'Working in a climate crisis'

Unite delegate Tracey Whittle speaks out on realities for people working in extreme temperatures

Reading time: 3 min

Unite delegate and construction worker Tracey Whittle made a powerful contribution to a debate on working in high temperatures on Wednesday (October 19).

Highlighting that as weather becomes more and more severe, Tracey said it was vital that conference discuss “the realities of working in a climate crisis”. 

Drawing from her own experience in the construction industry working on the roads, she explained, “When you have your normal clothes on, followed by heavy, industrial PPE, hi-vis trousers, hard boots and boots with steel toe caps, it is not pleasant to be outside in the sun for your eight-hour working day.”

She added that there are virtually no facilities on the sides of roads so workers are often “left for whatever their bosses deem fit”.

“There is nowhere to fill up water bottles when you are working in the middle of a road,” Tracey noted. “Industrially we have taken up the demands for the proper PPE so they can get thinner PPE.  We have also asked for extra breaks for hydration and to use facilities.”

Tracey also highlighted the challenges faced by bus workers who often don’t have access to cold water when they need it. She went on to highlight that in the public transport sector, it is both drivers and passengers who suffer.

Highlighting a recent Unite survey of over 5,000 bus workers, she pointed out that 89 per cent of drivers said they felt ill over the past year because of heat in their cabs.

“Shockingly and worryingly, 70 per cent of drivers said on cold days, buses are not heated adequately and over one in five felt unwell as a result of working in cold temperatures,” she added. 

Concluding her speech Tracey said, “Our commitment to safety in the workplace inside and outside, has never been of more importance.”

She urged conference to support the motion, which was carried.

By Hajera Blagg

Pic by Mark Thomas

Related Articles