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    Class and race are the biggest factors in determining those that have died or been taken ill by Covid-19, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Tuesday 2 June).

    Unite called for a raft of policies to tackle the ‘systemic failures’ that has led to the disproportionate death toll amongst the Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and also the poorest groups in society

    The union was commenting on Public Health England’s report Disparities in the risk and outcomes of Covid-19 which highlighted those groups that had been hardest hit in terms of mortality due to coronavirus.

    Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “This report shines a searing light that reveals the pandemic in the UK is intrinsically linked disproportionately to class and race.

    “These wide disparities are detailed in this data and point to age, race and income and accompanying health inequalities as key determinants as to whom has been the worst affected by Covid-19.

    “This has been amplified among those in undervalued occupations and jobs where zero hours’ contracts and precarious employment are the norm.

    “Working hard to provide for your families is no defence against Covid-19 for these groups – these systemic failures need to be tackled urgently and that work should start now.

    “No one policy size fits all, but such an agenda should include ethnically sensitive risk assessments and income guarantees for workers who through ‘test, track and trace’ would otherwise be reliant on statutory sick pay (SSP), while in isolation.

    “The Real Living Wage should be the basic minimum for those in ‘at risk’ occupations as an interim measure, with a commitment to sectoral bargaining for care workers and the guarantee of the necessary funding.

    “All these measures are achievable with government support. If austerity is over, as ministers claim, the best defence against the inequalities which the report exposes is to narrow the income gap and invest in public services with priority to social care.

    “The pandemic has shown that the crisis in social care can no long be pushed into the political long grass. The lack of testing for residents and staff, and also the shortage of PPE, in care homes has wreaked a terrible toll on the elderly who have died in their thousands due to Covid-19.

    “Social care can no longer be regarded as the poor relation when it comes to funding from the budgets of central and local government – a ministerial blueprint for social care should be a top priority as we emerge from the lockdown.

    “Poverty is the parent of disease and Covid-19 has been a willing accomplice in this respect. Once this pandemic has passed, we need to look as a country anew to how we can recalibrate economic and social policies to create a fairer society.

    “All these issues must be investigated in depth when the post-pandemic public inquiry takes place, which will be needed in the interests of accountability, openness and transparency.”

    The PHE report said that those parts of UK society most affected included the elderly; Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) populations generally and those BAME NHS staff on the frontline in particular; those with underlying conditions, such as diabetes and dementia; those living in care homes; and those from deprived communities.

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    Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.

     

     

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    Thousands of social care staff in England could be falling through the net when it comes to the provision of the £60,000 payment in the event of death due to Covid-19.
    Serious concern was expressed today (Friday 22 May) by Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, which has combed through the small print as to who the payment applies to.
    According to the government document, Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme – Death in Service (England only): ‘Any employee who works for a private social care organisation which receives no public funding’ is not eligible for the payment.
    Unite called on health and social care secretary Matt Hancock to clarify and rectify the situation as a matter of urgency, given that more than 300 NHS and social care workers have now died as a result of Covid-19.
    Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Matt Hancock needs to clarify what the small print actually means, as it is totally unacceptable that possibly thousands of social care workers are barred from this scheme because their place of work has no public funding.
    “We can’t have this two-tier situation where one care worker’s contribution, fighting coronavirus, is regarded of less value than another in a different setting. If you are risking your life in the battle against Covid-19, your workplace and how it is funded are irrelevant.
    “We don’t know the true scale of the problem across England – it could be that thousands of care workers are being denied this cover – but if it is only one, it is one too many.
    “Unfortunately, the health trade unions have not been consulted in drawing up this eligibility criteria in England – if we had been, we would have objected in the strongest possible terms to what is now in place.
    “The government has shown that it is capable of righting a wrong, as was proved yesterday with the U-turn on the £400 charge for NHS migrant workers. This is another case where a ministerial rethink is in order.”
    Last month, Matt Hancock announced that families of NHS and social care workers, who have died after contracting coronavirus in the course of their duties, will receive a £60,000 payment from the taxpayer.
     
    Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
    Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.

