Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) make for horrific reading for those on low pay during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The report “analysed #COVID19 deaths by different occupational groups”. And it said:
Compared with the rate among people of the same sex and age in England and Wales, men working in the lowest skilled occupations had the highest rate of death involving COVID-19, with 21.4 deaths per 100,000 males (225 deaths); men working as security guards had one of the highest rates, with 45.7 deaths per 100,000 (63 deaths).
Men and women working in social care, a group including care workers and home carers, both had significantly raised rates of death involving COVID-19, with rates of 23.4 deaths per 100,000 males (45 deaths) and 9.6 deaths per 100,000 females (86 deaths).
Among men, a number of other specific occupations were found to have raised rates of death involving COVID-19, including: taxi drivers and chauffeurs (36.4 deaths per 100,000); bus and coach drivers (26.4 deaths per 100,000); chefs (35.9 deaths per 100,000); and sales and retail assistants (19.8 deaths per 100,000).
Using estimates of exposure to disease and physical proximity, we’ve looked at how likely different occupations are to be exposed to #coronavirus, based on 2019 data https://t.co/RnuyEHZVpm pic.twitter.com/SmJvb9YQ7y
— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) May 11, 2020
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Some people were quite angered by these figures, so they took to social media:
ONS say low paid men bus drivers, construction workers, taxi drivers, some factories and chefs, social care, says they have highest death toll
This is murder of working class to poor money hands Billionaires and Millionaires not hurt in herd immunity #StayAlert #StayAtHome
— michelle maher (@mmaher70) May 11, 2020
Think we need to strike
— 💫Ⓛⓐⓒⓔⓨ🌙♡ (@princesslacey1x) May 11, 2020
This person was very clear about where the blame lies:
@10DowningStreet @BorisJohnson @GOVUK I tell you what, if we go into a second wave because of decisions being made, Boris and who ever agreed should be sent to prison for negligence and murder, simple. Clearly they don’t care about peoples welfare.
— 💕 🇬🇧 Miracles 🇯🇲 💕 (@MissKas_louise) May 11, 2020
These figures were recorded long before Johnson’s speech on 10 May where he explained a “change of emphasis” in dealing with coronavirus. And that speech “encouraged” people to return to work, so it could mean more people will be exposed to unsafe conditions.
The GMB Union said:
These figures are horrifying, and they were drawn up before the chaos of last night’s announcement.
If you are low paid and working through the COVID19 crisis you are more likely to die – that’s how stark these figures are.
Ministers must pause any return to work until proper guidelines, advice and enforcement are in place to keep people safe.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) also condemned the statistics, saying in a press release:
These figures demonstrate that the government is failing on workplace safety – with horrific consequences for our lowest-paid and most precarious workers.
We need an immediate change of direction. Ministers must urgently introduce tough new rules on workplace safety and make sure they’re enforced.
This can’t wait any longer. Workers’ lives are on the line.
The ONS figures also showed that 20% of the people in these jobs are from BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) backgrounds. As reported in the Guardian, there’s a disproportionately high number of ethnic minorities working in “high-risk occupations”. Additionally, according to Unison:
Time and again, we’ve seen how people from black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities suffer health problems caused by disadvantage and poverty, which could make them more susceptible.
Leaders speak out in advance
Some leaders in society are already speaking out about safety at work. They made their message very clear even before these figures were released and in relation to Johnson’s address:
There should be no return to work until it is safe to do so.
If work cannot be done safely, it should not proceed.
People must come before private profit.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) May 10, 2020
LONDON: I want to be as clear as possible: social distancing measures are still in place.
Lockdown hasn’t been lifted and we all still need to play our part in stopping the spread of #COVID19.
⬇️ My statement: pic.twitter.com/MJwPEFCOVl
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) May 10, 2020
STAY HOME. PROTECT THE NHS. SAVE LIVES.
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) May 10, 2020
Let’s get back to work?
On 10 May, Boris Johnson said people should be “actively encouraged to go to work”. But these statistics suggest it’s not safe enough for many to return to work. And those who have to return must be given every protection necessary. Otherwise, they should be furloughed.
At present, people on the front line and beyond are doing what they can to fight this pandemic. When it’s over, they won’t forget those who were left behind – nor those who left them there.
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