Unions have criticised the government’s handling of the messaging around the easing of the lockdown, with some union leaders labelling it a “recipe for chaos”.
Boris Johnson has today been warned by trade unions that ordering people to return to work this week is a “recipe for chaos” if there is not urgent action taken to safeguard the health of workers.
The prime minister announced on Sunday evening that anyone who is unable to work from home should be “actively encouraged” to return to work this week. Revealing plans to gradually ease the coronavirus lockdown and reopen the British economy after more than a month of strict measures, Johnson suggested workers in the construction and manufacturing industries in particular should be encouraged to return.
However, several high profile trade union leaders have voiced their concern over the government’s ‘roadmap’, saying it is too confusing and that it was missing vital measures to protect those returning to work.
John Philips, acting general secretary of the GMB union, said:
More mixed messages from the government – saying there’s no end to lockdown, but asking everyone to go back to work.
If ministers want the economy moving again, we need strict rules on hygiene and social distancing, enough PPE for everyone, regulations employers can’t just ignore if they fancy it.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said:
The government still hasn’t published guidance on how workers will be kept safe. So how can the prime minister – with 12 hours’ notice – tell people they should be going back to sites and factories? It’s a recipe for chaos.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said:
There must be no cutting corners, no playing fast and loose with employees’ safety. The economy is important, but lives are too.
With the UK economy on the brink of its deepest recession in more than 300 years, the prime minister also unveiled plans for a phased reopening of certain shops from the beginning of June. Some parts of the hospitality industry may then be able to partially reopen from July, although this is understood to not include pubs.
GMB calls latest COVID-19 death figures ‘horrifying’
In the background to the debate regarding the easing of the lockdown, GMB have also issued a statement regarding the latest COVID-19 death figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The union, which represents keyworkers, said the “horrifying” figures show that keyworkers and those working in low paid jobs are more likely to die from COVID-19.
John Phillips said:
These figures are horrifying, and they were drawn up before the chaos of last night’s announcement.
If you are low paid and working through the COVID19 crisis you are more likely to die – that’s how stark these figures are.
Ministers must pause any return to work until proper guidelines, advice and enforcement are in place to keep people safe.