Socialist Worker

Bosses ‘shout down’ safety concerns

Issue No. 2699

M&S distribution workers in a cramped warehouse

M&S distribution workers in a cramped warehouse (Pic: Derbyshire live)


Distribution workers at a Marks and Spencer warehouse in Swindon have staged three walkouts over health and safety.

Around 80 GMB union members walked out on Thursday of last week from the DHL-run site under health and safety legislation.

They had previously struck on 24 and 26 March. 

Andy Newman, GMB branch secretary, said workers are “extremely frightened” after bosses “shouted down” attempts to raise health and safety concerns.

“GMB shop stewards challenged managers about the impossibility of maintaining a two metre distance, the lack of hand sanitiser and personal protective equipment,” he said. 

“One DHL manager agreed if staff didn’t feel safe they could leave the site—this led to a walkout. 

“But now DHL are saying that they will not pay staff who don’t turn up for work, even though the staff don’t feel safe.” 

The GMB is now demanding that Marks and Spencer bosses make sure the subcontractor observes social distancing.

It has gone to the Acas conciliation service with its demands. 

More workers’ action can force bosses to take safety seriously.


School staff resist push to return to work

A group of workers at a special school in Ealing, west London, are resisting attempts to get them into work.

The school was originally closed after staff raised concerns about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). But the head then appealed for volunteers to go in.

Stefan Simms is secretary of the NEU union in Ealing. He told Socialist Worker, “Staff have said they will not come in until they have spoken to the union.”

Stefan added that resistance to going into school came from “rank and file” workers. 

"This came out of a discussion on a WhatsApp group,” he explained.


Social work staff fight unsafe office

Social workers and admin staff at a local authority in Yorkshire pushed back attempts by bosses to cram them into unsafe working conditions. 

Social worker Susan said that the council had “shut down office areas and crammed more and more people into less and less buildings—and these are buildings that are pretty overcrowded to begin with”.

She told Socialist Worker, “They’ve created mass anxiety among workers. But bosses don’t know if we’re already in contact through email and WhatsApp groups.”

Bosses backed off after a number of workers said safety concerns would stop them returning to council offices. 

"We want to keep the service running,” said Susan. 

“Some of those making these decisions are not bad people, they’re under immense pressure. Local government has been slashed to the bone. It’s already in crisis—we’re already limited in resources.”

*Susan is a pseudonym

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