GMB union concern of Covid Health & Safety risk to low paid workers

GMB union concern for workers who can’t afford to take time off work and lose pay or even their jobs.

12 May 2021

GMB union, Health & Safety Officer, Paul Holleran raises concern for Covid risk and anxiety fear of catching virus

There is a double whammy health risk from COVID-19. The first obviously is catching the virus, with the possibility of death or long Covid, both with devastating effects, impacting on families and our communities.

Anxious and scared of catching Coronavirus

The second element is the threat of anxiety, a horrible, debilitating mental illness that can also lead to long term damage. As a full time officer with the GMB handling health and safety issues, I see these situations more than I want to. People are anxious and scared of catching coronavirus for their own well being but also in case they spread it to their loved ones. This is particularly worrying for people in the vulnerable category. Vulnerable as in being asthmatic of suffering lung diseases like COPD or deemed to be obese, or pregnant.

Low paid non-unionised workers vulnerable

However, there is another form of vulnerability that can increase the likelihood of catching Covid and or suffering anxiety. That category includes low paid or non-unionised workers. One of the worst failures of this government and there have been many, is in relation to not putting in place a safe, robust new formula for delivering a decent statutory sick pay. The UK has the least generous mandatory paid sick leave of any comparable country in the 36 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. That has led to serious problems for people trying to self isolate. Workers who have no company sick pay or a union to negotiate a protective support package. Workers who can’t afford to take time off work and lose pay or even their jobs. A recent survey by the British Medical Journal suggested that fewer than one in five people could afford to self isolate. Meaning that many Covid carrying people went to work despite knowing they had symptoms. Meaning a quick-fire spread of this deadly infection. The TUC has this month slated the government’s feeble attempt to set up and deliver a functioning self isolation payment scheme, blaming under-funding as one obstacle. Because of this it meant people had to survive on the princely sum of £95.85 a week SSP benefit. And that is why many went to work. We have seen local and city elections this week and may get a glimpse of how the public measure the government performance in this pandemic. Many people won’t be aware of this financial problem because it doesn’t affect them personally. That is why we need politicians who identify with, empathise and support lower income citizens and their families. It is also why trade unionists need to elect leaders who are of the same ilk, protecting the most vulnerable.

GMB Union General Secretary Election

The GMB trade union is about to elect a new Union General Secretary who will lead us through the minefields of post-Covid work. Three candidates are on the ballot; GMB union National organiser Rehana Azam; Scottish GMB union regional secretary Gary Smith and Giovanna Holt a GMB union Senior Organiser from our North West & Irish region, based in Oldham. Ensure you find out what they stand for and use your vote. It is not good enough to leave our democracy to chance with a poor turnout. We need to elect someone who will fight our corner for those who need it most.

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