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Government should have properly engaged unions on its ‘pretty vague’ post-lockdown workplace guidelines, says Sir Keir Starmer

MINISTERS should have done more to engage with unions before coming out with “pretty vague” guidelines for workplaces on the easing of lockdown restrictions, Sir Keir Starmer said today.

The Labour leader said that a national consensus between unions, the government and employers would give “a degree of confidence” to people anxious about returning to work.

On Monday, proposed guidelines from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy were unveiled.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady described the guidelines as “really weak,” lacking enforcement guarantees and guidance on protective wear.

Ministers claimed that they had consulted, but unions said that they were not given enough time. Sir Keir said: “The government put out a consultation at the weekend. It was open just for a few hours — I think it should have been a better consultation than that.

“They have engaged the trade unions, they need to do that more because, actually, the trade unions, if they are satisfied and able to reassure their members that it’s safe to go back to work, that is a fantastic supportive thing for them to be able to do.”

Sir Keir also urged the government to prevent a “rush on face masks.” He said he believes that it is inevitable that masks will be needed when the lockdown is eased in places where people cannot socially distance, such as on public transport. He said he will be raising the issue with PM Boris Johnson today.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that evidence on the use of face masks among the public is “weak one way or another.”

But Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that the government has been “trying to source as many masks as possible” in case current guidance changes.

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