Cleaners and bin collectors urged to reject Covid exemption

Organisations employing critical workers can apply for exemptions from self-isolation if exposed to coronavirus.

Cleaners and bin collectors urged to reject Covid exemption iStock
Bin collector: Workers advised to reject self-isolation exemption.

More than 2000 local authority street cleaners and bin collectors have been advised to refuse to return to work and instead self-isolate if they have been exposed to coronavirus.

The Scottish Government recently announced that organisations employing critical workers can apply for exemptions from self-isolation.

If the Government deems a critical role can be exempt, the worker still has to prove they have had two doses of coronavirus vaccine at least two weeks prior to any close contact, have a negative PCR test and agree to carry out lateral flow tests for 10 days after the contact.

But following talks with workplace representatives, the GMB union has advised its more than 2300 members in cleansing and waste services in Scottish local government, including Glasgow, North and South Lanarkshire and West Lothian councils, to refuse self-isolation exemptions.

The GMB Scotland senior organiser for public services, Drew Duffy, said: “A major underlying factor in the so-called pingdemic is the chronic understaffing in our frontline services after years of cuts, and our cleansing and waste is no different.

“But the Scottish Government’s new guidance has opened the door for employers across the country to heap more pressure on these key workers if they have been exposed to Covid-19. That’s not safe for workers, families, or communities.

“And again, some of the lowest paid are being asked to take the greatest risk in another example of how poorly they are valued by Government. You cannot cut and coerce your way out of a crisis, if you want services to function then you must invest in them.

“That lesson needs to be learned, and it’s why we are advising our members to exercise their right to refuse and instead follow the general self-isolation rules if they are exposed to Covid-19.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Self-isolation rules already state that exemption will only be granted in respect of members of staff who voluntarily agree not to self-isolate, and the employers’ duty of care to all their employees must be respected.”