‘Terrified’ York workers say they are not being protected – and some are being made to work for nothing

Photograph: Luke Porter / Unsplash

Employees are “terrified” that York companies are not doing enough to protect them during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a union.

And an email address has been launched where staff can anonymously report their worries whether they are a union member or not.

Leigh Wilks, from York and district Trade Unions Council, said a record number of people are complaining about their employers.

Some people are even being asked to work for free.

He added that in his 13 years with the union, he has never seen such widespread fear.

Mr Wilks said:

  • From the reports which I am hearing from concerned – and sometimes panicked – employees, certain companies seem to be taking this lockdown as an inconvenient blip.

    Whether it’s a failure to provide correct personal protective equipment, failure to maintain minimal distancing measures, or the issuing of cheap non-alcoholic sanitiser which does absolutely nothing to kill viruses – this blasé attitude to health and safety at such a critical time will absolutely not be tolerated.

He warned that some employers are threatening their staff with legal action if they report their fears.

How to report concerns

The TUC is urging people to email [email protected] if they have worries about their workplace.

Mr Wilks has vowed that concerns will be investigated and acted on if necessary.

He warned: “If any company in York thinks they can risk the health of their workers, or even worse, profit on the back of this crisis, they are about to get a very nasty shock.”

‘We’re all put at risk’

Rachael Maskell

Both York’s MPs – Rachael Maskell for York Central and Julian Sturdy for York Outer – are urging employers to follow government guidance and to protect their workers.

Ms Maskell said she has been working with residents, trade unions and companies to keep staff safe.

But she added: “Some employers continue to put workers at risk through not following essential Government advice on hygiene, protective equipment and social distancing.

“I am taking these cases further.

“I want to hear from anyone who is not being kept safe at work. Workers’ lives are being at risk, which means that we are all being put at risk.

“It is not acceptable for those in the front line of the health and care services to be left without the proper protection they need. They are workers too, unnecessarily risking their lives to save ours. They need the PPE to keep them safe.”

Investigate concerns

Julian Sturdy

Mr Sturdy said employers “must tale steps to protect their employees” if they cannot work from home – and that government is constantly reviewing the guidance based on scientific evidence.

He said: “It is absolutely essential that everyone follows official guidance on coronavirus, and employers have a very serious responsibility to ensure that workplaces that remain open operate safely, with employees feeling properly protected.

“I have not yet been contacted by York TUC, but am concerned by any suggestions that some local employees feel social distancing requirements are not being followed.

“It is vital that any such concerns are flagged up and investigated. The employers I have heard from have been responsibly implementing measures to prevent virus transmission.”

He added that he is helping a large number of employees, businesses and self-employed people in his constituency and encouraged residents to get in touch.