Unite the Union has warned that hotels providing accommodation for NHS staff, and those acting as coronavirus isolation centres or providing emergency housing during the pandemic, are “risking lives” by failing to provide adequate PPE or safety measures for staff.
Unite has said it is becoming increasingly concerned that staff in hotels and accommodation centres are not being provided with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) or adequate training and advice, putting them at risk of contracting COVID-19.
The union has received a number of reports from hotel industry workers across the country who are worried about the increased risk of contracting or passing on the virus from NHS front line staff or other key workers currently staying in hotels.
The concerns have come as many hotels up and down the country have begun to offer accommodation for NHS workers while they fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Unite’s national officer for hospitality Dave Turnbull said:
Hotel workers, many of whom who are on the minimum wage, are being required to undertake new roles in a highly stressful environment without any proper safety guidelines.
While some hotels are taking a responsible attitude and are trying to introduce guidance to protect staff, that is not true of them all. The hotel chains who have answered the call to provide emergency accommodation must understand that they are risking lives if the correct safety measures are not put in place.
Unite is working with the hospitality task force set up at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy but the government needs to do more.
Unless strict guidelines are immediately introduced, followed and enforced then staff working in accommodation centres, as well as the NHS staff and others staying in them, are at direct risk of being exposed to coronavirus.
Unite is demanding that the government steps in to introduce these measures and that hotel companies immediately ensure the safety of their staff undertaking these roles.
Unite welcomes the appointment of new PPE ‘tsar’
Meanwhile, Unite have welcomed the government’s appointment of a ‘tsar’ to manage and coordinate the manufacture and distribution of PPE.
The union has consistently called for a figure to be appointed to address the severe shortages in the provision of PPE urgently needed by the NHS, social care workers and other key workers.
The health secretary Matt Hancock has now appointed Lord Deighton – the chief planner on the 2012 London Olympics – as new PPE ‘tsar’, following a weekend of claims that NHS staff were being told to re-use their ‘single-use’ safety equipment and that promised shipments of new gowns were being delayed.
Speaking following the appointment of Lord Deighton, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said:
Unite called for a minister for PPE and testing to be appointed weeks ago. It may have taken the government a while to heed our calls but Unite is relieved that they are eventually understanding that the country needs this key appointment at this time of crisis.
Unite has been working with manufacturers the length and breadth of the country to coordinate the mass manufacturing drive needed to provide the safety kit our frontline staff need in order to stay safe.
There is a huge amount of dedication in the army that we’re proud to have helped build but as we have long said, this is a volunteer army without a general.
With the appointment of Lord Deighton, I sincerely hope that the shortcomings in PPE supply of recent weeks can be rapidly overcome so that our workers can feel that they are being cared for while they care for us. It is quite clear from the distressing reports of NHS staff going without the equipment that they need that there is not a minute more to be wasted.
Unite still wants to see a cabinet-level appointee for testing too. The government has to get that right in order to give working people the confidence that this deadly virus has been brought under control. I urge them to heed this call also.