NHS staff and care workers on the front line of the battle against COVID-19 should be provided with free parking from businesses, says UNISON.
The UK’s largest union has urged businesses such as retail outlets, gyms, pubs and bars to make their now-empty car parks available to all NHS staff and care workers free of charge.
UNISON, which represents public sector workers such as NHS, school, police and care workers, is calling on local businesses that are now closed due to the coronavirus pandemic to help key workers to drive to work and avoid public transport.
The union has also called on parking operators to follow the lead of National Car Parks (NCP), which has opened up its 150 sites across the country for NHS workers.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said today:
Tubes, trains and buses are rammed with passengers including health and care staff. It’s essential they can get to work without putting their lives and those of patients and the people they care for at risk.
Local business owners whose premises are closed should do the right thing and free up their parking spaces – especially those situated near hospitals. As many staff that can should be able to drive in to do their jobs.
Travelling by car would help keep NHS and care employees safe, and protect those they’re caring for.
Parking spaces at hospitals and clinics are limited especially in cities and towns. Any additional capacity donated by local businesses could literally be a lifesaver.
UNISON’s intervention comes after some NHS staff launched an online petition calling for free hospital car parking during the coronavirus crisis.
NHS worker Anthony Gallagher set up the petition on Change.org just days ago, and it has so far attracted over 20,000 signatures.
The petition references the Principles In NHS Car Park Charging guidelines introduced by the government, that state car parking fees should be ‘reasonable’, and questions whether it is ‘reasonable’ to charge NHS workers to park at their place of work at the current time.
Mr Gallagher writes to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, as well as the Prime Minister and Chancellor:
My request is simple. Please stop charging this workforce to use their staff car parks.
That’s all I’m asking.
I understand that Hospital Trusts need more money than they are given, but as we have seen this week, there are other sources of that money. Find another way.
There have been some truly astonishing fines levied at NHS staff for parking at work in the lead up to the current staffing crisis.
The Principles In NHS Car Park Charging that this government introduced in 2014 states that “car park charges must be reasonable”.
I petition that it is not reasonable to charge the NHS workforce to park at work at this time, nor is it reasonable to distract that workforce with worries about being fined for parking at work.
Mr. Hancock, Mr. Sunak, Mr. Johnson, if you really are as grateful as you say you are to the staff of our NHS, then please abolish staff parking fees and fines throughout the NHS immediately and forever.