Only appropriate response to Coronavirus threat is to shutdown all non-essential production putting employees on fully-paid leave for duration
Workers in essential production and businesses must be kept safe or sent home
Susan Fitzgerald, Regional Coordinating Officer for Unite called on the Stormont Executive to shutdown non-essential producers and to enforce robust adherence to PHA Coronavirus guidelines on those who front line businesses who continue to open.
“Yesterday’s long overdue announcement by the Prime Minister left workers across Northern Ireland hugely confused. Many were left questioning why they were required to go to work given that their employer was in non-essential production.
“It is beyond belief that workers are expected to come in and stand in close proximity in their hundreds – whether in aerospace or other non-essential manufacturing – at this time. It is simply not possible to keep these workers safe against the rising threat of Coronavirus.
“Across the front-line production sector – in particular in food, workers are reporting widespread management flouting of guidelines on social distancing and the lack of personal protection equipment. In some cases when workers go into self-isolation with symptoms or even test positive for Coronavirus, bosses are refusing to shutdown their working area or conduct a deep-cleanse and expect their colleagues to continue in work instead of self-isolating. Indeed some workers have informed Unite that employers have written to their workers to tell them they cannot be held liable if they contract Coronavirus at work!
“Such callous approaches are totally unacceptable. Workers need to organise to secure immediate improvements through the intervention of trade union health and safety reps but what is needed is for government to adopt an approach of shutting down workplaces who are playing loose and fast with their workers’ health and well-being. In the long-run failure to properly distance workers will result in a collapse of production in any case as more and more workers contract the virus.
“Stormont must act to make good its words on protecting workers in essential industries and workplaces. In the meantime Unite will not hesitate to call out those who abuse their workers”, Ms Fitzgerald said.