The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is calling for an immediate public inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The call comes as workers around the world prepare to mark International Workers' Memorial Day today (April 28) in memory of those who have died or been injured or infected at work.
The British Dietetic Association (BDA) has added its voice to the movement, saying its members, along with other health and care professionals, have seen first-hand the devastating effects of COVID-19 on patients. Official figures show more than 11,000 people of working age have died since the pandemic began, and that at its peak nearly 50,000 health and care workers were off work due to COVID-19.
Annette Mansell-Green, BDA Director of Trade Union and Public Affairs says: "The BDA fully supports the call for an immediate and comprehensive public inquiry into the Government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our members, as part of the wider NHS team, have seen first-hand the devastating human cost of not only this dreadful virus but the consequences of the nature and timing of decision-making. No worker should ever be placed at risk by their employer, have their safety compromised or fear for their life whilst doing their job.
"We stand in solidarity with all workers who have paid the ultimate price as they cared for others and kept our country running. International Workers’ Memorial Day is our opportunity to show respect and to commemorate those who have lost their lives at work and we will do so. At the same time, we join the call for full accountability and assurance that Government will accept any findings and recommendations of such an inquiry in full in order to ensure that we never face such a catastrophic situation again."
The TUC says that, alongside scrutinising the quality of decision-making across the government's pandemic response, the public inquiry must specifically look at:
• Infection control and workplace safety, including: the failure to provide adequate financial support to self-isolate; provision of appropriate PPE for health and care staff throughout the crisis; the effectiveness of Test and Trace; and the failure to enforce the law on workplace safety.
• The resilience and capacity of public services, including: how prepared the NHS, social care, public health and local government were to deal with COVID-19; and the consequences of a decade of public spending cuts on pandemic preparedness across the public sector.
• The unequal impact of COVID-19 on different groups of workers; specifically Black and Minority Ethnic workers and insecure occupations among whom COVID mortality rates are disproportionately higher.
• The effect of the government’s economic support packages to ensure workers stayed in employment and businesses could continue, and the impact of these decisions on unemployment, poverty rates and equality.
• Who government contracts were awarded to and why, and the impact this had on the quality and supply of PPE and other areas of public procurement.