     

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    Boris Johnson’s hardline stance not to waive the £400 NHS surcharge for overseas health and social care workers combating coronavirus was described as ‘mean-spirited and shabby’ today (Thursday 21 May) by Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union.
    Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said the hypocrisy of the prime minister was given extra piquancy as he singled out two non-UK  nurses – one from New Zealand and the other from Portugal – for praise after he survived his fight with Covid-19.
    The NHS fee of £400-a-year for care workers applies to those from outside the European Economic Area, regardless whether they use the NHS or not. It is set to rise to £624 in October.
    There is also controversy over the £900m figure which the prime minister told MPs is raised by this charge. The Institute of Fiscal Studies put the sum at a tenth of that – £90 million.
    Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe  said: “Of all people, Boris Johnson should appreciate the wonderful and dedicated work of NHS health and social care professions, including the two non-UK nurses he singled out for particular praise in his fight for survival against coronavirus.
    “Therefore, the fact he won’t waive this £400 fee for overseas health and social care workers is mean-spirited and shabby.
    “With this prime minister warm words of praise come cheap, but a small financial gesture for NHS migrant workers, many of them low-paid, is beyond his compass. His stance is hypocritical.
    “Tonight, we will have the Thursday ‘clap for carers by the people of the UK, many of them who voted for Boris Johnson as recently as last December – there is a big irony here. This charge should be waived immediate.”:
     
    Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble
    Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
    Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.

     

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    The nine-point blueprint by 16 health unions for reopening the NHS should act as ‘a rocket booster’ for ministers to tackle the lack of PPE and the shambolic testing regime, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Friday 15 May).

    Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, is one of the 16 unions that has contributed to the blueprint designed to make the NHS the safest possible environment for patients, staff and visitors as the lockdown is eased by the government, and out-patient clinics and operations resume.

    Unite said that the three key issues that needed to be addressed urgently were the continuing lack of PPE; the ‘messy’ testing regime which has seen samples sent to the USA; and the withdrawal of the threat that NHS staff could be subject to a public sector pay freeze highlighted in leaked Treasury documents.

    Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “This blueprint by the health unions should act as a rocket booster for ministers to really get to grips with key elements of the pandemic.

    “A continuing shortage of PPE is a dark stain on the government’s response to the coronavirus emergency. We have ambulance, biomedical scientist, nursing and speech and language therapist (SALT) members telling us that there are still shortages and, in some cases, when it does arrive it is out-of-date, ill-fitting or not up to standard.

    “We have feedback from our members that they are being leaned on by NHS bosses not to raise the PPE shortages – but Unite urges them to #staysafenot silent and to #telluswhatPPEyouneed.

    “And we will back you to the hilt in raising these legitimate concerns that are of the highest public interest.

    “The testing regime totters between the shambolic and the messy. There is little openness and transparency about how the government will hit its increased 200,000 daily test target.

    “We have thousands of healthcare science members who could be used to better effect and engaged more substantively, so we can avoid the situation where samples are sent to America for analysis.

    “It appears that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing as the ‘test, track and trace’ initiative struggles to get off the ground in a meaningful way.

    “Finally, our members are furious at the leaked Treasury assessment that a public sector pay freeze could be on the cards to pay for the cost of the pandemic. If the Thursday ‘clap for carers’ means anything, it should be that there can be no return to the age of austerity.

    “More than 270 NHS and social care workers have died due to Covid-19 and hundreds of thousands more are risking their lives on a daily basis to care for others – yet this does not seem to stop Treasury mandarins drawing up heartless proposals to freeze public sector pay, which a recent Unite survey has shown the public does not want.”

    The unions’ blueprint includes fast, comprehensive and accessible testing, and the ongoing, ample supply of protective kit, as well as calls for staff to be paid properly for every hour worked.

    Notes

    The NHS unions are: British Association of Occupational Therapists, British Dental Association, British Dietetic Association, British Orthoptists Society, Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, College of Podiatry, Federation of Clinical Scientists, GMB, Healthcare Consultants and Specialists Association, Managers in Partnership, Prison Officers Association, Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Nursing, Society of Radiographers, UNISON and Unite.

    The final text of the blueprint is here

    Unions have been asking the government to fund a consistent approach to overtime across the whole NHS. They are currently awaiting government sign off on a joint proposal from employers and unions.

    The 16 unions represent health workers covering the whole of the UK. There may be issues specific to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that can be taken up with the employer/union structures of those administrations.

    Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org

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    Proposals to create a new super NHS laboratory in the northwest by closing local sites while 200 biomedical scientists are busy testing for Covid-19 will create delays in processing samples, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, warned today (Thursday 7 May).
    Unite said the plans by Lancashire and South Cumbria Central Laboratories Partnership to merge the labs at Blackburn, Blackpool, Lancaster and Preston into one super lab at a yet–to-be identified site would mean delays in testing samples which would have a detrimental impact on the estimated 500,000 people the super lab would serve.
    Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, accused NHS bosses of using the coronavirus emergency to push through this already rejected merger plan ‘under the radar’ when other similar collaborations, such as at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, have postponed all further plans until the Covid-19 crisis has passed.
    Unite said the plans were ‘a stab in the back’ for the biomedical scientists currently working at full stretch to process lab samples, including those for Covid-19, who have not got the time to examine the plan.
    Merger plans for a super lab at Lancaster, covering the areas of five NHS trusts, were rejected last year as it would make the service too remote from local GPs and hospitals, and increase processing times from the current 24-to-48 hours.
    In a letter to the partnership, Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said: “Unite finds it totally unacceptable that during the Covid 19 crisis you have seized upon this opportunity to force through merger plans and exclude the participation of Unite, the main representative of laboratory workers for this project.
    “Unite calls upon this project to cease until the Covid-19 crisis has ended.  I can say that apart from the despicable manner the trusts have chosen to progress this matter, be aware that when it is appropriate Unite, if necessary, will move to immediately ballot its members for industrial action.”
    Commenting Keith Hutson added: “NHS bosses are using the pandemic to reintroduce this flawed plan under the radar which will increase the times for processing samples. Our members who have given their all during this crisis feel the deliberate lack of consultation is a stab in the back.
    “We are going to involve the region’s MPs in this campaign, including The Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, MP for Chorley, as, in the long-term, we fear that any super lab could be ripe for being sold off to a profit-hungry healthcare company.
    “If one thing has become clear during the last two months, it is that the British public respect and deeply value the NHS and its staff – and don’t want to see it being salami-sliced and privatised.”
    Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
    Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.

     

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    Dear Unite members

    You will be aware of the great media speculation surrounding our governments’ developing proposals to get the country fully back to work as we seek to take the country out of the coronavirus lockdown.

    Of course, many of you have been at work throughout this crisis, serving our nations every working day, for which we thank you. Many more of you will be on furlough. Every single one of you will be anxious, I am sure, to understand what happens next.

    I want to assure you that your union is at the table with governments across the UK and Ireland, and with our sister unions, on talks over what a safe and effective back to work programme looks like. Just as they have throughout this crisis, three principles will guide us through these talks and govern the judgements your officials make on your behalf: your safety; your income; and your job security.

    We recognise that the task before the governments is an enormous one and that the right calls have to be made to avoid further death and ill health and to avert a deep recession. We are therefore committed to contributing fully to the back to work discussions, ensuring that ministers and employers hear your voice at the table.

    However, we will not be driven by any desire for a media-friendly soundbite. Your safe working comes first.

    Your officers and reps will be kept informed of any developments and as soon as we can provide more information to you, we will be sure to do so.

    We are in the very early stages of discussion, with much progress yet to be made before your union can be confident that the plans to re-open the economy put you, your safety and your communities first.

    In solidarity and with best wishes

    Len McCluskey
    General secretary

    To catch up with all Unite’s statements, stories and actions on #coronavirus go to our News and Events page HERE

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    The solidarity expressed through weekly applause for the NHS, carers and key workers has been truly inspiring, and a great source of support for all staff. 

    But we need those in power to do more than just clap for us. The NHS and local authorities have been starved of resources for the last ten years. The current crisis has been worsened by a decade of government hostility towards a publicly funded health service. Low staffing levels are a direct result of budget cuts and limits on pay.

    We cannot go back to an NHS that lurches from winter crisis to winter crisis. The government should admit that their past approach to health and social care was wrong. There should be a review of pay for NHS and social care workers, which at minimum adds back money denied, compared to inflation, as a result of pay rises that have been capped for years at 1%. Below inflation pay rises are a cut in spending power. The public sector has been ‘awarded’ 1% for ten consecutive years; their wages have shrunk below pay growth in the private sector.

    An apology and pay correction would be a starting gesture for people who are now accepted to be courageous, brave and essential to all of us. It turns the admiration shown on our streets every week into a tangible benefit, which would boost the morale of the people now working in dangerous and difficult circumstances.

    We, the undersigned, acknowledge the supreme importance of NHS and social care staff. We recognise that they are indispensable.

