From education to employment

Boris Johnson must act in the interest of public health – not his backbenchers

Boris Johnson Walking

The TUC has today (Monday) issued a direct challenge to Boris Johnson to put public health first when he publishes his ‘living with Covid’ plans this week.

The union body says the prime minister must be guided by what is best for the country – not internal Conservative party politics.

The TUC says the government should now commit to:

Fixing Britain’s broken sick pay system: Statutory sick pay must continue to be paid from the first day of sickness when the Coronavirus Act expires later this week – rather than only being paid from the fourth day.

In addition, the union body says sick pay must be made available to all workers, with around two million workers currently not earning enough to be eligible for it.

And with statutory sick pay in the UK among the lowest in Europe, the TUC says it should be raised to at least the rate of the real living wage.

Keeping Covid tests free: The TUC says it would be an “act of madness” in the middle of a cost of living crisis to start charging for tests.

The union body says lateral and PCR tests should remain free for all who need access to them, and warned that introducing charges would disproportionately hit frontline and low-paid workers.

Supporting vulnerable people: The TUC says the government and employers must show understanding to those with weakened immunity and long Covid.

The TUC says many people still remain vulnerable to Covid – such as those with some cancers or those undergoing chemotherapy, as well as lots of disabled people.   

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“We are all looking forward to getting on with our lives.

“But the prime minister must put the country and public health first – not his backbenchers

“That means fixing our broken sick pay system once and for all.

“Workers who are laid low by Covid must be paid sick pay while they can’t work, or people will have to come into work and that will spread infections.

“The ongoing failure to provide decent sick pay to everyone is leaving the country vulnerable to new variants and pandemics.

“It’s astonishing ministers cannot see this.”

On the need to keep free Covid tests, Frances added:

“Introducing charges for Covid tests in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis would be an act of madness.

“It would hit key workers and those on low incomes hardest.

“Does the Prime Minister really want low-paid care staff going into care homes untested? 

“Free tests must remain in place for all those who need them. This is crucial for workplace and public safety.”

On the need to support vulnerable people, Frances added:

“The government and employers must not abandon those with weakened immunity and long Covid.

“Lots of people are more vulnerable to Covid – such as those with some cancers or those undergoing chemotherapy, as well as lots of disabled people  

“We need to ensure that antivirals are rolled out fast to protect more vulnerable people – but that will take time.”

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