Covid outbreak on government building site: Eight workers fall ill while constructing new tax office in Liverpool – as unions call for free parking so builders can drive to work and avoid packed London Tubes
- Builders claim government is ‘waiting for workers to die’ by refusing to shut sites
- Have hit out ministers and Nicola Sturgeon for failing to act to protect workers
- Southwark council now wants construction workers to get asymptomatic testing
- Comes amid outbreak at site being developed as tax headquarters in Liverpool
A building site has been hit by an outbreak of coronavirus, as construction workers claim the government is ‘waiting for them to die’.
Several people at the India Buildings development in Liverpool, which 550 builders are currently refurbishing as a government tax headquarters, have been struck down with the virus.
This comes as labourers have slammed ministers for failing to close non-essential sites during the lockdown, despite the mounting death toll.
Many have warned that Covid is ‘running rampant’, with little protection for staff and have questioned why sites are considered essential places of work.
One London council has now launched a testing programme for construction workers in a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain told MailOnline that companies had a duty of care, and must ‘accept their responsibilities to the workers on their sites during this time.’
He also said firms should ensure free car parking is available to workers.
Several people at the India Buildings development in Liverpool – where some 550 builders are currently working – have been struck down with the virus
Labourers have slammed ministers for failing to close non-essential sites during the lockdown
London council gives priority testing to construction workers
Southwark Council in south London has listed construction workers among the groups to be included in a new asymptomatic testing programme.
Anyone in the borough who is required to work outside of their home will be encouraged to undergo a rapid covid test.
The council said: ‘We are currently encouraging key workers and those who can’t work from home to get a lateral flow test.
‘This includes school staff, supermarket staff, transport workers, security guards, cleaners, construction workers and many other roles.’
Several positive coronavirus cases were confirmed at Liverpool’s India Buildings, according to the Liverpool Echo today.
Overbury, the firm refurbishing the offices, has confirmed eight positive coronavirus cases on the site.
Some employees told the ECHO that Covid safety measures not rigorous enough and not being followed by managers.
They claim workers are failing to get tested weekly and say conditions in the toilets were ‘appalling’.
The whistleblower also claimed that up to 40 workers were forced to eat together in the canteen.
Overbury told the paper that employee safety was ‘a key priority.’
MailOnline has contacted Overbury for comment.
Meanwhile Nicola Sturgeon faced a backlash this morning after tweeting an image of Europe’s biggest fish market, where exports have been crippled in the wake of Brexit.
She was met with fury from workers, one of whom accused Scotland’s First Minister of, ‘sending construction workers out like lambs to slaughter,’ after she permitted construction work to continue through the lockdown.
Another tweeted: ‘Are you just waiting on outbreak of covid to hit building sites or for some healthy young construction worker to die from it when he caught it on site?
‘What makes non essential construction more important than other non essential jobs.’
A closed construction site in Dublin city centre, pictured yesterday
Many have warned that Covid is ‘running rampant’, with little protection for workers and have questioned why sites are considered essential places of work
Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain told MailOnline: ‘Principal contractors and construction clients must recognise and accept their responsibilities to the workers on their sites during this time.
‘During the pandemic they have a duty of care to workers which starts from when they leave their home and does not end until when they return again at night. Throughout that time workers must be able to socially distance.
‘Contractors need not only to start coordinating on staggering start times across major projects in London to ensure that congestion is kept to an absolute minimum but also widen the time frame in which workers arrive at site.
‘There is no point on telling workers to avoid congested trains or stations, unless construction contractors introduce policies which do not penalise or victimise workers who arrive for work late due to following the advice to avoid overcrowding on the transport system.
‘Equally construction companies need to ensure free car parking is available to workers and work with the authorities so that where it applies identified construction workers are exempt from the congestion charge.
‘Such action would create a real option to drive to work, but if they do so then workers must not be tempted to car share which in itself would create a major risk of transmission.
‘Ultimately the challenges faced in keeping workers safe in travelling to and from work will not be resolved by any one organisation working on their own in a silo.
‘It is imperative that construction contractors, Unite, construction clients the Mayor of London and the government work together to ensure that workers are able to safely go to work and return home again without the risk of being exposed to Covid-19.’
London transport bosses say 90% of passengers ARE wearing face masks – but 1,700 fines have been dished out since July in crackdown on flouters
By Faith Ridler for MailOnline
Around 90 per cent of travellers in London are adhering to Covid rules and wearing face masks on public transport, Transport for London says.
Data released by TfL shows some 1,700 people have been fined for not wearing face coverings in the seven months since they were made mandatory on the network.
These Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) have been as much as £660 for those convicted of a first offence, with one repeat offender having to pay a total of £1,170.
However, TfL says it has seen ‘around 90 per cent compliance at the busiest times of the day,’ with only a minority of passengers ‘continuing to ignore the regulation and putting themselves and their fellow passengers at risk.’
