Union claims Covid-hit Bernard Matthews left workers with ‘stark choice’
PUBLISHED: 18:26 30 September 2020 | UPDATED: 18:51 30 September 2020
Archant Norfolk 2017
The Unite union has claimed “inadequate” sick pay and fare rises on worker buses may have contributed towards the risk of coronavirus transmissions at a Suffolk factory.
It alleges statutory sick pay being received by staff who have to self-isolate has left some staff facing the choice of “working while potentially infected or being unable to pay for food, rent or other bills”.
The union alleges Bernard Matthews informed them that minimum wage workers at the Holton plant who needed to self-isolate would only receive statutory sick pay (SSP) of £95.85 a week.
Unite also argues that further potential issues were caused by an increase in cost to the company-run buses to the site which went from £3.50 to £6 a day in August, potentially forcing some staff to car share.
A BBC report earlier this week indicated that car sharing was being looked at as a possible source of the disease spreading.
The union described the measures as “penny pinching” and claimed the company was “putting the health of its workers and the public at risk”.
Unite regional officer Mark Jaina said: “There is no need for their workers to be put in a position where they are faced with the stark choice of either working while potentially infected or being unable to pay for food, rent or other bills.
“The coronavirus is with us for the foreseeable future and Bernard Matthews risks further outbreaks if staff are not provided with the financial resources they need to self-isolate.”
A spokesman for Bernard Matthews said: “This is a fast-moving situation and we are keen to do as much as we can to help our colleagues during this unsettling period.
“Therefore it was decided this week, working in collaboration with the IMT and other stakeholders, that with immediate effect, there will be no charge to use the company-subsidised buses to all Bernard Matthews facilities.
“This decision will be continually reviewed and we would remind colleagues it is absolutely essential all appropriate Covid secure measures are taken when using the bus, including social distancing and the wearing of masks or face coverings at all times.”
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