After fury from Waitrose staff, the store backed down after insisting that its workers would have to make up any time they take to self-isolate and up to two weeks of the time their vulnerable employees take to shield themselves.

Their scheme would have forced people to work well above their usual hours in what is already an extremely stressful time for shopworkers or else come to work whilst sick, endangering the lives of their colleagues and customers. This would have been disastrous for those workers with caring responsibilities or those living with vulnerable family.

Waitrose backing down is a display of what can be achieved when we make a fuss about when our conditions aren’t good enough. Staff at Waitrose should carry on pushing for full provision of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and full isolation pay for all staff working across the John Lewis Partnership. They should organise under the USDAW banner and force the union nationally to join in with their fight.

This whole affair also shows the problem of expecting ostensibly workers’ owned companies being any different to the rest. It is only through collective action on the shop floor, by talking to the staff around us and making demands of our managers before taking the drivers’ seat ourselves, can things be changed, not through turning up to a Forum every once and a while.

Charlie George

Charlie is an USDAW Rep in a large format Tesco store in London

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