Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw has made an urgent call on supermarkets and food retailers to immediately revert to the stringent safety measures in stores that applied during the first lockdown. The union has been inundated with complaints from members deeply concerned about their safety as customers blatantly flout the rules.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says: 
“Retail staff are working with the public every day and not only suffer increased abuse, but are deeply worried about catching Covid-19. The strict safety measures that we agreed with employers in the first lockdown must now be immediately reinstated in every workplace to ensure that staff are working in the safest conditions possible. Where safety measures are agreed, retailers need to make sure that they are being followed consistently, in every store.

“We are also very concerned by reports that too many customers are not following necessary safety measures like social distancing, wearing a face covering and only shopping for essential items. Usdaw is urging the shopping public to strictly follow the rules to help make shops safer and limit the spread of Covid-19.

“It is going to take some time to roll out the vaccine and we cannot afford to be complacent in the meantime, particularly with a new strain sweeping the nation. The Government has already designated workers in essential retail as key workers therefore we are also calling on the Government to ensure that retail workers and delivery drivers are given priority for vaccination and testing, because they provide the essential service of keeping the nation fed.”

“Many retail workers are at a greater risk of catching the virus and bringing it home to their families. Supermarket workers and delivery drivers have worked throughout the pandemic to keep the country supplied with essentials. These key workers must be valued, respected and protected.”

Usdaw is calling for the following safety measures to be implemented:

  1. Customer numbers limited, with a ‘one in one out’ policy and proper queuing systems, managed by trained security staff where necessary.
  2. Clear signage telling customers to wear face coverings.
  3. Customers to be reminded to shop alone wherever possible, to shop less frequently and only visit a shop for essentials.
  4. 2-metre social distancing strictly observed, with markers and one-way systems wherever possible.
  5. Incidents of violence and abuse must not be tolerated. Employers must back up their staff when dealing with abusive customers and those who refuse to follow social distancing measures.
  6. Enhanced cleaning on the shop floor and in back areas.
  7. PPE, hand sanitiser and cleaning products available for all staff.
  8. Doorstep only delivery procedures are in place to protect drivers.
  9. Staff who are sick or need to self-isolate for Covid related absence to receive full pay and not subject to disciplinary absence procedures.
  10. Workers who are at additional risk need to shield, in line with Government advice. Specific legal protections for pregnant women must be followed.
  11. Local managers engage with trade union health and safety reps to ensure that all agreed measures are being followed.

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)is the UK’s fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

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