Plan B: government must protect workers

Urgent government action needed to properly protect workers following plan B announcement

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Unite is calling on the government to introduce effective measures to ensure that workers who cannot work from home are protected following yesterday’s (December 8) announcement that it is implementing Plan B, as a result of the rise of the omnicron variant.

Although the government has instructed workers who can do so to work from home, that does not apply to the majority of Unite’s members who will still be expected to work normally, in sectors including: automotives, construction, food production, passenger transport, logistics and healthcare.

The government has provided little or no information to employers and workers in these sectors to ensure that the danger of at work transmission is minimised.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “The government’s mixed messaging has left workers confused and worried. It is not enough just to say that if you have to go out to work you should carry on doing so. The government must implement measures to maximise safety within our workplaces in order to protect those people who have kept this country going.

“It is clear that additional measures are needed in all sectors of the economy in order to reduce the risk of infection.”

Unite is calling on all workplaces to conduct reviews of their risk assessments and initiate appropriate control measures such as ventilation, barriers, social distancing with appropriate signage and ensure hygiene facilities are adequate.

Unite believes that face coverings should be mandatory in crowded and communal workplace areas, with FFP2 type masks provided for certain types of work such as that undertaken by frontline health workers. If face coverings/mask wearing are deemed necessary for workers for extended periods they should receive extra breaks, in order to recover.

Unite also believes that in order to help prevent the rapid transmission of all variants of Covid-19, the government should reintroduce the free supply of lateral flow tests to employers in order to ensure that workers are regularly tested and outbreaks are minimised.

If the government is serious about wanting to ensure that anyone who is a close contact of someone who has contracted the omnicron variant self-isolates, then the level of sick pay must be significantly increased. Sick pay in the UK is among the lowest in Europe.

Unite is highly concerned that unless such additional measures are taken then rates of infection will increase and huge pressure will be placed on the NHS, whose staff are already exhausted from coping with the effects of the pandemic for over 18 months.

Unite national health and safety adviser Rob Miguel added, “There are a whole series of measures that could and should be taken to reduce the risk of infection in the workplace.

“The government has a moral duty to ensure that these are fully implemented. It is not good enough to cross your fingers and hope that employers do the right thing, clear leadership and guidance is required.”

By Barckley Sumner

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