'We're on the verge of shutdown'

Unite highlights concerns from auto industry employers over large numbers of workers advised to self-isolate by test and trace app

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More than half a million people in the last week alone have been ‘pinged’ by the Test and Trace app advising them to self-isolate for up to 10 days.

Unite has expressed concerns from employers in the auto industry that the huge numbers of people being asked to self-isolate after being alerted by the app could ground the industry to a stand-still.

Some sites are struggling to operate due to hundreds of staff being off at once, with one major engine supplier telling Unite that delays to orders are so severe that work may be permanently moved to China.

Unite is aware of a trial being held at a UK auto maker to reduce the amount of unnecessary self-isolations, which it said industry leaders are keen to replicate to prevent UK manufacturing being ‘crippled’.

The union said government absolutely must not wait’ until August 16 to find a solution to the issue, which it said will lead to people deleting the app and refusing to engage with it in future.

Commenting, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said, “No one is advocating for coronavirus controls to go out the window and Unite’s number one priority remains the health and safety of our members.

“But the reports Unite is receiving from our members and their employers are extremely worrying. It is not an exaggeration to say factories are on the verge of shutting and that at some sites hundreds of staff are off work,” he added.

“One major engine supplier has said that so many people are absent and orders so far behind that work may to be permanently relocated to China.

“The government absolutely must not wait until August 16 to come up with a solution to significantly reduce the amount of people self-isolating unnecessarily,” Turner continued.

“We know that industry leaders are keen to adopt a trial currently being held at a major car maker to safely reduce self-isolation absences to prevent the sector from being crippled.

“It is clear that something has to be done in time for July 19, or else people will simply start deleting the app en masse to avoid isolation notices. There will be public health consequences if test and trace becomes seen as a nuisance rather than an infection control measure.”

Unite national officer for the automotive sector Steve Bush also highlighted the impact the significant increase in app-driven self-isolation is having in the sector.

Bush warns of the impact in the clip below:

Clip compiled by Martin Scanlon

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