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THE Ministry of Justice (MoJ) could be taken to court over its “refusal” to provide outsourced workers at its offices with face masks, their union said today.
United Voices of the World (UVW) announced that it will apply for a judicial review of the government’s “failure” to make the provision of face masks in workplaces compulsory.
The announcement follows weeks of intense public scrutiny of an alleged Covid-19 outbreak at the ministry’s central London offices which has seen the department widely criticised over the death of cleaner Emanuel Gomes.
During the pandemic, outsourced workers at the MoJ offices repeatedly asked to be given masks, but contractor OCS said that it was not required to provide them under Public Health England guidelines.
However, the union argues that failure to provide the protective wear goes against evidence from bodies such as the World Health Organisation and European Centre for Disease and Control Prevention that they help to limit the spread of infection.
UVW argues that by failing to offer masks, the ministry and OCS may be in contravention of article two of the Human Rights Act, protecting the right to life, as well as legislation requiring employers to ensure that workplaces are safe.
UVW organiser Petros Elia said: “The government has been negligent and reckless in not mandating all employers to provide employees with face masks months ago.
“If face masks are needed on transport and in shops, then they must also be needed in workplaces too.”
He added that the case could force employers to provide masks to millions of workers.
An MoJ spokesperson said: “We have worked closely with our contractors to make sure employees have appropriate protection, in line with public health guidance.”
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