An alliance of unions is telling workers to join a workplace organisation to protect themselves as lockdown eases

By Grainne Cuff, BBC Local Democracy Reporter


Lewisham Trades Union Council is urging people to join a union in the wake of Government advice to go back to work.  

The Prime Minister announced on Sunday that people who cannot work from home can go back to work. 

But Cheryl McLeod, president of LTUC, said “any return to work in Lewisham must be Covid-19 safe and secure”.  

“Anything else would be reckless, irresponsible and an insult to all the sacrifices that people, public services and businesses have made so far,” she said, adding that Boris Johnson’s statement last weekend “caused confusion and anxiety among workers”. 

“People want and need to return to work. But that return must be a Covid-19 safe and secure return to work. 

“The Government’s first duty is to protect its people. It must give clear direction to workers and business by issuing robust guidance on workplace health and safety.  

“This is what businesses and unions have demanded.  

“And it must be equally clear that enforcement will be robust and that employers who knowingly endanger workers and customers – and hence endanger us all – will be caught and punished. 

“Businesses have a legal duty to prepare risk assessments and to consult with their staff.  

“Workers also have Employment Rights Section 44 if they feel their workplace is unsafe to return. 

“And trade union health and safety reps in Lewisham stand ready to use their expertise to help organise a Covid-19 safe and secure return to work.  

“Together we can overcome the Government’s dither and confused message. Together we can get it done. Join a trades union,” Ms McLeod said.  

A department for business, energy, and industrial strategy spokesperson said its new Covid-19 secure workplace guidelines give “clear and practical advice” to businesses.  

He said: “People who cannot work from home should be actively encouraged to go to work, if they work in a sector that is allowed to be open, subject to social distancing. 

“Our new ‘Covid-19 secure’ workplace guidelines give clear and practical advice on how UK businesses can get back up and running safely, and were developed in close consultation with hundreds of business groups, industry bodies and unions – including the TUC.” 

The guidance covers construction and other outdoor work, factories, lab and research facilities, offices and contact centres, other people’s homes, restaurants offering takeaway or delivery, shops, and driving-related work.  

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