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Boots accused of exploiting lockdown exemption by forcing workers to carry on as normal

Staff tell Star the company is putting their lives at risk for non-essential products like mascara and aftershave

BOOTS staff contacted the Star today accusing the company of “immorality” for forcing shop assistants to carry on working during the coronavirus pandemic.

The pharmacy chain has told shop assistants to keep reporting for duty to sell “essentials” such as mascara and aftershave after the company was exempted from lockdown restrictions so that it can dispense vital medications.

A letter signed by Boots staff who do not wish to be named for fear of disciplinary action accused the firm of exploiting its privileged position by maintaining a “business as normal” attitude towards non-essential shopworkers not involved in the pharmaceutical side of the business.

The letter said: “Something needs to be done for the safety of all colleagues.

“Most of the customer assistants are feeling down, feeling scared and anxious, feeling left on the bottom line, no option is offered but come to work risking their lives.

“Boots has clearly chosen profit on top of life option. Boots is risking those people’s lives for such non-essential jobs.

“Those people are coming by bus, they are touching doors, products, trolleys all day long.

“Despite the social-distancing measures, Boots cannot guarantee zero risk, it is impossible, especially when customers can go anywhere in the shop touching anything they like among non-essential products.

“This is a scandal.”

A petition against the company’s behaviour started by one Boots worker on campaigning website Change.org had gathered more than 2,300 signatures as of today.

Shopworkers’ union Usdaw has members among the 56,000 Boots employees at its 2,460 stores nationwide, but the union is not recognised by the company.

An Usdaw spokesman said: “Although we are not aware of the individual referred to in the petition, Usdaw totally understands the justifiable anxiety of shopworkers and their families in these very difficult circumstances.

“We are urging all employers, including Boots, to ensure their staff are treated properly at this time.

“Usdaw has been successful in securing with many employers paid time off for staff who are ill, self-isolating, shielding or have caring responsibilities.

“Any Usdaw member with concerns about their working arrangements should contact the union and we’ll seek a satisfactory resolution.”

Boots said it has sent home beauty-section workers and closed 60 quieter shops, asking staff to either work in nearby busier ones or to remain at home.

“We are constantly reviewing the situation, having conversations with colleagues on a daily basis to discuss their individual situations.”

You can sign the workers’ petition here: mstar.link/Boots

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