Trade union Unite has called for additional protections for construction workers after Professor Calum Semple, a member of Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies), told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that there were high levels of Covid-19 transmission within the construction industry.
The Daily Mail reports that Unite said that the high transmission rates were likely due to a failure to establish safe site operating procedures.
Jerry Swain, Unite national officer for construction, said: “From the beginning of the pandemic, Unite has warned that construction workers were at considerable risk.
“This situation has been made far worse by the site-operating procedures published by the Construction Leadership Council, which the Government feeds into, which allowed to address the need for compulsory use of masks where workers can’t work in a socially-distanced way, which United has continued to demand.”
He explained that while COVID-safe practices had been implemented at larger sites, the measures were often ‘either weak or non-existent’ on smaller sites or in the domestic sector.
He added that ‘huge swathes’ of the industry are operating through bogus self-employment or agency labour with short tenures that also doesn’t provide employment rights.
The current environment could lead to workers fearing that should they raise concerns they may find their contracts terminated.
“[Prof Semple] is right that a great deal of construction work is undertaken inside, often in poorly-ventilated areas and the risk of transmission is increased in poor weather as workers seek protection from the elements,” added Swain.
He said that although Unite has argued that construction employers need to ensure their workers are protected, the high levels of transmission in the sector show ‘that is simply not happening’.
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