Hospitality staff subjected to abuse and death threats over mask wearing

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Unite has demanded Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, acts now to ensure mandatory mask wearing for customers visiting hospitality venues across the UK, in the same way that those travelling on public transport are now legally obliged to do so.

The call has come from Unite members in the hospitality industry who are angry that they are being left to enforce the wearing of face masks, which causes disputes with customers. These frequently result in threats of physical abuse, which have included death threats, by customers to staff.

In the passenger transport sector compulsory facemasks have been imposed by DfT, in consultation with the unions. This has ensured that transport workers free from the responsibility of having to enforce the wearing of facemasks. But there has been no such engagement from the Digital Culture Media and Sport Department.

“We must ask why hospitality is the only area in the public arena where facemasks are not compulsory. Does the government consider the health and safety of hospitality workers less of a priority than that of workers in other sectors,” said Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary.

“It is outrageous that hospitality workers are being left to police the wearing of facemasks due to the lack of proper mandatory rules or effective legislation. My union is pledged to fight to defend the jobs pay and conditions of our members and the health and safety of our hospitality members is high on that list,” she added.

Unite is calling on the culture secretary Nadine Dorries to immediately open talks with industry leaders and the unions with the aim of imposing mandatory mask wearing at hospitality venues across the whole of the UK, unless seated with family members and/or close friends and while eating and drinking.

“Unite has received many reports from its hospitality members who have been verbally and physically abused and some even receiving deaths threats for asking customers to wear facemasks,” said Bryan Simpson, Unite industrial organiser for hospitality.

“We are disappointed that yet again throughout this pandemic that the health, safety and working conditions of hospitality workers in pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels isn’t even an afterthought for this government,” he added.

Many thousands of hospitality staff are disproportionately on low pay and many are women, young workers or migrant workers.

“Our view is that facemasks must be compulsory in all public spaces – with no loopholes – and that it must not be left to individuals working in hospitality or any other sector, for that matter, to enforce,” said Simpson.

Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers’ living standards.

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