Unite, the construction union, is warning today (Friday 10 April) that “a business as usual” approach is placing the health of workers employed on housing maintenance contract in Kent and Sussex in danger during the coronavirus pandemic because of a lack of social distancing.

Fears for Mears workers

Unite represents workers employed by Mears on Crawley council’s housing maintenance contract and also workers at East Kent Housing which covers Canterbury, Dover, Thanet and Folkestone councils.

The workers are concerned that as they have been designated as key workers that they are still expected to undertake routine housing maintenance work and work on void (empty) properties.

No social distancing

Workers report that social distancing is non-existent as they regularly come into contact with fellow workers and residents.

The workers believe that they should only be undertaking emergency repairs and that workers should be furloughed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Unite has raised the workforce’s concerns with the company but has been rebuffed.

Real fears

Unite regional officer Malcolm Bonnett said: “Our members at Mears have real fears that they are needlessly being potentially exposed to coronavirus.

 “Mears are telling the workforce that it is business as usual because they are key workers and this is what the client - the councils - is demanding.

 “That is simply not good enough and housing tenants in Crawley and East Kent will be alarmed that workers who are operating in the vicinity of their homes can’t socially distance.

 “Mears needs to insist that a safety first approach to the health of its workers is taken, with some workers being furloughed and only emergency work undertaken.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067 or Ryan Fletcher on 07849 090215..

Email: barckley.sumner@unitetheunion.org

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.