Following on from an earlier statement responding to the news that the UK would be put on lockdown amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey on Tuesday (March 23) appealed to the prime minister to act swiftly to clear up the confusion about who can be at work and how insecure and self-employed workers will be supported economically.
Warning that the lack of clarity and absence of financial support for insecure workers are at odds with the national emergency, the appeal follows pictures this morning from London, the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK, of packed construction sites and tube trains as workers continue to head to work.
McCluksey urged the government to work more closely with trade unions in order to get the correct measures in place for working people.
“The prime minister has asked us all to play our part in the enormous national effort to save lives and beat the Covid-19 virus,” he said. “But the stark reality is that millions of workers are confused about whether or not they can or should be at work.
“At the same time, the millions of self-employed and insecure workers across the country will dread being sent home because it means that they will have no wage,” he added.
“The government must work with trade unions to define the tougher isolation rules because we understand the reality of the workplace. Had the government talked to us beforehand, for example, we would have been able to spell out to them how their new measures would be met by workers in construction and its supply chain.
“So I appeal to the prime minister and his government, please work with us in order to keep your promise to do whatever it takes. Waste no more time before putting in place adequate incomes support and be very clear with employers about how you will support them to do the right thing by their workforce,” McCluskey went on to say.
“Without swift clarity for millions of insecure and uncertain workers about whether they can be at work or not, and without removing the agonising choice between health and hardship, then the positive measures announced by the chancellor last week will be overshadowed and public health efforts will be severely compromised.
“Confused messages and lack of financial support are at odds with the urgency of this health emergency. Workers need clear direction and protection from government now.”