    We call on the government to:

    Publicly and formally apologise to NHS and social care staff for past policies that led to a 1% limit on pay rises and cuts to the services in which they work.

    Begin a review of wages and salaries for these workers that, at minimum, restores pay lost compared to inflation from 2010 to 2020, and sets above-inflation pay rises for 2021 and thereafter.

    Fully fund the NHS and social care.

     

    The link to signing the petition is here:-

    The government can’t hide behind grateful applause: they must now fund the NHS properly

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    Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “Pressures on our ambulance members are unprecedented with the profession not currently being given the correct guidance as to whom they should take to hospital.
    “They are also not being given the correct level of personal protective equipment (PPE) if they suspect a patient has Covid-19.  Ambulance workers are putting their health, perhaps their lives, at risk, by not receiving the correct PPE and also by not receiving the correct fit test training to wear the PPE. 
    “On top of this, the lack of testing remains a stark and very serious issue – there are not enough tests to ensure ambulance staff are tested within the five-day window for testing.”
    “Unite is urgently calling for ambulance workers to be given clear guidance regarding triaging which patients should be taken to hospital and more action on PPE which needs to be supplied to paramedics, so they are able to do their essential duties.
    “Paramedics are terrified of making the wrong call and being sanctioned for this.
    “I think the public’s patience with ministers is wearing very thin as they continue to say that there is enough PPE in the system, when there are numerous reports from frontline staff that this is simply not the case.
    “It is humbling to see social media posts which show some NHS and social care staff risking their lives as they go to care for patients with coronavirus. The situation is even more dire in social care settings, as care staff do their utmost for the elderly with inadequate protective kit.
    “Unite has thousands of members who are part of the healthcare science workforce. These talented staff need to be engaged to provide the test that is required to ensure 100,000 people can be tested a day. 
    “Unite has over 100,000 members in the health and social care services and we will not rest until we ensure that all health and social care workers are secure in their individual roles in keeping us all safe and well – we are campaigning for that goal 24/7.
    “If these objectives are not met and NHS staff continue not to be protected, reluctantly NHS and social care staff could legitimately and lawfully decline to put themselves in further danger and risk of injury at work. Unite will defend NHS and social care staff.”

    Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble

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    Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “At this time of national emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it is right that the legal protections covering whistleblowers in the NHS are highlighted.
    “Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, will be monitoring the situation very closely in the weeks ahead and will give maximum support to any member who may face disciplinary procedures as a result of raising legitimate concerns, for example, the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).
    “The current legislation protecting whistleblowers has been further underpinned by the NHS Staff Council statement of 28 February and the English Social Partnership Forum statement on 1 April.
    “Any NHS worker that suspects they are being victimised for whistleblowing should contact their ‘freedom to speak up’ guardian which every trust in England should have in place. If they are a union member, they should contact their workplace representative or local union office.
    “There have been anecdotal stories on social media that some NHS bosses may have been clamping down on those wishing to expose failings in the system and improve the well-being of patients. If we discover concrete evidence that this is happening, we will act immediately to support our members.”

    The NHS Staff Council statement of 28 February 2020

    https://www.nhsemployers.org/-/media/Employers/Documents/Pay-and-reward/NHS-Staff-Council—Guidance-for-Covid-19-Feb-20.pdf?la=en&hash=70C909DA995280B9FAE4BF6AF291F4340890445C&hash=70C909DA995280B9FAE4BF6AF291F4340890445C

    English Social Partnership Forum Joint Statement on Industrial relation – 1 April 2020

    https://www.socialpartnershipforum.org/media/166314/SPF-Covid-19-statement-final-and-formatted.pdf

    Protection for whistleblowers in the UK is provided under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA).The PIDA protects employees and workers who blow the whistle about wrongdoing.

