COVID-19

Retail Workers Must Be Priority For Vaccines Say Trade Unions

By Kevin Craigens

Trade Unions are calling for food retail workers to be vaccinated as a priority alongside other key workers, such as NHS staff and support workers.

This comes in the same week as the number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 reach 100,000 in the UK.

Usdaw and GMB represent many people in different sectors and that includes drivers, warehouse workers as well as those working on shop floors. 

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary, believes that working in retail in this pandemic is something that might worry those who do because of inevitable contact with members of the public. 

“The new ONS statistics demonstrate that  many key workers, who are providing essential services during the pandemic, have an  elevated Covid-19 related death rate,” Lillis said. “It is clear that close proximity to the public and other  workers, as well as an indoor working environment are factors.” 

Usdaw is the fifth largest Trade Union in Britain, representing 400,000 people nationwide. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

He added: “The Government must prioritise vulnerable occupations in the second phase of the vaccine  rollout, reflecting the risks they face. They have worked throughout the pandemic to keep the  country supplied with essentials and these key workers must be valued, respected and  protected.” 

In the last week an unnamed worker for Tesco, in Maryhill, passed away after contracting Covid-19. This added to the fear that many, who work in shops, already have about taking the infection back home to their families.

UWS News reached out to a member of staff in one supermarket but were told that they were willing to comment but could not speak to the press publicly. However, one said: “I think we’re extremely vulnerable and should be vaccinated as a priority given that a Tesco worker died in Maryhill the other day.” 

The National Health and Safety Director at GMB, Dean Shears also joined calls for the Government to make shop workers a priority. 

Shears said: “The death toll has already passed 100,000. It’s vital that the government gets this right and shows us the plans now to protect those like our school support staff. Key and essential workers who throughout the Covid-19 pandemic go out to work and are risking their lives to keep our country ticking over must be included in vaccine rollout plans as soon as possible.”

He reiterated: “We can’t afford any more of the dithering or eleventh-hour announcements from the Government.”

A petition to Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been started to get retail workers the vaccine as soon as possible. 

Petition organiser Rachel Pearson said: “We are classed as key workers and have continued to work throughout the pandemic but we are being completely overlooked.” 

She explained: “Retail Workers are in direct contact with the public on a daily basis, with supermarkets being shown as a frequent Covid exposure setting.”

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