The Socialist 18 March 2020 |
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Coronavirus - waste processing employers putting us at risk
Novel coronavirus Covid-19, photo by NIH/CC (Click to enlarge)
I work as a site assistant at a household waste and recycling centre. Last week we received an email from our employer saying "due to the coronavirus we should stay one meter away from any member of the public who is sneezing and wash our hands regularly".
My first reaction was they have lost the plot, or buried their heads in the sand. So I sent a number of questions to them. I'm still awaiting for a response, even though the situation has drastically changed.
1) Do we have to unload a car from someone who is sneezing as the contents of the car will be contaminated?
2) If we have to self-isolate, will we be paid?
3) If we self-isolate will this be on our record as a sickness incident? Three sicknesses in a 12-month rolling period leads to special measures, and potentially dismissal. If this is the fourth sickness in a 12 month period, will we be dismissed?
5) Can we stop opening black bags of rubbish to remove recyclables as these contain soiled waste and a lot of tissues, which is a health risk at any time but even more so now?
6) If the council decides to close the sites, will we be paid?
7) If schools are closed and employees have to stay at home to look after them will they be paid or forced to use holiday, unpaid leave or dismissed for not showing up for work?
8) What is the policy on agency staff who may come in when ill because they cannot afford not too or have to wait 6-8 weeks for a Universal Credit claim to be paid?
9) As our gloves are cut proof but not water proof will they provide us with better gloves?
I'm not holding my breath about them answering the points raised or paying us if the sites are closed.
The problem with closing our sites is that rubbish will be stored at homes - a potential of health hazard - so our health will be put at risk in order to deal with it.
It is a real worry to me and my colleagues that we could go an extended period, through no fault of our own, without pay, in what is a job that has low pay to begin with.
Dave Moody, Bristol