Social distancing relaxing must not be used by unscrupulous employers to risk workers health. STUC urge all workers to join a union and encourages good employers to engage with workers to ensure workplaces are safe
Commenting on the First Minister's announcement to allow relaxation of 2 metre social distancing in certain sectors, STUC General Secretary, Roz Foyer, said:
“It is clear that the scientific advice has not changed – relaxing social distancing from 2 metres to 1 metres comes with increased risk – between two and tenfold. And let’s be honest, for many people 2 metres has always meant less in practice and shifting down to 1 metre therefore carries even greater risk than the modelling tells us. It is therefore disappointing that the Government have succumbed to industry lobbying and will relax social distancing, albeit with mitigations, in certain sectors. As the outbreak in Dumfries and Galloway, and testing at Youngs food factory and Alpha Solway factory shows, there is little doubt that workplace transmission is a major risk factor in localised spikes in infection.
“Workers in retail and hospitality are some of our most undervalued workers. They are also more likely to be low-paid and less likely to be in a union. They have borne the brunt of redundancies and now it seems they will run a greater risk of catching coronavirus at their work.
“We are gravely concerned that these low paid workers will bear the risk of having to enforce new rules and take safety decisions. This could include ‘policing’ mask wearing, being insisted to log customer details or intervening on social distancing. This adds extra responsibility and in some cases physical danger. Any employer reducing distancing to 1 metre should bring forward a healthy and safety assessment which includes ensuring the safety of staff.
“The First Minister was very clear that employers wishing to reduce physical distancing should engage with unions. Our doors are open. We would urge all workers in these sectors to join a union, work with their colleagues, and push back against unscrupulous employers in order to ensure the strongest possible mitigations are put in place.”
For more information, please contact Rachel Thomson, Campaigns & Communications Officer, on 07974966227 or Dave Moxham, Deputy General Secretary, on 07891026870.