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TUC and unions warn government against “sleep-walking into a winter of chaos”

The government “risks sleep-walking into a winter of chaos” unless it takes decisive action to curb the rise in Covid cases, the TUC and union leaders recently (22 October 2021) warned.

  • Union leaders call for urgent action to curb rise in Covid cases – including mandatory face coverings on transport and in shops, and increase to sick pay 
  • Ministers cannot afford “laissez-faire approach to managing the pandemic” 
  • “Dithering and delaying will only make situation worse” say union heads

In a joint statement – signed by unions representing millions of public and customer-facing workers – the union leaders call on ministers to urgently intervene: 

“With hundreds of Covid outbreaks at workplaces being reported to health authorities each week, events feel ominously reminiscent of last winter. 

“The government must act now to reduce the spread of Covid. Failure to do so will risk public health, frontline services, and the economy.  

“We cannot afford a laissez-faire approach to managing the pandemic – we need clear and consistent leadership.” 

Highlighting the need to keep workers safe, the union leaders call for a range of measures: 

“As unions representing staff in frontline jobs – in retail, transport, public services and across the economy – we call on ministers to introduce the following measures. 

“First, make the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport mandatory. This can’t just be left to individuals’ discretion. 

“Second, remind employers of their legal obligation to manage the risks of Covid-19. That means carrying out and publishing thorough risk assessments and consulting with unions on necessary preventative action. 

“Third, employers who fail to adequately control risks must be met with tough and decisive enforcement action. And regulators, including the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities, must be given the additional resources and funding they need to keep people safe at work.  

“Fourth, we urgently need an uplift in the rate of Statutory Sick Pay to the rate of the real living wage, and for it to be available to all workers. The failure to support workers to self-isolate has massively undermined test and trace and forced people to choose between following the public health and advice and being plunged into hardship. 

“Last, employers must support the roll-out of booster jabs by giving staff paid time off to get vaccinated."

Warning against further delays the union leaders say:  

“We all want to beat Covid once for all and to avoid further lockdowns. But without decisive action now we risk sleepwalking into another winter of chaos. 

“Frontline services are already under immense strain. Dithering and delaying will only make the situation worse.” 

Editors Note

The full statement reads:

Tougher action is required to curb Covid cases and keep workers safe  

We are deeply alarmed by the spiralling infection rates across the country and the sharp rise in hospital admissions. 

With hundreds of Covid outbreaks at workplaces being reported to health authorities each week, events feel ominously reminiscent of last winter. 

The government must act now to reduce the spread of Covid. Failure to do so will risk public health, frontline services, and the economy.  

We cannot afford a laissez-faire approach to managing the pandemic – we need clear and consistent leadership. 

As unions representing staff in frontline jobs – in retail, transport, public services and across the economy – we call on ministers to introduce the following measures. 

First, make the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport mandatory. This can’t just be left to individuals’ discretion. 

Second, remind employers of their legal obligation to manage the risks of Covid-19. That means carrying out and publishing thorough risk assessments and consulting with unions on necessary preventative action. 

Third, employers who fail to adequately control risks must be met with tough and decisive enforcement action.  And regulators, including the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities, must be given the additional resources and funding they need to keep people safe at work.  

Fourth, we urgently need an uplift in the rate of Statutory Sick Pay to the rate of the real living wage, and for it to be available to all workers. The failure to support workers to self-isolate has massively undermined test and trace and forced people to choose between following the public health and advice and being plunged into hardship. 

Last, employers must support the roll-out of booster jabs by giving staff paid time off to get vaccinated.  

We all want to beat Covid once for all and to avoid further lockdowns. But without decisive action now we risk sleepwalking into another winter of chaos. 

Frontline services are already under immense strain. Dithering and delaying will only make the situation worse. 

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary, TUC 

Christina McAnea, General Secretary, UNISON 

Sharon Graham, General Secretary, Unite 

Gary Smith, General Secretary, GMB 

Paddy Lillis, General Secretary, USDAW 

Mick Lynch, General Secretary, RMT 

Manuel Cortes, Genral Secretary, TSSA 

Mick Whelan, General Secretary, ASLEF 

 

Original article link: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/tuc-and-unions-warn-government-against-sleep-walking-winter-chaos

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