Scott Jones, Socialist Party in Usdaw
Ikea has become the latest company to cut sick pay for unvaccinated workers who need to self-isolate because of Covid, and in some cases for workers who test positive.
Sick pay cuts will also be implemented at Wessex Water, and last year supermarket Morrisons cut sick pay terms. Others have a ‘no jab, no job’ policy like in social care in England.
While the move has been prompted by rising Covid cases and staff absences, this is just the latest in a long line of attacks on sickness pay in retail, with most supermarket workers not being paid for the first three days of absence already, and then paid only £96.35-a-week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) afterwards in most cases. Now companies are using the pandemic to divide the workforce and withhold pay.
At Ikea, unvaccinated workers who do not have mitigating circumstances and test positive will be paid in line with company sick pay, but unvaccinated workers without mitigating circumstances and required to isolate owing to being identified as a close contact, will now receive only the minimum SSP.
But it’s unclear who decides what is mitigating or not, is it the bosses?
The shop workers’ union Usdaw calls itself the union for Ikea workers, but hasn’t said anything about the company stripping unvaccinated workers of proper sick pay.
Such a policy is more likely to push workers towards dangerous conspiracy movements as it is to encourage workers to get vaccinated. Those who may be sceptical about the jab or have concerns about side effects, should be properly informed about the benefits and risks instead of being financially penalised, or in some cases forced out of a job. Unions must defend workers and fight divisive policies.
It shows the need for workers’ and trade union control and oversight in the workplace to ensure safety and fair and equal treatment of workers. Trade unions must oppose any repressive compulsion of workers to get vaccinated and attacks on those who don’t. But it must also fight for democratic, working-class oversight of the pandemic response, to give workers confidence that decisions are being made in the interests of workers’ safety and not capitalist profits.