Great Britain

Union advises cleaners and bin collectors to reject self-isolation exemption

THE GMB union is advising more than 2,000 street cleaners and bin collectors in Scotland to refuse to return to work and self-isolate if they have been exposed to coronavirus.

In line with ministers in Westminster, the Scottish government recently announced that organisations employing critical workers can apply for quarantine exemptions if they are “pinged” by the NHS Covid-19 app as essential services become stretched. 

But after talks with workplace representatives, GMB has recommended its more than 2,300 members in cleansing and waste services for councils in Glasgow, North and South Lanarkshire, West Lothian and elsewhere to put their health first and refuse self-isolation exemptions.

GMB Scotland’s Drew Duffy said: “A major underlying factor in the so-called ‘pingdemic’ is the chronic understaffing in our front-line services after years of cuts, and our cleansing and waste is no different.

“But the Scottish government’s new guidance has opened the door for employers across the country to heap more pressure on these key workers if they have been exposed to Covid-19. That’s not safe for workers, families or communities.

“You cannot cut and coerce your way out of a crisis: if you want services to function then you must invest in them.”

A Scottish government spokesman claimed self-isolation rules already state that exemption will only be granted to staff who “voluntarily agree not to self-isolate,” adding that bosses also had a duty of care to all their employees.

A record 689,313 self-isolation alerts were sent by the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales in the week to July 21, official figures show, as supermarkets report empty shelves and public transport services are cut back. 

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