COVID 19: Are the Government supporting our Key Workers?

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In a year dominated by the pandemic and never-ending lockdowns there has been one positive, the outstanding job the key workers have done.

Of course, lots of credit has gone to the NHS and understandably so, as it is hard to imagine what it must be like to put your health at risk every day doing your job.

A group of people who have also been continuing to help the nation throughout the year has been the supermarket workers whose service is providing the essential goods for the public. 

In an interview with a small group of supermarket workers who work in the online delivery department this is what they had to say about being labelled as a “key worker” and how the government have dealt with the supermarket industry throughout the pandemic.

When asked if you see yourself as a key worker all the group said that they do see themselves as one with Adam Collinson who is also a student studying at Stirling University saying:

“In a small way yes and no, because I think there are always more important jobs like doctors and nurses right now who are central to stopping the virus. However, this time has made me realise how important supermarkets are at a time like this and the increase in orders since lockdown has shown the need for people to continue working so I feel I am doing my part and helping in my own little way.”

This past year has seen a lot of public support for the key workers including the “clap for carers” which began back in April as a way of allowing people to show support for the NHS. This then evolved as the weeks went on spreading out to showing support for everyone who is playing their part including postmen, binmen and supermarket workers.

As the virus grew more and more and restrictions began to get worse, the home delivery department practically became the most important area within the supermarkets as it provided a service for those who were shielding due to health issues.

Asking if the workload has gotten heavier and caused an amount of added stress 23-year-old Sophie Burns said:

“Yes. When the pandemic started our department had approximately 16 staff and now, we have over 50 to attempt to deal with the amount of orders sent in each day. Also, even with a limit number of shoppers in the store, the shop is still sometimes busier than it was pre COVID”.

With the massive increase in the importance of supermarkets extra measures have taken place within them to try and stop the spread of the virus.

This includes supplying PPE, the increase in social distancing measures and more security being added to help with queues as the limit of people in the store at once has been reduced.

Even with these measures in place there is questions being raised on whether the government are doing enough to help make sure that everyone is following these new guidelines ranging from the customers to the employees.

Being asked if they feel supported by the government in their role Sophie said:

“I do believe that the supermarket workers have been fairly overlooked by the government. Evidence shows that many cases get transmitted in supermarkets, however, I don’t feel like all precautions have been taken. I also believe the government should take more action if supermarkets aren’t following all rules for their staff.”

Adding to Sophie’s point fellow colleague Chloe Monti said:

“I feel the government could offer more support to supermarket retail staff as shops are still incredibly busy and many customers are not adhering to social distancing guidelines. The government could increase the level of support provided to retailers to allow for them to support staff in a way that they all feel safe while working.”

The government at Westminster have implemented schemes to help support employment such as the furlough scheme which allows people to earn 80% of their contracted wage when they are not able to work due to restrictions.

Another scheme which helps individuals still in work is the childcare scheme which allows workers with children the ability to continue their work if they cannot do so from home by having their kids continue to be looked after at school or nursery even despite the closure of schools in the previous lockdown.

I asked 23-year-old Ruairidh Langdon if he had felt safe working during the pandemic.

“Not particularly safe, as it is almost impossible to properly maintain social distancing. I feel like making money is the priority, rather than keeping employees and customers safe. The government could have put pressure on employers to enforce social distancing and keep the number of customers in shops to a sensible low number, but they have basically just left companies to it. Again, the government also seems to have prioritised economic factors over the health of its workers.”

The government need to protect the public but also think about their key workers who are working day and night to provide the nation with their services.

by Michael McDermott

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