We must keep all our keyworkers safe, from the NHS and carers to bus drivers
Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy writes for the Voice
AS we continue to live with the shadow of coronavirus, there are increasing concerns about whether enough is being done to keep our key workers safe, including making sure they have adequate supplies of personal protective equipment.
There have been worrying reports this week that the Government has missed the opportunity to procure much-needed items and the NHS Confederation has warned that care homes, GPs and community services are still facing real shortages.
As important as our NHS workers are, they are not the only key workers putting themselves at risk. Here in Bristol, our bus drivers are still going to work every day, and making sure other people doing vital jobs can get around the city. Tragically, we learnt that a third Bristol bus driver has died after contracting coronavirus.
I’m concerned that the Government has been slow to act, and, as part of Labour’s shadow transport team, I’m working with trade union representatives to make sure that bus companies take whatever measures they can to protect their employees.
Labour’s shadow Secretary for Transport, Jim McMahon, has written to Grant Shapps this week calling for clear guidance from the Government on issues ranging from whether cash should be banned on buses to how social distancing can be effectively managed.
We’re backing calls by trade unions for the creation of a national operators’ forum to bring together the Government, the various bus companies and unions, so that these issues can be resolved.
Keir Starmer used his first outing as Leader of the Opposition at Prime Minister’s Questions to highlight the Government’s failure to ensure adequate protection for key workers – and revealed that dozens of British firms have contacted the Labour Party after their offers to produce PPE were ignored by the Government.
The details of these companies have been passed on to the Government by Labour in an effort to support the national drive to adequately equip our key workers.
PMQs took place as part of the first ever virtual session of Parliament, with only a few MPs inside the House of Commons (and respecting social distancing rules!) but most taking part via video call. It's so important that we are able to scrutinise the decisions the Government is taking at this extraordinary time, and I’m really pleased that – like so many other employers – the Parliamentary authorities have been able to use technology to make sure that MPs can still do their jobs.
My team and I been extremely busy during lockdown dealing with constituents’ concerns, including writing to ministers, but I’m looking forward – technology permitting – to actually being able to put questions directly to ministers.