Unite, the UK’s leading union, is warning that frontline workers are becoming increasing exasperated with the government’s failure to get a grip on surging numbers of Covid-19 infections, which has the knock on effect of requiring hundreds of thousands of workers to self-isolate.
The union, which represents tens of thousands of workers in the haulage and warehousing sectors, issued its warning after stories emerged of empty supermarket shelves as a result of the high number of workers being forced to self-isolate and the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers.
Unite’s national officer for drivers and warehouse staff Matt Draper said, “Our members are sick and tired to the government’s piecemeal approach to resolving the problems in the sector.
“Workers don’t blame the NHS app for requiring them to self-isolate, they blame the government for the rise in infections, which has been made far worse by its totally misguided decision to end all legal restrictions,” he added.
“Already our members are reporting that companies are reducing safeguards in the workplaces such as enhanced cleaning regimes, which is dangerous and is a result of the mixed messages that the government is issuing on a daily basis,” Draper continued.
“Allowing frontline workers such as lorry drivers not to self-isolate if pinged may alleviate short-term supermarket supply issues but it will do nothing to reduce infection rates.
“What is needed is clear leadership from the government which includes workers needing to be paid properly to self-isolate, masks need to be made mandatory once again on public transport, retail and hospitality venues and an urgent U-turn on the decision to end the supply of free tests to employers.”
Matt Draper went on to say, “It must not be forgotten that the haulage industry was already in crisis due to driver shortages, before the pingdemic struck.
“The government has ignored repeated warnings that the industry was already struggling due to the pandemic and Brexit which has led to a sharp decline in the number of drivers,” he continued.
“While years of driving down pay rates, excessively long hours and entirely inadequate welfare and rest facilities have made the industry unattractive to new recruits.
“Unite has been warning the government of these problems for years but rather than acting upon them it has chosen not to listen.”
By Barckley Sumner