The Workers Union has called for the ‘immediate’ vaccination of all factory workers.
The announcement comes after outbreaks of COVID-19 at factories in Derbyshire and Somerset.
Last week, staff at a Christmas-pudding factory in Heanor contracted the virus. Meanwhile 170 miles away in a separate incident, one person died and 47 others tested positive for COVID at a Muller Milk site in Bridgwater, Somerset.
In both cases staff are self-isolating and there has been a programme of testing as well as a deep-cleaning regimen.
In order to combat the spread of the virus, the government has rolled out testing for people without symptoms who are unable to work from home. The scheme is designed to enable businesses to implement rapid testing, with a focus on the food, manufacturing, retail and energy sectors. However, there are still no concrete plans to accelerate vaccination for factory workers, with people over the age of 80 and health and social care workers among those on the phase 1 priority list.
The Workers Union on Vaccination of Factory Workers
Recent events have shown us that the only thing that’s predictable in these troubled times is unpredictability. Back in March 2020, the news agenda was squarely focused on the march of COVID-19, a novel, deadly virus that was spreading faster than anyone predicted.
Spin forward to January 2021, and it seems like the debate hasn’t evolved but the virus has. New strains of COVID are abroad and the country is struggling to contain its spread and prop up the wheezing NHS.
In such circumstances, the government has, rightly, decided to prioritise the vaccinations of elderly people and health and social care workers. But we believe that this category must be expanded to include factory workers.
These are people unable to work from home and are thus exposed to greater levels of risk than office-based staff. With the map of Corona hotspots burning red, it makes strategic sense to prioritise their safety. They perform a vital service in keeping the engine of our economy turning and ensuring that our supermarkets have food on their shelves. They have continued to pick, pack and supply our one-click purchases throughout multiple lockdowns.
Such brave efforts cannot and must not be ignored by the government. To fail to vaccinate them now would be as foolhardy as it is short-sighted.
The Workers Union – Fighting for social justice, fighting for you