Sir Keir Starmer risked starting a row with his union backers last night after he declared that they were wrong to oppose quarantine exemptions for critical workers.
The Labour leader said that encouraging ‘pinged’ staff members to stay home even if they were eligible for an exemption wasn’t ‘the right way’ and instead urged them to take part in daily testing.
Ministers have announced that critical workers will be able to avoid self-isolation if they take lateral flow tests every day before going to work.
The Labour leader said that encouraging ‘pinged’ staff members to stay home even if they were eligible for an exemption wasn’t ‘the right way’
But the leaders of the UK’s largest unions are encouraging key workers to ignore the exemption and stay at home to protect those at work.
Yesterday, Sir Keir warned unions against taking strike action over the issue.
He told LBC: ‘If it is possible to show that with a double-vaccination and a negative test, critical workers can go back to work, I would support that.’
But Mick Lynch, of rail union RMT, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘If you’re working on board a train or working in a control room, and you are supposed to be isolating, you are enhancing the risk to the other people working around you, whether they’re passengers or colleagues.’
Only one in 20 dedicated Covid test sites have been opened under plans to allow food distribution workers to avoid isolation, amid warnings that the pingdemic will worsen shortages in supermarkets.
About 25 of 500 testing units being established at depots and distribution centres to maintain the supply of food to shops were due to be set up by yesterday.
The full 500 are expected to be open within a week. A further 200 will be set up for other sectors.
Critical workers will be able to avoid self-isolating on contact with a positive case if they take daily tests.
Yesterday, Sir Keir warned unions against taking strike action over the issue
Richard Burnett, the head of the Road Haulage Association, has said the supermarket supply chain could face ‘collapse’ in early August without urgent government action to address staff shortages.
He accused ministers of ‘burying their heads in the sand’ over the problems, which have been exacerbated by a shortage of HGV drivers.
Kit Malthouse, a Home Office minister, confirmed the August 16 deadline for relaxing isolation requirements was unlikely to be brought forward.
He told Times Radio that the change, which allows fully vaccinated people to avoid isolation after contact with positive cases, could not be accelerated because more people needed to be jabbed.