The right to dignity

Unite delegates call for a fundamental right for workers to have access to adequate sanitary facilities

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Unite delegates held a passionate debate about the necessity of workers’ rights to adequate sanitary facilities on the second day of policy conference on Wednesday (July 12).

Unite delegate Tracie Clugston (pictured above), who seconded a composite, spoke of her experience as a female bus driver, and said that it was “so frustrating” that in 2023, workers were still having to demand adequate sanitary facilities.

She noted that since the Covid pandemic, local authorities have started to shut bus stations at nine or ten o’clock in the evening.

“What happens to our brothers and sisters who are working till the early hours of the morning – where will they spend a penny?” she asked conference.

Tracie spoke of how she hears from members in the Highlands of Scotland who have little or no access to facilities as she urged conference to support the composite.

Meanwhile, Unite delegate Jonathan Atherton (pictured below), who works for local authorities in the North West, recounted how “one of the massive problems” with highway workers is that they can’t go to the toilet – that they often have no other choice but to urinate in a bottle. Some have even been stopped by police going to the toilet in bushes.

“People should have the right to be dignified in the workplace,” he said.

Unite delegate Surender Kumar (pictured below), a mobile worker who works for a white goods company, also spoke of his personal experiences struggling to find adequate facilities. He said that while customers will often allow them to use facilities, some have refused.

“You then have to hold on, you have to look for local facilities but they’re less and less available – there’s no McDonald’s everywhere. In this day and age, this is not fair – we shouldn’t be suffering like this,” he added.

Unite delegate Keith Oxborough of the South West likewise called for conference to support the motion, noting that ultimately, lack of facilities comes down to cost-cutting, and that such cost-cutting must be opposed.

The composite was unanimously carried.

By Hajera Blagg

Pics by Mark Thomas