Coronavirus inquiry ‘must focus on how workers’ deaths could have been stopped’

The public inquiry into coronavirus should focus on what could have been done to prevent deaths of workers, campaigners are urging.

The TUC and the Covid Bereaved Families for Justice group said the Government should show “integrity and transparency” over the inquiry process.

The call came as workers around the world marked International Workers’ Memorial Day in memory of those who have died from a work-related illness or injury.

Union members across the country will observe a minute’s silence at midday on Thursday to pay tribute to those who have died due to work.

The Government was urged to publish recommendations for the final terms of reference that Baroness Hallett, who is chairing the public inquiry, will submit to the Prime Minister following the completion of the public consultation.

The two organisations said the public inquiry must specifically look at the management, inspection and enforcement of safety in workplaces, the impact of the pandemic in different sectors, and reasons for the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on BME and disabled people.

The TUC said more than 15,000 people of working age died in the pandemic.

Many of those were key workers in high-risk workplaces in sectors such as health, social care, transport, food processing and textiles.

Events to commemorate workers who have lost their lives over the past year will take place across the UK.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady (pictured) said: “We’ll forever be in the debt of the workers who kept the country going during the pandemic – nurses, carers, bus drivers, factory workers and so many more.

“Far too many were exposed to the virus at work – and lost their lives as a consequence.

“Now the Government owes it to them, and to their families, to make sure the public inquiry investigates what should have been done to keep everyone safe at work.

“The Prime Minister must publish Baroness Hallett’s recommendations for the final terms of reference.

“As partygate dominates the headlines it is crucial that the government shows transparency and integrity in its approach to the inquiry. Bereaved families deserve answers.

“On International Workers’ Memorial Day, we remember those who have died due to work, and pledge to fight for safe workplaces for everyone.”

Hannah Brady, spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said: “My Dad tragically passed away from Covid-19 in May 2020. He was just 55 years old, lived an active life and had no underlying health conditions. He was proud to work at the Kraft Heinz factory, keeping the UK fed, but that meant that like tens of thousands of key workers around the country, he did not have the option of staying home during lockdown.

“People have said to us that he knew the risks. But when he signed up for his job 34 years ago, he didn’t foresee the pandemic. Key workers were at the mercy of the virus in jobs where they had to work. The Government’s failure to protect them must be at the heart of the inquiry.

“If the inquiry is going to provide the answers that families like mine need to move forward with our grief and our lives, then it must be completely independent.

“Unfortunately, that won’t be the case if the Prime Minister fails to implement the chair’s recommendations for the terms of reference in full.”

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