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06.04.2022 / News /

UVW tells government to listen to low-paid workers too as part of Covid-19 inquiry

United Voices of the World (UVW) has asked for the voices of its members, low-paid, Black, brown and migrant workers who were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, to be included in the government’s Covid-19 inquiry. UVW was responding to the inquiry’s appeal for people to share their thoughts on what the independent investigation should cover.   

We told the inquiry that we believe the investigation risks missing the point altogether if it sticks to its current terms of reference – the subjects it will examine – which at the moment are overlooking important areas; for example, the inquiry should look at the role that outsourcing played in the mismanagement of the pandemic, which has killed over 160,000 people in the UK.

Many of our members who are “key workers” – cleaners, security guards, porters, healthcare workers… to cite just a few – kept the country moving during the pandemic at great risk to their health. Predominantly outsourced to reckless private companies, or workers in the “gig economy” like private cleaners or sex-workers, many of us had no sick pay during the pandemic so we could not afford to self-isolate or faced financial ruin if we did so. 

Some of us faced discrimination and potential dismissal when we refused work for fear of catching the virus, and many among us didn’t have access to furlough at all. Some of us were even denied basic masks and other protective gear (also known as PPE). In one case, a UVW member, a cleaner at the Ministry of Justice, was suspected of having died with the virus.

We want to have our say. We want the government to hear first-hand what being a low-wage, front-line, outsourced worker felt like during the pandemic and beyond. We want the government to investigate, reflect and address why people like us, low-paid, outsourced, Black and brown, ethnic and racial minorities were impacted more than any other groups by the pandemic.  

We want the government to ask itself and others: why did it fail to mandate PPE, masks, sick pay and furlough for so many? Why didn’t it write or change the law to offer protection to workers? Why wasn’t it ready for the virus when there were so many warnings? Why did it let the NHS deteriorate during years of austerity to the point that it couldn’t take care of the nation as it should?

We want the inquiry to agree to consider all this and then to talk to us, so we can tell them about the effect of the pandemic on our lives, our workplaces, our communities, so that lessons can be learnt and things can be changed. 

We will tell them our side of the story. We will be applying to be a core participant in the inquiry as soon as the application process opens up. Whatever happens, we will make sure our voices are heard!

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