UK: Unite wants COVID-19 income protection extended to self-employed construction workers

30 March 2020 05:09

The United Kingdom government announced recently that it will provide income protection to all employees – at a rate of 80 percent, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. This was after BWI affiliate Unite pressured the government to respond to the working people’s demands for pay protection and health and safety guarantees. 

Unite is also calling on the government to extend its “Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme” to the self-employed, including those in the construction industry. The union explained that just over a million workers are paid via the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS), while the vast majority are “bogusly self-employed” and paid on a weekly basis. It also said that up to half a million construction workers are also paid via Payroll and Umbrella companies. The union insisted that the government should extend its wage protection scheme to protect all construction workers trapped in various forms of bogus self-employment and exploitative employment models.

The British BWI affiliate also decried the lack of appropriate public health and social distancing measures in workplaces that prevent workers from working safely. Unite presented to the public photos of work sites across the UK where the CLC site operating procedures are not strictly implemented. 

As a response, Unite is developing a central database of good and bad practices among companies, to help guide union negotiators bargain for better working conditions amid the pandemic.  

The union also launched a dedicated web page to provide its members and representatives information about their legal rights at work, as well as details of and links to latest health, benefits and other support measures, including an employment law advice line. Unite said that the page will be updated regularly and according to new government announcements. They also contain a list of frequently asked questions, including support measures provided by Unite.