Covid-Safe Workplaces?

I was a Branch Secretary for PCS trade union for 22 years and held other lay posts within that union and indeed its predecessor unions (IRSF & PTC) throughout my working life in the civil service. So it’s probably no surprise then that my now-retired eye was caught by the article below on the BBC website:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-56647149

I’ve been troubled throughout this wretched pandemic about how safe UK workplaces really are and the telling thing for me has been that I’m yet to hear of any employers being prosecuted for unsafe C19 conditions. Trade unions, of course, will always be (or at least should always be) on the front foot should their members have concerns about unsafe workplaces.

Here’s what the Health & Safety Executive say about how they get involved with workplace Covid 19 concerns:-

www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/regulating-health-and-safety/index.htm

I’d heard about the Swansea situation a while back and it seems like my former trade union and indeed its members in that agency of government have decided enough is enough. Clearly, even if all guidelines are being followed by DVLA (and I’ve no reason to think they are not) something is far from right with such large numbers of staff falling victim to C19.

But just think for a moment about all those non-unionised workplaces across the UK and how safe the staff feel who work in them, over C19 or indeed other matters, if there’s no union to take their employer to task.

We generally have safe working conditions in the UK because of the efforts of trade unionists over many generations. It’s best to join a union in my view; indeed when I first started work in the civil service it was and had been government policy for a long time to encourage all civil servants to join their appropriate trade union. That was good advice to me.

Covid-safe workplaces?

As a retired trade union officer an issue has been bouncing around in my head for a while now associated with the C19 return to work i.e. how do we ensure workplaces are as safe as they can be made?

In a unionised workplace the answer is pretty obvious as the appropriately trained TU H&S reps will ensure the workplace is safe. Indeed, I often recall that in my working days the TU H&S reps were often trained to a higher level than managers who actually held the legal H&S responsibilities.

But what happens in non-unionised workplaces? At one end of this will be the ‘sod the workers we want them back in grafting and beggar the consequences’ type employers who may well be putting pressure on employees to return to an unsafe workplace. At the other end there will be good employers who simply don’t know everything they should do (risk assessments etc.) and may then create a unsafe workplace inadvertently. Of course there’ll be every variation between these two extremes.

I decided to have a look at what the Health & Safety Executive were saying and here it is:-

www.hse.gov.uk/news/hse-regulatory-activity-during-coronavirus.htm

And here’s a link to the TUC and Coronavirus:-

www.tuc.org.uk/CoronavirusProtectingWorkers

If ever workers needed to be members of a trade union now is the time as many of the worries about returning to work will be dealt with without individuals having to do that worrying. I remain concerned that non-unionised workers will find themselves at a health disadvantage and during this pandemic that’s not where anyone wants to be.