pick up the phone to your MP or drop them an email. Only by speaking up together can we win the future our workers absolutely deserve.”

100 aerospace jobs under threat in Dorset is latest blow to county’s economy, says Unite

More than 100 jobs at Magellan Aerospace’s operation in Dorset are under threat in the wake of the job losses at Airbus for which it supplies aerospace parts.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Wednesday 1 July) that the job losses at the Bournemouth and Poole sites would be ‘very grim’ for the workers, their families and the regional economy.

Unite regional officer Janet Wall said: “Due to a steep decline in orders from Airbus and Boeing because of Covid-19,  the company is planning to make more than 100 workers redundant – 96 by 1 September with a further six roles to go by 1 December. It also plans to close its Poole site.

“This is a very grim blow for the workers and their families, and will also have a knock on effect for the Dorset economy which depends on these skilled workers’ wages to lubricate economic activity.

“Unfortunately, this is part of an emerging trend in Dorset where many small to medium size engineering firms are contracting and making staff redundant because of the massive adverse impact of the pandemic on the UK’s aerospace industry.

“Unite is fighting hard for these workers’ jobs, but the reality is, if more orders don’t start rolling in soon, these jobs will be gone – that’s why the government must step up to the plate to support the aerospace sector as has been done in France and Germany.”

Last night Airbus said that that it is to slash 1,727 UK jobs which Unite branded as ‘another act of industrial vandalism’ against the country’s under-attack aerospace sector.

Magellan Aerospace, part of the Canadian multinational, produces parts for the aerospace industry, primarily for Airbus and Boeing. It currently employs about 250 staff at the two sites in Dorset.

Airbus job cuts ‘vandalism’ – but UK government sits on sidelines while a national asset is destroyed

Unite, the UK’s leading manufacturing union, has described today’s announcement by Airbus that it is to slash 1,727 UK jobs as ‘another act of industrial vandalism’ against the country’s under-attack aerospace sector.

Calling on the government to stop watching from the sidelines while a national asset is destroyed, the union said that No 10 must ‘step up to the plate’, just as leaders in France and Germany have, to protect the sector. In recent weeks, jobs have gone hand over fist in the UK while other competitor governments shore up their businesses and actively protect jobs.

Airbus says that the jobs will go right across its UK operations including at its largest factories at Broughton in North Wales and Filton in Bristol. 1,116 UK manufacturing jobs will be lost alongside 611 office-based jobs as Airbus seeks to shrink its workforce by 15 percent.

However, while jobs are also going in France, Spain and Germany, extended government job retention programmes in those countries of up to 24 months means that no jobs will be lost in those countries in the immediate term.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “This is yet another act of industrial vandalism and a terrible insult to our incredible UK workforce who deserve so much better from our government.

“Over the weeks of this crisis, this country’s aerospace jobs have gone hand over fist yet not one word of support or act of assistance has been forthcoming from the government.

“The UK government is watching from the sidelines while a national asset is destroyed.

“The only words uttered by the government in relation to UK aerospace during this entire crisis came out of the blue today in relation to the prime minister’s UK-made ‘Jet Zero’ project.  But while our world-class industry is shedding skills and workers at the present rate, this project will be nothing more than a PR fantasy.

“The prime minister and his team must step up to the plate. UK aerospace workers deserve the same support and investment that Mr Macron and Ms Merkel provide to their workers.  Airbus workers in France and Germany have up to two years to work to fend off their redundancies and turn their businesses around while in the UK the axe falls with immediate effect.

“With every day that goes by without any action to support this sector from the UK government, our competitors cheer.

“Of course, immediate job losses at a word-class company like Airbus underlines the challenges faced by the aerospace sector, caused by the massive downturn in aviation in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“But we are in no doubt that it is absolutely essential that the government could do so much more. For a start, it could extend the job retention scheme for sectors such as aerospace which have been most severely hit by the pandemic.  

“If not, there will be an avalanche of job losses this summer – and a world-class aerospace sector built over generations and with so much more to give this country will be lost.”

Birmingham Airport job losses are premature

Unite, the UK’s principal aviation union, has described Birmingham Airport’s decision to consider 250 jobs losses as “premature”.

Major employer

The airport currently directly employs around 900 staff and like the rest of the aviation sector it has been very heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Birmingham Airport generates £1.1 billion per annum for the region’s economy and helps support more than 25,000 jobs, with around 8,000 people either employed at the airport or nearby in airport related activities. As Unite research has shown, the wellbeing of the airport is vital to the region’s economic success.

Premature decision

Unite regional officer Peter Coulson said: “Unite will begin formal consultations with Birmingham Airport early next week.

 “The challenges being faced at Birmingham Airport demonstrate why it is imperative the government hesitates no longer in providing specific support for aviation. It is the sector which has been most severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

 “While Unite understands the unprecedented challenges facing the aviation sector as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, this decision is premature.

 “The government’s job retention scheme continues until October and with air bridges potentially opening the situation in the autumn may look very different.

 “Our call to the airport is put the redundancy programme on hold.”

Unite has produced a blueprint of how the government should intervene across the entire aviation sector including airlines and airports to protect the jobs and conditions of workers. Such loans would come with strict strings attached regarding executive pay, corporate governance and requiring stringent environmental standards to be adopted to radically reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.