Serious concerns have been raised by trade union leaders highlighting the inconsistencies over protection for those working in the front line during the Covid19 pandemic.
The trade unions who have been involved in ongoing discussions with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) on their response to this crisis are now increasingly concerned that the lack of urgency and consistency across Scotland is putting workers and members of the public at risk.
A joint letter from Unite, GMB and Unison,who collectively represent over 120,000 workers, states that the lack of a consistent approach now requires the First Minister’s direct intervention.
The Orkney News published an article a few days ago highlighting this same issue: Concerns Raised Over Lack of PPE As Orkney Has Its First Confirmed Case #COVID19 #Coronavirus
The Key Concerns are:
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – Ongoing concerns regarding the availability and quality of PPE for workers. There are specific issues regarding the availability of PPE for those working with vulnerable users in home care settings and the need for urgent clarification over the self-isolation for workers who have been in close contact with service users confirmed as having the virus.
Social Distancing – Serious concerns continue about the ability of workers to observe social distancing measures at work. There are particular difficulties with workers being told to travel to sites in the same vehicle – in waste and home care services in particular.
Testing Workers – there is an urgent need to test frontline workers in accordance with WHO guidance. There appears to be no strategy or consistency currently about when tests will be rolled out and who will be tested.
Key Workers – The need for greater clarity around who meets the definition of a ‘key worker’ because there are many situations where some workers in some authorities are being deemed ‘key workers’ and others are not.
Link: Letter from the Cabinet Secretary Jeane Freeman MSP and Cllr Stuart Currie, COSLA Spokesperson for Health and Social Care, to all the Integration Joint Boards and local authorities about the definition and status of key workers including links to useful information and guidance.
Waste Collection – The need for a one nation policy on residential waste collection. 32 local authorities are doing different things – some maintaining a full service, others closing all waste and recycling centres.
The Joint Trade Unions state:
“Unite, GMB and Unison have been raising a number of key concerns in relation to the inconsistent and ultimately dangerous approach to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic with COSLA.
“We believe that local government workers, and those in the third and private sectors, delivering services must be protected in terms of their health both physical and mental.
“To date this is not being done anywhere near effectively enough. We are on the brink of the peak of the pandemic and still there exist major concerns over social distancing, personal protective equipment, the definition of who is a key worker and the availability of testing for those workers in local authorities and those providing services on behalf of them, particularly in the home care sector.
“The trade unions appreciate that this is an unprecedented time but the flimsy and inconsistent guidance that is currently being issued by local authorities is putting lives at risk.
“We need a national response and this must come from the First Minister’s lead to ensure that the advice is clear, consistent and comprehensive.”
As the numbers of confirmed cases in Scotland continues to rise it is only too apparent how few tests are being done. Figures as at 1st April 2020
A total of 17,007 people in Scotland have been tested. Of these:
- 14, 697 tests were confirmed negative
- 2,310 tests were positive
- 76 patients who tested positive have died
The majority of the public continue to observe social/physical distancing and limit their shopping to either once a week or to home deliveries. The public is playing its part to prevent the spread of Covid19 and we expect those we have elected to do the same by ensuring frontline workers are equipped to do so, protecting themselves and those they care for.