Unions call for safety guarantees ahead of a return to work

10 May 2020, 09:41

Unions have asked the Government to make changes before workers return to employment
Unions have asked the Government to make changes before workers return to employment. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Leaders of some of the country's biggest unions have joined together in calling for a radical overhaul of health and safety in the workplace before a return to work.

The union chiefs have warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson they will not recommend their millions of members return to work unless the Government guarantees "the right policies and practices are in place to make workplaces safe".

In a letter to the Observer newspaper, the leaders of Unison, Unite, the GMB and Usdaw – together with the Trades Union Congress, said significant numbers of their members have died while engaged in essential work during the coronavirus pandemic.

The union leaders wrote all employers should create and publish risk assessments and inform workers on the measures they have taken to make business safe for staff.

Read more: Boris Johnson to reveal five-stage warning scheme ahead of easing restrictions

The leaders also demanded the Government invest in health and safety inspections and sanction employers who do not create a safe working environment.

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify

The union leaders wrote: "After years of cuts, the government must boost funding for pro-active monitoring and health and safety enforcement. And we need a public information campaign so rogue bosses face sanctions.

"The trade union movement wants to be able to recommend the government's back-to-work plans. But for us to do that we need to ensure that ministers have listened and that we stay safe and save lives at work too."

Read more: PM urged to launch public inquiry into BAME coronavirus deaths

The letter comes ahead of a national address by Boris Johnson where he will set out his roadmap for easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions and restarting the economy.

The PM is expected to drop the "stay home" slogan and instead tell the country to "stay alert, control the virus and save lives".

Mr Johnson is also reportedly planning to urge workers who cannot do their jobs from home to begin returning to their workplaces while following social-distancing rules.