Unite, which represents thousands of workers in the hospitality and hotel sector, is warning that the government guidelines on quarantine hotels fails to adequately protect workers from being exposed to Covid-19.
Unite issued its warning after the BBC has revealed how the government’s quarantine hotel policy is notably inferior to that of Australia and has failed to learn the lessons from the success and failures of that country’s policy.
The BBC has highlighted several failings in the government guidelines, contrasting the approach taken in Australia.
For example, in the UK, guests will be allowed access to fresh air outside, escorted by a security guard, whereas in Australia, the view is that staff should not be put at risk by escorting people outside.
There also is no guidance on the timing of meal deliveries, potentially leading to cross-infections between guests as room doors are opened at the same time. What’s more, surgical masks required for staff provide less protection than the superior FFP3 masks required in Australia’s system.
There are also concerns that the government’s guidelines do not require the daily testing of quarantine hotel workers, for which they are paid in Australia, nor does it prohibit workers from working in more than one quarantine hotel, to prevent cross-transmission.
Unite warned last month that the government’s plans for quarantine hotels must ensure that there is complete Covid security for staff working in them.
Unlike Australia, where the principle risk of transmission is from passengers, the UK has very high levels of Covid-19 in communities. This means that workers are equally at risk of being exposed to Covid from each other as they are from contracting it from quarantining guests.
Unite is concerned that low-paid workers will avoid taking tests as they cannot afford to be off work. One of the major failings of the government’s Covid strategy is that workers cannot afford to self-isolate when required, because they cannot live on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £95 a week.
Unite hospitality organiser Bryan Simpson said, “The revelations that the UK’s guidelines for preventing the transmission of Covid are far inferior to those in Australia are deeply alarming for hotel workers.
“Once again, the government has been found guilty of prioritising headlines over the safety of workers.
“It must not be ignored that workers are in as great a danger of transmitting the virus between each other as being exposed to it from quarantining passengers,” he added.
“Unite will be assisting our members on a hotel by hotel basis. If safety measures are insufficient Unite will demand immediate changes.
“If improvements are not made immediately, Unite will advise our members of their legal right to withdraw their labour if their health is being placed in immediate danger.”
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett noted, “The guidelines on quarantine hotels are yet another political failure by the government.
“The government has failed to learn the lesson that half measures don’t work when tackling Covid-19 measures,” he added.
“Until the government tackles the problem of low paid workers not being able to afford to self-isolate due to the incredibly low levels of SSP, the overall rates of Covid-19, and workplace transmissions in particular, will at best slow the decline of the virus or at worst will result in increased transmission rates.”
By Barckley Sumner