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COMPANIES who flout government guidance by making their “non-essential” workers attend work during the coronavirus crisis should be forced to shut, the TUC said today.
Government should directly intervene to close the doors of firms that breach instructions, general secretary Frances O’Grady said.
Ministers have been called on repeatedly by unions and politicians to crack down on firms that break rules or punish workers for self-isolating.
The TUC demanded that the government provide clearer guidance on which workers are considered essential and to tell firms explicitly that non-essential workers should not leave their homes.
On Tuesday Sports Direct founder and CEO Mike Ashley was forced into a u-turn on his decision to keep his shops open after claiming that they were “essential.”
Ms O’Grady said: “Companies like Sports Direct shouldn’t be putting their profits before people’s lives.”
Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said Prime Minister Boris Johnson had created confusion over who should go to work. And he accused ministers over a delay in providing help for five million self-employed people who are not covered by the government’s “furlough” scheme that subsidises firms with 80 per cent of laid-off workers’ wages.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth shared a picture of construction workers in Leicester huddled together on site. He tweeted: “This isn’t social distancing. Why won’t the government tell this firm to send its workers home NOW for their protection.”
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick insisted that it was “sensible” for construction workers to work if bosses followed Public Health England’s guidance on social distancing and safety precautions.
He said that safety work and efforts to removal flammable cladding “of the sort we saw on Grenfell Tower” were essential.
Mr Jenrick and Mr Johnson blamed London Mayor Sadiq Khan for cutting trains and bus timetables by 50 per cent.
Mr Khan said that a third of Transport for London (TfL) staff were sick or self-isolating, adding that it was “simply not possible” to replace extensively trained workers. TfL would have no choice but to reduce services further if more transport workers were sick or self-isolating, he said.
On Tuesday, travel in the capital was down 88 per cent on the Tube and 76 per cent on buses compared with the same day last year, according to TfL. And today saw passenger numbers fall by a further third for Tube and a fifth for buses.
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