Socialist Worker

Coronavirus infections soaring in workplaces 

Workers are being forced to keep quiet about dangerous conditions, writes Charlie Kimber

Issue No. 2712

Rising cases at factories and food processing plants are putting workers at risk

Rising cases at factories and food processing plants are putting workers at risk (Pic: Jabbi/Wikicommons)


Workers at the Mini car plant in Cowley, Oxford, say conditions there risk an outbreak of coronavirus.

Some nine workers at the plant recently tested positive within a week. Workers told the Oxford Mail newspaper that they aren’t being kept safe.

One said, “It’s all gone back to normal as if nothing’s happened. There’s no social distancing and everyone is on top of everyone, the aisles aren’t big enough.

“There needs to be a proper deep clean at the plant but they don’t care, people are getting shushed.”

An agency worker who contracted the virus said the agency “told me not to tell anyone”. 

Workers say there isn’t enough time to clean tools and areas before shift changes, increasing the risk of infection spreading.

Suspected outbreaks of Covid-19 in workplaces across England almost doubled in the last week of June. 

Public Health England (PHE) said last week that 43 acute respiratory outbreaks were reported in workplaces in the week ending 28 June. 

That’s up from 22 in the previous week.

Low paid and manual workers face a much bigger danger from coronavirus than higher-paid executives and managers. 

This is according to analysis of Covid-19 fatalities from the Office for National Statistics.

Security guards, care workers, construction workers, plant operatives, cleaners, taxi drivers, bus drivers, chefs and retail workers are all at a greater risk of dying.

Clusters started to increase two to three weeks after people began to go back to work. 

In the week ending 7 June there were 24 reported outbreaks, up from five in the previous week.

At the time of the outbreaks, PHE data did not make clear that these clusters were occurring in workplaces. 

At Rowan Foods, in Wrexham, Wales, which employs 1,500, the number of cases has risen from 70 to 237. 

The 2 Sisters chicken factory in Llangefni, Wales, with a ­workforce of 550, recently reported an increase from 175 to 216 cases.

Confirmed

At the Kober Ltd meat processing plant in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, confirmed cases among its 1,500 workers increased from 150 to 165. 

A man who works there told the Yorkshire Live website, “It had been said that up to 150 employees tested positive but I think the figure will be a lot higher.

“It’s a fairly close-knit plant and people often travel to work together so there’s plenty of opportunities for the virus to be transmitted. 

And you are stood so close to one another whichever shift you are on.” The unions know all this but they are not campaigning for walkouts. Instead they swallow the lie that keeping business going is good for workers.

Ruthless bosses are putting lives at risk. By not mobilising effectively against them, the union leaders make themselves complicit in this process.


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