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MPS have joined calls for a probe into the deaths of two outsourced workers in an alleged coronavirus outbreak at the Ministry of Justice headquarters.
The United Voices of the World union alleges that cleaners at MoJ offices in Petty France, central London, were pressured to work despite having coronavirus symptoms because they could not live on statutory sick pay of £95.85 a week.
As reported by the Star, Emanuel Gomes, a worker employed by contractor OCS, died in April after working for five days with a high fever, cough and loss of appetite.
The cause of death was recorded officially as hypertensive heart disease, but it is unclear whether a coronavirus test was carried out, according to Mr Gomes’s family.
Another worker, employed by Kier, another contractor, was confirmed to have died from coronavirus in the same month.
Shadow justice secretary David Lammy said that the deaths raise questions about the cleaners’ treatment “that the Ministry of Justice must answer.”
“It is totally unacceptable to force front-line workers back to work without the proper protective equipment and then to deny them the support they need when they get ill,” Mr Lammy told the Morning Star.
“There must now be a thorough investigation to assess what mistakes were made.”
Labour MP Lyn Brown, who represents Mr Gomes’s West Ham constituency, has called on Justice Secretary Robert Buckland to open an inquiry that “has the ability to establish evidence of any breaches of laws or guidance” and has powers to bring sanctions against OCS.
Earlier this week, an expose by Tortoise Media suggested that OCS and the ministry had been aware of a coronavirus outbreak among staff but failed to act.
“It is of great importance that public bodies do not avoid responsibility for workers by using intermediaries and the article implies that Ministry of Justice decisions were implicated in the course of events that led up to the tragic deaths,” Ms Brown wrote in a letter to Mr Buckland.
On Wednesday, the MoJ and OCS announced that workers will receive full sick pay, but only during the Covid-19 crisis..
The ministry has denied that a coronavirus outbreak occurred at its offices, while OCS insists that it followed Public Health England guidelines during the crisis and provided staff with the necessary personal protective equipment.
Read Emanuel Gomes’s story and the plight of the MoJ cleaners during the pandemic at: link to feature
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