    For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble

    Email: shaun.noble@unitetheunion.org

    Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
    Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.
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    Britain’s charities and voluntary organisations urgently require a financial support package from government so they can play their part in the coronavirus fight  and help some of the most vulnerable affected by the pandemic.
    The call came from Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, today (Tuesday 31 March), which represents tens of thousands of not for profit workers, as charities experience a dramatic slump in funding at a time when demand for their services, from housing to mental health, is soaring because of the virus.
    Unite has joined forces with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in calling for emergency funding for the sector. The NCVO has estimated that the sector could lose £4.3bn in income over the next three months.
    Unite national officer for the community, youth and not for profit sector Siobhan Endean said: “Our members are keen to play their part in combating the coronavirus which will impact on some of the most vulnerable in society. Demand for charities’ services, from housing to mental health, has greatly increased.
    “The voluntary sector is facing a crisis in funding, while meeting an unprecedented demand to support our communities. Our members are working incredibly long hours, with a lack of personal protective equipment and under immense pressure.
    “We need urgent action from the government to ensure that the voluntary and not for profit sector and those employed in it are protected amidst the current crisis we find ourselves in.
    “That’s why Unite has joined forces with the NCVO to call for a comprehensive financial package to underpin the sector at this extraordinary time.
    “Government has rightly identified our members as ‘key workers’ and that’s why chancellor Rishi Sunak must unveil specific measures to assist the sector as a matter of urgency.”
    Unite and the NCVO are making these key demands:
    • Emergency Mobilisation funding for frontline charities and volunteers supporting the response to the coronavirus crisis in the UK and globally through grants with a swift application process.
    • A ‘stabilisation fund’ for all charities to help them stay afloat, pay staff and continue operating during the course of the pandemic which would be  administered through the National Lottery.
    • Confirmation that charities should be eligible for similar business interruption measures announced by the chancellor for businesses and access to government rescue schemes.

    Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble

     

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    Health visitors and community nurses going into the homes of families with children and babies urgently require personal protective equipment (PPE), Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Tuesday 31 March).
    Unite also wants PPE to go to the thousands of staff working in social care settings, such as care homes, who feel forgotten by ministers.
    Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Health visitors and community nurses need PPE equipment today as they offer high-level professional advice on home visits to the parents of tomorrow’s generation of adults.”
    Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), has joined the chorus of frustration from unions and professional organisations over the slow roll-out of PPE to NHS staff.
    Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “The government needs to provide urgently an immediate, adequate and free-flowing supply of PPE to the hospital and community sectors of the NHS.
    “And ministers should not ignore the forgotten army of thousands of dedicated workers employed in social care settings, who are often low-paid.
    “We urge a redoubled effort by ministers to cut through the logistics’ logjams and get this equipment to the frontline where our brave doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are risking their health to save others.
    “It is sometimes forgotten that health visitors and community nurses are out there every day visiting parents in their homes offering excellent advice on new born babies and young children.
    “And while it is generally accepted that children are relatively immune from Covid-19, they or their parents may unwittingly have picked up the virus.
    “The health visitor and community nurse role is particularly important now as parents are, quite rightly, extra anxious about their own health and that of their children.
    “The least we can do is to see that the community nurse workforce has the right protective equipment.”
    Unite lead professional officer for health visiting Obi Amadi said: “Our community practitioner members are working really hard to provide services in the community. In many areas, they have been struggling to keep themselves and those they are visiting safe because of the lack of PPE.  There is also a reported lack of hand sanitisers.
    “The health and care staff working in the community play a vitally important  role, but feel they have not had access to enough PPE, nor been sufficiently recognised for their tireless below-the radar efforts at this time of national emergency.”

     

    Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble

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    All hospital car parking charges for NHS staff in England should be abolished this week as they combat the coronavirus, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Monday 23 March).
    Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said that NHS trusts in England were charging employees an estimated £50-to-£200 a month for the privilege of parking at their place of work.
    Unite contacted shadow Labour health and social care secretary Jon Ashworth this afternoon asking him to raise the issue of abolition of the parking charges for NHS staff for the duration of the coronavirus emergency with his Conservative counterpart Matthew Hancock.
    Unite said such a move, ideally this week, would remove the additional worry for NHS staff concerned about travelling on restricted public transport networks.
    Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “It is a long-standing Unite policy that NHS staff should not be charged to park their cars for coming to work to look after the sick, injured and vulnerable.
    “This is even more important and relevant, given that NHS staff are already risking their lives round the clock to save those suffering from COVID-19.
    “We have been in touch with Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary Jon Ashworth this afternoon asking him to raise this with his counterpart Matthew Hancock as a matter of urgency.  
    “NHS staff don’t need the additional worry of parking, especially when there are restrictions on public transport and it is safer in these times to drive to work than risk infection on trains and buses. 
    “Many NHS staff are not well-paid and the fact that NHS trusts in England  are charging them £50-£200-a-month to park in normal times is wrong – in this exceptional period of national emergency, it is doubly so.”
    Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
    Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.
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