Council outsourcer Norse Medway has been forced to implement coronavirus safety measures for refuse workers and other staff following action by Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union.
The company, which operates refuse collection, street cleaning and other services for Medway council in Kent, was forced to introduce social distancing and hygiene measures after Unite exposed the firm’s disregard for the health of key workers, who also walked out in protest over serious health and safety concerns.
Norse Medway’s decision came after Unite action secured the introduction of social distancing measures for waste collection workers at Thurrock Council, in Essex.
After the company was named and shamed on Monday for making refuse staff sit four to a cab with insufficient personal protection equipment (PPE), a number of safety measures were agreed with Unite, the union said today (Wednesday 1 April).
These include not insisting on workers sitting more than two to a vehicle cab, full PPE, such as hand sanitiser, gloves, masks and wipes, and changes to toilet access and other measures to ensure a safer workplace.
Unite regional officer Phil Silkstone said: “These measures should have been introduced immediately but it was only because our members, with help from the union’s organising department, stood firm on these issues that they have been resolved.
“Norse Medway’s employees will no doubt be relieved that the company have taken steps to ensure their safety, as well as that of their families and the wider community.
‘It is now imperative that Norse grants medical suspensions on full pay to staff with underlying health conditions or allows them to be furloughed under the government’s pay scheme to provide 80 per cent of their wages.
“Those that need to self-isolate also need to be granted medical suspensions on full pay.
“These measures need to be implemented so workers do not risk coming into work and potentially spreading the disease because they don’t want their incomes plummeting on statutory sick pay.
“Medway council is granting medical suspensions on full pay to at risk and self-isolating staff and there is no reason why Norse shouldn’t follow suit.”