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15.01.2021 / News / Press releases /

Care workers forced to abandon picket after government confusion over the legality of picketing in Tier 4 areas

  • Care workers and cleaners on strike today at Sage Nursing Home in North London were forced to abandon a planned picket after reading advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) which stated picketing was no longer considered an exception under the new Tier 4 Coronavirus Regulations 
  • The workers later discovered contradictory advice from the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) which included picketing as an exception under the Coronavirus Regulations
  • The workers’ trade union, United Voices of the World (UVW), has said it will take immediate steps to ensure the government updates the CPS’ advice 
  • Despite the confusion a hastily convened virtual picket line was attended by 400 guests and saw speeches from Labour MPs John McDonnell and Nadia Whittome 

Striking care workers and cleaners at Sage Nursing Home in North London were forced to abandon their plans to hold a picket outside their place of work today after conflicting guidelines on the legality of picketing in areas placed under Tier 4 restrictions was released by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC). 

Confusion arose after CPS guidelines stated picketing – which was previously listed as an exempt activity under the Coronavirus: The Health Protection Regulations 2020 in areas placed under Tier 1, 2 and 3 lockdown restrictions – was no longer an exempt activity in areas under Tier 4 restrictions. This interpretation which was subsequently contradicted by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) who have publicly stated pickets continue to be exempt in Tier 4 areas. At the time of writing the conflicted interpretations are both listed as having been updated on the 6th January 2021. 

This resulted in the care workers and their union, United Voices of the World (UVW), having to host a last minute virtual picket, which despite short notice, the union confirms was attended by 400 guests, and included Labour MP and former Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, and Labour MP for Nottingham East, Nadia Whittome, as guest speakers. 

UVW officials have stated they checked CPS guidance the night before today’s planned picket to ensure the union and its members would be following the Coronavirus Regulations, union officials have criticised the government for the confusion and stated they will now be taking steps to force the government to amend CPS guidelines. 

Petros Elia, UVW Co-Founder and Organiser, said the following: “This government has proven time and time again that they are incapable of providing clear Coronavirus guidance and this is just another example of that. At first sight of the CPS guidance we were planning to immediately bring a judicial review claim, as it clearly conflicts with the statutory immunities provided to lawful picketing and breaches our members and all worker’s human rights. However, in light of the contradictory NPCC guidance we will now be taking further legal advice. The government must correct any guidance which suggests that picketing is unlawful and make absolutely clear to workers that his right will not be infringed upon.”

Also speaking in response to the confusion surrounding the conflicting advice, Labour MP Nadia Whittome, said the following: “Lockdown is essential for saving lives, but workers’ rights must also be protected. This is yet another instance of confusion and incoherence from the government, which makes following the rules nigh on impossible. I will be taking this up in Parliament to ensure that picketing can continue in a safe and socially distanced form.”

ENDS

Editors notes

Petros Elia, petros@uvwunion.org.uk tel. 07884 553443

Kane Shaw, kane@uvwunion.org.uk tel. 07950 9277978

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