McCluskey: Decisions taken now will shape our country's future - we need clarity to build public confidence

Responding to the statement by the prime minister yesterday, the leader of Unite has called for "clarity and caution" as the country continues to combat the coronavirus which has left the UK with one of the worst death tolls in Europe.

Len McCluskey, Unite General Secretary, commented: "The decisions taken by the UK government in the coming days will shape the health and wealth of this country, not just in the immediate term but for generations to come.  

"It is absolutely vital then that the UK government proceeds with total clarity and maximum caution as it works to pull the country out of lockdown - and that it gets the sequencing of the return to work right.

"People cannot get to work safely unless there is safe transport for them to use. Yet there is now a real risk that in a few hours' time, workers will be cramming onto public transport, putting at risk their lives and those of others. This has not been thought through and the failure to do so places working people in danger.

"Similarly, issuing safety guidance to employers instead of definite, mandatory instructions is not acceptable. This runs a huge risk that some employers will follow the advice while others do not, and we urgently need to hear more from the government about how it will install the inspection and enforcement systems necessary to support safe working.

"Unions like Unite have a wealth of health and safety expertise and we are already working with responsible employers to ensure that working people can be confident that they can be safe both at work and on the way to work.  

"There is a standing army of tens of thousands of trades union safety representatives that could be deployed in a national effort to unlock the economy in a safe, responsible way. To fail to enlist this pool of expert people in keeping people safe at work is simply bewildering.

"We are very concerned that at the very point we need to build clarity and confidence, doing everything possible to avert a second spike, that this next phase is unfolding in a jumbled, confusing manner.  

"Of course, we want to get the economy back on its feet as soon as possible but with such enormous sacrifices given by so many already, we have to honour those who have lost their lives along with those who are caring for us through this crisis by keeping people safe and by building a future of which this country can be proud."