Covid-19 Bulletin 18 – 7 May 2020

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TUC and Napo in step on the response to easing of Lockdown

As we approach the Bank Holiday weekend the nation awaits the big announcement from Government on how they propose to ease the C19 ‘lockdown.’ One of the notable developments from this crisis has been a belated recognition of the fact that trade unions not only exist but can make a vital contribution to economic and safety related issues in the national interest.

Last week the Trade Union Congress were invited to comment on a series of draft guidance documents from BEIS on ‘safer workplaces.’ The TUC continues to seek to engage quickly and constructively with government on the details of these plans, and have raised serious issues about the draft guidance and the process for consultation. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has written to Secretary of State Alok Sharma to set out these concerns, which were also covered in the Guardian and other media outlets.

While the TUC presses central government for significant improvements to whatever guidance is issued over the coming days, Napo is ready to engage immediately with the 23 employers where we are recognised to ensure that all their plans are scrutinised and risk assessed.

We simply will not buy into any notion that the risk to our members from this horrendous pandemic has miraculously reduced. Not with daily reports still showing thousands of new C-19 infections and several hundred deaths in our communities. Not, as we witness ‘Kafkaesque’ government failures to distribute the PPE equipment that has been available into the right places, and the failures (including todays news over the debacle with Turkey, for what has eventually proved to be sub-standard products) to secure new material.

Our position is clear. If a workplace is not safe to return to and there is an increase in risk to staff and service users it must not open. Unless our members feel confident that they can travel into work safely to meet a genuine requirement that cannot be delivered remotely then no instructions to the contrary should be issued by employers. We will also insist on full transparency from all employers on their thinking in this respect; so that we can take a collaborative approach to ensure safe working arrangements and restore confidence in advance of an eventual widespread return to work.

Remember the forgotten generation

The switch of the traditional May Bank Holiday to Friday 8th, has been a cause of disorientation to many trade unionists who have May 1st built into into their DNA. Nevertheless, it’s a timely opportunity to celebrate the defeat of fascism in Europe in 1945 and the sacrifices made by a generation of working people.

In recent weeks the spread of the pandemic has put a new generation of workers in a different line of fire as witnessed by the appalling death rates for NHS staff from Coronavirus. What is also appalling, and becoming more so by the day, is the loss of so many senior citizens within the care home system. Many of these victims survived the worst that Nazism could throw at them 75 years ago only to now die alone, save for the company of heroic care workers who themselves have all too often been left unprotected.

It speaks volumes for the way in which this sector has been denuded of funding and strategic help. One that has suffered in all too many cases from being left in the hands of profit driven privateers who don’t mind raking in the cash but won’t even pay the minimum wage to their employees as successive Tory Governments have ignored the problem.

There will be many bereaved families questioning how and why their loved ones were left to the ravages of C-19; but they will also be asking why, even if death was inevitable, that the thousands of new hospital beds that have been boasted about by Ministers were not utilised. What sort of society have we become that we cannot offer so many people, who were the foundation for Britain’s post-war regeneration the basic comfort, dignity and respect that they deserve in their final hours of need.

Remember them too tomorrow won’t you?