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Covid rips through DHL depot after bosses failed to enforce safety regulations, union charges

CWU says ‘it's an absolute disgrace’ the management at the Manchester warehouse ‘failed to protect’ key workers

COVID-19 has ripped through a DHL depot in Manchester after management failed to enforce appropriate safety regulations, the CWU charged today.

The Communication Workers Union said over a third of the workforce have the virus after the parcel-delivery company allowed a day-shift manager with flu-like symptoms to return to work after a week off without completing 10 days of self-isolation or taking a coronavirus test as per government guidelines.  

Concerned office and warehouse staff raised the matter at a meeting with the site manager, only to be told that the individual concerned was “confident” he did not have the virus. This is despite the fact he had come into close contact with another member of management who had already tested positive and who has now sadly died with Covid-19, the CWU said.

Union members said local managers initially told them that they should get a test — but if they had to take time off work to do so they would only be paid if the test came back positive.

However, once the extent of the problem became clear, they reneged and implemented workplace testing, according to CWU.

The Health & Safety Executive has been called in to ensure measures are in place to protect employees.

CWU Greater Manchester branch secretary Jim McNicholls slammed the company for operating a “business as usual” approach throughout the pandemic.“It is simply wrong and has put both employees and customers in unnecessary danger,” he said.

Nerijus Pangonis, CWU rep at DHL’s Coventry hub, said: “DHL workers aren’t paid for Covid-19 isolation.

“As key workers, DHL staff are at an increased risk of contracting the virus, and the company should be making it as easy as possible for them to isolate when necessary.”

Trafford Labour councillor Mike Cordingley said: “DHL is a multinational company that has benefited massively from the pandemic because of the increase in online sales.

“It is an absolute disgrace that they have failed to protect their staff.”

CWU general secretary Dave Ward, Greater Manchester Metro Mayor Andy Burnham and local Labour MP Kate Green have all written to DHL Parcels UK chief Peter Fuller raising their concerns about worker safety and the enforcement of coronavirus prevention measures at the depot.

A spokesperson from DHL Parcel UK said: "We are aware of cases of Covid-19 at our Trafford site and the very sad death of one of our long-standing and valued colleagues. Our deepest sympathies are with his family and his work colleagues.

"We follow strict safety protocols and all staff are clearly instructed to self isolate at home if displaying any symptoms of Covid-19. At our Trafford site we are working closely with the local health authorities and implementing additional testing and safety measures.

"The wellbeing of our employees and contractors is our highest priority and we are focused on operating a safe working environment while continuing to serve the needs of customers and the public.”

Eleanor Roaf, director of public health at Trafford Council, said: “We identified an outbreak at the DHL depot in early February, with seven confirmed cases, and we are working to help the company’s management operate in accordance with Covid-secure practices.

“Our officers continue to be in regular contact with DHL including visiting their depot to carry out an on-site compliance check.

“As with all outbreaks in businesses, we are assisting with measures including asymptomatic testing, case notification and workplace contact tracing. We are working alongside the Health and Safety Executive to support DHL to implement all recommendations.

“We are incredibly saddened to learn of the death of one member of staff. Every Covid-19 death is a tragedy and this is a sad reminder that we must all do everything we can to stop the virus spreading.”

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