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500 workers walk out of Asos factory after company fails to enforce social distancing

‘Asos needs to put people before profits and make sure workers are paid properly if they need to take time off,’ GMB said

ASOS warehouse workers in Yorkshire have walked out because they cannot keep a safe space between each other in line with government instructions on social distancing.

The walkout on Saturday involved 500 workers at the online fashion retailer’s warehouse on the site of the former Grimethorpe colliery outside Barnsley.

GMB organiser Deanne Ferguson said: “The situation at Asos is disgusting: thousands of people under one roof, not enforcing social distancing.

“It looks exactly like a hotbed of infection and workers are very scared.

“Asos needs to put people before profits and make sure workers are the right distance apart and paid properly if they need to take time off.

“Anything else is putting unnecessary lives at risk.”

Asos denied the union’s claims, its bosses insisting they were “striking the right balance” between keeping the warehouse open for the good of employees and the economy and maintaining the health and safety of staff.

Bosses at a profiteering private contractor involved in the NHS’s 111 advice service have also been accused of forcing workers to cram into workplaces in breach of government advice to maintain distancing to avoid contamination.

Plymouth Labour MP Luke Pollard has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock with urgent concerns about a call centre in the city operated by Sitel, which denies the allegations.

Mr Pollard said that workers at the site had told him that up to 200 staff are working “desk to desk” in close proximity.

He said that he had been told that employees were required to work or risk losing their jobs.

One worker told him that staff were “just terrified to go to work” for fear of being infected because of the working conditions.

In his letter, Mr Pollard argued that the practices go against advice on social distancing and increase the risk that the virus will spread.

Earlier this week, the Sitel Group directed staff to follow stricter social distancing after a claim that space at one of its offices had been “maxed out” due to employment of new untrained recruits.

An employee at one of Sitel’s two sites, in Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, has reported that some staff recruited to the helpline had been given only about an hour’s training.

A Sitel spokesman said: “We are recruiting rapidly to ensure that we support the NHS to deal with the large rise in demand for advice during the coronavirus pandemic, but these claims are categorically untrue.”

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