Food manufacturer Bakkavor has committed to paying workers who need to self-isolate at its Newark dessert factory, where there has been a recent outbreak of coronavirus, their full basic wage following pressure from Unite.
Previously workers at the Nottinghamshire factory, where Unite has more than 150 members, were only paid statutory sick pay (SSP) of £95.85 a week. However Bakkavor will now make up the difference so that staff who need to self-isolate will receive their full basic wage for the two weeks they are off work.
Unite warned Bakkavor yesterday (11 August) that a lack of adequate sick pay increased the risk of workplace transmission, because it could leave staff facing ‘the stark choice of self-isolating on a radically reduced wage or hoping for the best and going into work because they can’t afford not to’.
The provision applies to the factory’s 1,600 workers if they have to stay off work because they or a member of their family or support bubble are displaying symptoms or because they have been instructed to do so by track and trace personnel.
Unite is also urging its members at the factory to participate in a voluntary testing programme for factory staff, which commences today until midnight on Friday (14 August). Staff can also present for tests next week from Monday (17 August) until Wednesday (19 August).
Unite regional officer Mick Orpin said, “Unite welcomes the decision by Bakkavor to ensure self-isolating workers in Newark receive their full wages while they are off. It is the right thing to do both for those who may struggle to get by if they are forced to stop working and for the wider efforts to stop the virus’ spread. It is also an example of the real gains to be had from joining a union.
“The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated that it is often low paid workers with little protections that are asked to shoulder the most risk during times when society is expected to make collective sacrifices. One lesson that must be learnt is that it is in no one’s interest if workers are forced into a position where they have to put themselves, and potentially others, at risk because they cannot afford to be ill.
“While Bakkavor has recognised this in the context of Covid-19, Unite will continue to press the company to make permanent improvements to staff sick pay at its factory in Newark. We are also urging staff to participate in the factory’s voluntary testing programme to assist with the containment of the virus.”
Orpin added that Unite is ‘satisfied’ with the onsite health and safety precautions being taken, but warned that it is ‘monitoring the situation closely’ and will not hesitate to hold Bakkavor to account if staff are put at risk.