Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, which represents many different groups of frontline workers is calling for a full public inquiry to be undertaken to understand how and why low paid workers appear to be at most risk of dying from COVID-19.
The union made its call following the Office for National Statistics publication today (Monday 11 May) of its finding on COVID-19 deaths by profession up to 20 April.
The highest number of deaths were recorded in the social care sector with a total of 131 deaths recorded. Within those figure there were a total of 86 deaths of female workers (9.6 deaths per 100,000 workers) and 45 deaths (23.4 per 100,000) among male workers in the sector.
Taxi drivers at risk
The second highest number of deaths were taxi drivers where there had been 77 deaths with a mortality rate of 36.4 per 100,000.
Statistically the ONS found that male workers had notably increased mortality rates in a number of professions with security guards where 64 workers had died, with a mortality rate of 45.7 per 100,000 workers, being most at risk. Chefs also had a very high rate of death with 37 having died of coronavirus, a rate of 35.7 per 100,000 workers.
Bus workers on frontline
Of other frontline sector workers there was a notable rate of deaths among bus workers with 30 having died of COVID-19 a rate of 26.4 per 100,000. There were also notable fatalities among lorry drivers (29 deaths) and van drivers (33 deaths).
Figures are alarming
Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “These figures are alarming and it is imperative that we learn all the lessons possible now and when this pandemic is over that there is a full public inquiry into these deaths.
“We must never forget this is not about statistics, but each and every death is an individual tragedy where a loved one has died.
“While lessons need to be learned for the future, it is immediately imperative that all workplaces examine these figures and urgently revisit how more effective measures can be taken to protect workers who have remained in work or who are returning to the workplace. Thorough risk assessments are vital and government needs to make sure they happen.
“This is only an early snapshot of this dreadful disease but it is clear that lower paid workers often from a BAME background have been at the greatest risk of dying during the pandemic.
“An inquiry is needed to understand if measures such as the lockdown was introduced too late and whether frontline workers were able to effectively socially distance at work, if effective cleaning regimes were in place and if workers were provided with the necessary PPE to properly protect them.”