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TRADE-UNION leaders called on the government to make workplaces safe from coronavirus today as new figures showed that those in low-paid and insecure work were more likely to die from Covid-19.
At least 8,000 working-age deaths were linked to the pandemic in England and Wales last year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Workers in hospitality, food and drink processing, transport and healthcare were found to be most at risk.
According to the data 347 care workers had died with coronavirus, as well as 213 taxi drivers, 180 retail assistants and 157 nurses.
It came as transport union RMT revealed that the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths among rail workers has doubled since November.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Everyone should be safe at work. But this pandemic has exposed huge inequalities.
“People working in low-paid and insecure jobs have been forced to shoulder a much higher risk.
“The government urgently needs to get tough on employers. It beggars belief that not one has been prosecuted for breaking Covid-19 safety rules.”
The TUC said that workplace deaths are vastly underreported, -despite legislation requiring employers to report work-related infections and deaths to the Health & Safety Executive.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “It’s shocking to see that care and NHS staff are paying such a tragic price for doing their jobs.
“Keeping the rest of us safe is putting these workers at greater risk. This unacceptable situation must end.”
RMT has called for transport workers to be a priority for vaccination. It said that a “callous refusal” by transport bosses to revise risk assessments following the spread of more contagious coronavirus strains had led to more deaths.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “We are advising our members of their right to stop working if their safety is threatened. I will be seeking an urgent meeting with [Transport Secretary] Grant Shapps [to demand action].
“[This is] necessary to save lives [and] to protect the resilience of the transport network.”
Liz Kendall MP, Labour’s shadow social-care minister, said: “The pandemic has taken an horrific toll on key workers. We are in a race against time to vaccinate those at the greatest risk.
“As we emerge from this pandemic, ministers must put in place the longer-term reforms we need to guarantee all staff the pay and conditions they deserve.”
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