THOUSANDS of deaths by workers who contracted Covid in the course of their jobs have gone unreported in the official figures, according to research published this weekend by the Trades Union Congress.
The TUC found that employers have notified the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) of only 387 work-related Covid deaths since April 2020.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that in this same period 15,263 people of working age died from Covid.
As Shelly Asquith, TUC health and safety officer, said: ‘It is just not credible that only 2.5% of working age Covid deaths are down to occupational exposure’ adding: ‘We believe employers are massively under-reporting the number of people who have died after catching Covid at work.’
This refusal by employers to officially report Covid deaths arising from unsafe working conditions means that there are no checks by health inspectors on safety conditions in the workplace.
Inspections that could lead to the closure of these workplaces are clearly to be avoided at all costs by employers.
The statistics from the ONS reveal that over 600 transport and storage workers died last year from Covid but only 10 of these deaths were reported as work-related.
140 people who worked in schools, colleges and universities died last year but only nine of these deaths were reported to the HSE by employers.
All Covid cases that are likely to be caused by exposure in the workplace are required to be reported to the HSE who are supposed to enforce the policies for health and safety in England.
One of the most glaring examples of the refusal of employers to notify was at the governments own Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) centre in Swansea which experienced the largest workplace outbreak of Covid in the whole of the UK.
More than 600 staff at the centre tested positive for the virus yet the management reported only one case to the HSE!
PCS union members at the DVLA site voted in March for strike action furious at management’s complete disregard for the health and safety of their workers.
It took a strike on 6th to 9th April to force management to enter into ‘intensive talks’ with the union over Covid safety, talks that have still not reached a satisfactory conclusion as far as the PCS is concerned.
The TUC analysis showed that just one in 218 workplaces were inspected by the HSE, and that not a single employer has been prosecuted for putting workers at risk of death by refusing to take the necessary safety measures.
For this, the TUC blames a ‘crisis of regulation and enforcement’ that has allowed ‘bad bosses to get away with flagrant labour rights abuses’.
But, as the example of DVLA shows, it is not just a handful of bad bosses in private industry that are to blame. Government civil servants, teachers, along with NHS and transport workers – in fact all those workers capitalism demanded were essential to maintain the economy and ensure profits for the bosses – were thrown into danger by capitalism.
TUC general secretary Francis O’Grady said of these findings: ‘The government must fix the deficiencies in how workplace deaths, illnesses and injuries are reported. The current system is letting bosses off the hook.’
In fact, the TUC are letting the Tories ‘off the hook’ with this appeal.
The Tories drove the entire policy of half-hearted lockdowns followed by rapid re-openings in order that these ‘bad bosses’ could make their profits.
It is not just bad bosses who must be brought to justice but this Tory government and the entire capitalist system that regards workers as disposable and fit only to be worked to death to keep capitalism going and the profits rolling in.
The only way to ensure justice for the working class is to force the TUC leaders to organise a general strike to kick out the Tories and go forward to a workers’ government that will expropriate the bosses and bankers in a planned socialist economy.
Only by putting an end to this bankrupt capitalist system that regards workers as disposable can justice be obtained for all workers.