“The threat of workplace infections was not insurmountable. But many workers were put at unacceptable risk – especially key workers on the frontline,” says TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady.
On the 8th April, the TUC published its submission to the Covid-19 public inquiry consultation on its terms of reference, which closed on the 7th.
Unions welcome both the commitment from the chair of the inquiry Baroness Hallett to consultation and transparency, and the commitment to examine the unequal impacts on different sectors of the population, such as BME and disabled workers.
However, the TUC says that the Prime Minister’s draft terms of reference should be expanded to fully cover the experiences of workers in the pandemic – especially those who remained in workplaces throughout lockdowns.
These workers faced greater risks and unions are concerned that many of them were impacted by a lack of adequate PPE, lax workplace safety, and inadequate enforcement.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady:
Stating that “everyone has a right to be safe at work,” O’Grady also asserts that the “inquiry must take a deep dive into workplace safety – especially into those workplaces and sectors where outbreaks occurred, and where government Covid safety rules fell short.
“And the inquiry must look in detail into how some workers – especially Black and minority ethnic, disabled and women workers – were particularly hard hit by the response to the pandemic.
“Everyone must be heard for real lessons to be learned. So we encourage the inquiry to listen directly to working people and their unions. We stand ready to work with Baroness Hallett and her team.”
Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, who leads the legal team for the TUC, said:
“In launching this consultation Baroness Hallett rightly emphasised that the terms of reference must properly reflect the public concerns. We agree.
“The Covid-19 pandemic and the response to it has had an impact on almost every aspect of our daily lives, from health and education to workplace safety and personal freedoms. The terms of reference must reflect this if the Covid-19 Inquiry is to be fit for purpose.
“However, the Prime Minister’s current draft is limited and overlooks key issues of profound public concern. Sectors which were severely impacted during the pandemic, such as education, transport, retail, manufacturing, construction and the creative industries, have been omitted. This must change.
“We call on the Prime Minister to ensure that the final terms of reference are broadened, and enable the Chair to proceed with her vital work.”