Wales TUC: Welsh Government Covid announcement must meet key tests on worker safety
The Wales TUC is calling on the Welsh Government to maintain a cautious and pragmatic approach to Covid restrictions ahead of the planned announcement on changes this week.
The union body has set out seven key tests on worker safety for the Welsh Government to meet as it considers whether or not follow England’s path in abandoning most Covid regulations.
The seven key points identified by the Wales TUC are:
Keep the Covid regulatory structure in place and don’t abandon it for the vague ideas of ‘common sense’ and ‘personal responsibility’. Measures like wearing face coverings and social distancing are intended to protect others and therefore require a collective commitment. The First Minister should re-enforce the message that employers have a legal responsibility to keep their workers safe – as only 1 in 4 workers say that their bosses have complied with Covid regulations.
Maintain all proportionate steps possible to lessen risk – including face coverings. Keep mandatory face coverings in our hospitals, care settings, shops and public transport and talk to workers in other sectors about their preferences.
A greater focus on ventilation. This should include following Belgium’s example and introduce mandatory carbon dioxide monitors in workplaces to give an indication of air quality. 50% of workers say that their employer has not taken any steps to improve ventilation at work.
Extra protection for vulnerable workers. Continue to protect more vulnerable workers with specific measures introduced for those who are clinically vulnerable or not fully vaccinated. For example, access to higher grade masks that may protect them in a way that face coverings do not.
Tackle confusion on testing. Review the approach to asymptomatic testing and the messaging about testing overall so that as many people as possible learn that they are infected and isolate. This should include clear guidance about how frequently people who aren’t working from home should take a test and also encourage people who are regularly visiting indoor public places like hospitality venues to test themselves regularly.
Extend the financial support schemes for people being asked to isolate for as long as they are needed. Over a third of workers do not get full sick pay and we shouldn’t be financially punishing people who are trying to do the right thing.
Work with unions and employers to urgently review and streamline all the various forms of guidance and information about workplace safety. The current vast range of documents is difficult to navigate, some of it would cause confusion (if people accessed multiple documents intended for the same work setting) and much of it has not been updated for some time.
Shavanah Taj, Wales TUC General Secretary said:
“Thanks to our vaccination programme we are not facing the same terrible choices that we had during the first two waves of the pandemic.
“But it doesn’t automatically follow that we should now just declare the crisis over and go back to living as if Covid has simply gone away. Freedom is not as simple as just throwing caution to the wind.
“The First Minister should apply the cautious and pragmatic approach that has served him well up to this point to these new circumstances.
“Taken together these measures we’ve proposed would allow us to take the next steps back to the normality that everyone wants without being reckless with people’s health.”