It comes as TfL yesterday urged major employers in East London including Amazon, Sainsbury’s and Wickes to stagger start times for workers in a bid to reduce overcrowding on the Tube.
Use of public transport in London has plummeted since the pandemic hit in March, with TfL confirming on Monday it had seen 18 per cent of normal demand on the Tube up to 10am.
Around 90 per cent of travellers in London are adhering to Covid rules and wearing face masks on public transport, Transport for London says. Pictured: British Transport Police at London Bridge station on January 15
Data released by TfL shows some 1,700 people have been fined for not wearing face coverings in the seven months since they were made mandatory on the network. Pictured: Canada Water Station on Tuesday
Apple mobility data also suggests public transport use in London is down 65 per cent on a normal level, with the number of Britons driving also dropping 42 per cent.
However, TfL said it has stopped around 128,000 people from boarding services until they put on a mask since July, with around 9,300 prevented from travelling and 2,100 ejected from services.
Siwan Hayward, Director of Compliance, Policing Operations and Security at TfL, said: ‘People should only be travelling if they have a legitimate reason and ensuring the network is safe for those customers, which include NHS and other key workers, is our top priority.
‘Wearing face coverings, unless exempt, has been mandatory for seven months now and we continue to communicate the requirement in stations, on platforms and on-board services, so there really is no excuse for not wearing one properly for your entire journey when travelling on our network.
Use of public transport in London has plummeted since the pandemic hit Britain in March, with TfL confirming on Monday it had seen 18 per cent of normal demand on the Tube up to 10am. Pictured: Commuters on a Jubilee Line train on Tuesday
Apple mobility data suggests transit use in London is down 65 per cent on a normal level, with the number of Britons driving also dropping 42 per cent
‘London is at a critical point in this pandemic and this is no time to be complacent with the measures we take to protect ourselves and others.’
A survey by the network found 75 per cent of Londoners are supportive of TfL enforcing the use of face masks on public transport.
The network has recently stepped up its enforcement of the rule, expanding its team of enforcement officers and handing out more fines to non-compliers.
It has added 500 enforcement officers to TfL staff who will ensure the public’s compliance with coronavirus safety regulations, alongside tackling aggression and fare evasion.
They will work with the Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police and carry out enforcement operations every day across London.
A survey by the network found 75 per cent of Londoners are supportive of TfL enforcing the use of face masks on public transport
Analysis of CCTV footage shows the vast majority of passengers are wearing coverings inside stations, TfL said, unless they are exempt from doing so
These are regularly undertaken at stations with low compliance, with an operation taking place near Walthamstow bus station yesterday morning.
Chief Superintendent Martin Fry, of British Transport Police, said: ‘We operate across the rail, Tube and tram network in London daily, engaging with members of the public, explaining the current restrictions, encouraging compliance and where necessary issuing fines.
‘I’m pleased to say our frontline officers report the vast majority of people at stations and on-board trains are wearing face coverings, or are willing to wear one when challenged.
The network has recently stepped up its enforcement of the rule, expanding its team of enforcement officers and handing out more fines to non-compliers
‘Coronavirus is a very real and present danger. Wearing a face mask on the rail network and abiding by the current restrictions is very important, it saves lives and ensures the railway is safe for those who absolutely need to use it, such as those who work in the NHS.
‘We’ll continue to fully support TfL and the wider rail industry.’
On Tuesday, TfL urged employers in East London – including Amazon, Sainsbury’s and Wickes – to stagger start times for workers in a bid to reduce overcrowding on the Underground.
Concern was mounting over a lack of social distancing on Jubilee line services, particularly around Canning Town and West Ham, as key workers continue to go into work during England’s third national Covid-19 lockdown.
Commuters sit on a Jubilee Line train in East London on Tuesday as England’s third national lockdown continues
Commuters on board a Jubilee Line train in East London as they travel to work on the Underground on Tuesday
Transport for London has asked large employers in the area – also including Tate and Lyle, City Airport and Royal Docks – to stagger shifts to enable those who have to travel to work to do so in the quieter times.
TfL officials have also sent advice to business groups, construction companies and the supply chain through Build UK, and are meeting with trade unions amid growing concerns about the safety of staff and customers.
Many lower paid workers touch in their Oyster card on the Underground or Overground before 6.30am on weekdays to pay cheaper off-peak fares. TfL peak times run from 6.30am to 9.30am, and 4pm to 7pm.
But some builders have been left angry by construction sites changing shift times, meaning they now have to pay more to travel at peak times and won’t get home until late in the evening – causing problems with childcare.
Among them was Jefe Cortez, who tweeted: ‘TfL, can you explain to me why my site has told me I can’t start work until 9.30am to comply with your new guidelines that say construction workers aren’t allowed on the trains during certain times in the morning?
‘F***ing disgraceful. How am I supposed to help my wife look after my children in the evenings if I’m not getting home until 8.30pm every night?’
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