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The Trades Union Congress is calling for an immediate public inquiry into the handling of the Covid pandemic, insisting it should examine whether workers were kept safe enough after about 15,000 people of working age died from Covid in England and Wales.
The GMB union said the prime minister’s reported comments that he would rather see “bodies piled high” than approve a third lockdown “shows why a public inquiry is needed now”. It said its members “deserve to know why they were put in harm’s way unnecessarily and if the PM think it’s OK for them to die”.
The unions want Downing Street to announce a start date and consult the public about its scope. Men working in processing plants, security, care and restaurant work were most at risk of dying from Covid, according to figures up to the end of last year, while for women it was machine operators and care workers.
No 10 told bereaved families earlier this month the government did not have time for an inquiry and would not for months to come. It has said there will be “an independent inquiry at the appropriate time”.
Calls for an immediate inquiry are gathering momentum. The TUC’s affiliated unions represent 5.5 million workers and its intervention follows similar demands for an inquiry from the archbishop of Canterbury, Labour, government scientific advisers and thousands of the bereaved, who have voiced outrage at Johnson’s alleged comments.
They include Lobby Akinnola, whose father Olufemi, 60, was a care worker in Leamington Spa who died a year ago. He was visiting different clients’ homes improvising PPE from a winter scarf and gloves.
“If we had locked down a week earlier, how many people could have been saved?” said Akinnola, adding that he was “disgusted” by reports the prime minister said “let the bodies pile high”.
“My dad was on the threshold of life and death, but fell on the wrong side. Throughout this pandemic we have relied on frontline workers, but the government didn’t seem to support them.”
The TUC has set five priorities for an inquiry: workplace infection control, including financial support to self-isolate; the impact of a decade of spending cuts on the capacity of public services; Covid’s unequal impact on workers, particularly ethnic minorities and people in insecure jobs; the impact of employment support packages such as furlough; and government procurement and its effect on supplies of PPE.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: TUC calls for immediate public inquiry into Covid deaths | Coronavirus