Business groups and labor unions demand more clarity after UK eases lockdown rules

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out his vision for gradually restarting the economy, calling on people across the United Kingdom to return to work if they cannot do so from home. CNN's Max Foster reports.

Posted: May 11, 2020 11:51 AM
Updated: May 11, 2020 11:51 AM

Groups representing UK business and workers have blasted the government's plans to ease coronavirus lockdown rules, complaining that crucial details on how companies should prepare for a safe return to work are missing.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday announced that restrictions on exercise and local travel would be eased after six weeks of lockdown. Workers in some industries, such as construction and manufacturing, are being encouraged to return to their jobs.

"We said that you should work from home if you can, and only go to work if you must. We now need to stress that anyone who can't work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work," Johnson said during a televised address from 10 Downing Street.

The UK government later published further details on which sectors of the economy are allowed to reopen on Wednesday, adding food production, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories. Hospitality and nonessential retail businesses will remain closed, the government said in a 50-page report.

Yet labor unions urged caution, saying many people won't be able to get to work if they also follow the government's recommendation to avoid public transportation.

"Lots of working people will feel anxious and confused after listening to Boris Johnson," Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, wrote on Twitter, noting that the government hasn't published guidance on how workers will be kept safe.

"So how can the [prime minister] — with 12 hours' notice — tell people to go back to sites and factories? It's a recipe for chaos," added O'Grady, whose organization represents 48 trade unions and 5.5 million workers.

Several business lobby groups have also called for clarity from the government on how the revised rules should be applied.

Richard Burge, CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, advised businesses in the British capital to keep their employees at home. "You have not been given sufficient information on how to get your employees safely to work, nor how to keep them safe while they are there," he said in a statement Sunday.

In its report, the government said it would issue new safety guidelines for workplaces and travel later this week. People will be advised to use face coverings in enclosed public spaces, such as on public transportation and in some shops.

Figures from Britain's Office for National Statistics also published on Monday found increased rates of coronavirus-related deaths among men working in low-skilled jobs, including taxi and bus drivers, chefs and sales assistants.

GMB, a union that represents workers in sectors including retail, security and social care, described the figures as "horrifying."

"Ministers must pause any return to work until proper guidelines, advice and enforcement are in place to keep people safe," the union's acting general secretary, John Phillips, said in a statement.

Moves to restart certain industries follow a warning last week from the Bank of England that the UK economy could shrink by 14% in 2020, its worst contraction in 300 years. The government is already paying salaries for more than 6 million workers affected by the shutdown.

In a radio interview with the BBC, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab declined to answer whether employees would be able to refuse to work if they did not feel secure, saying "it's very difficult to answer that hypothetically."

There are also mixed messages coming out of the nations that make up the United Kingdom, adding to the sense of confusion among business and workers.

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have extended their lockdowns to May 28 and officials from all three nations said there had been no coordination with the UK government over its new messaging, which advises people to "stay alert" rather than "stay home." Authorities outside England said they would continue to recommend their citizens stay home.

"Businesses will need to see detailed plans for the phased easing of restrictions, coordinated with all nations across the UK and supported by clear guidance," director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, Adam Marshall, said in a statement. "It is imperative that companies have detailed advice on what will need to change in the workplace, including clarity on the use of PPE [Personal Protective Equipment]," he added.

— Angela Dewan, Nada Bashir, Max Ramsay, Ivana Kottasova and Charles Riley contributed reporting.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 768624

Reported Deaths: 13993
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1055891807
Lake569801031
Allen43032699
St. Joseph37344568
Hamilton37335426
Elkhart29783470
Tippecanoe23503230
Vanderburgh23240405
Porter19580327
Johnson18843392
Hendricks18089323
Madison13575347
Clark13552198
Vigo12869256
LaPorte12578225
Monroe12575178
Delaware11155198
Howard10693237
Kosciusko9792124
Hancock8761150
Bartholomew8274157
Warrick8084157
Floyd8043182
Grant7378181
Wayne7239201
Boone7211105
Morgan6924143
Marshall6345117
Dubois6283118
Cass6096112
Dearborn602178
Noble600890
Henry5958111
Jackson517277
Shelby511598
Lawrence4928127
Gibson463696
Montgomery459292
DeKalb456785
Clinton456055
Harrison454077
Huntington417882
Whitley416745
Steuben411260
Miami406073
Jasper401655
Knox388691
Putnam385762
Wabash370384
Adams353856
Ripley351971
Jefferson343487
White340154
Daviess3089100
Wells304081
Greene295185
Decatur292693
Fayette286564
Posey282635
Scott281058
LaGrange277772
Clay274949
Washington254637
Randolph247783
Jennings239749
Spencer238731
Fountain235850
Starke229959
Owen222959
Sullivan221643
Fulton208945
Jay203032
Carroll197722
Orange191756
Perry189939
Vermillion181144
Rush177627
Tipton173347
Franklin172535
Parke155916
Pike142534
Blackford138032
Pulaski123748
Newton123336
Benton109715
Brown106243
Crawford105816
Martin92515
Warren87915
Switzerland8378
Union73610
Ohio58411
Unassigned0429

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1125420

Reported Deaths: 20490
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1305631493
Cuyahoga1173952263
Hamilton825481261
Montgomery536581062
Summit489381014
Lucas43799834
Butler40064614
Stark33876939
Lorain26072510
Warren24959312
Mahoning22738613
Lake21482396
Clermont20425261
Delaware19169138
Licking16879227
Trumbull16829492
Fairfield16825207
Medina15880276
Greene15565254
Clark14366308
Portage13450218
Wood13358201
Allen12064245
Richland11748213
Miami11047228
Wayne9275228
Columbiana9216236
Muskingum9144137
Pickaway8755123
Tuscarawas8724255
Marion8716140
Erie8146166
Ashtabula7280179
Hancock7050135
Ross7031165
Geauga6975153
Scioto6726108
Belmont6224179
Lawrence5964104
Union591649
Jefferson5729162
Huron5644122
Sandusky5498130
Darke5448131
Seneca5380128
Washington5373111
Athens527260
Auglaize507787
Mercer491785
Shelby484397
Knox4621113
Madison448066
Ashland446198
Defiance439499
Fulton436875
Putnam4358104
Crawford4120111
Brown410462
Preble3956107
Logan392279
Clinton391466
Ottawa376481
Highland366668
Williams357378
Champaign349860
Guernsey331554
Jackson321954
Perry299050
Morrow294943
Fayette289350
Hardin279665
Henry277467
Coshocton273061
Holmes2726102
Van Wert252365
Gallia251150
Adams250958
Pike244837
Wyandot235557
Hocking222963
Carroll201449
Paulding180142
Meigs151540
Monroe137945
Noble137939
Harrison115438
Morgan111724
Vinton87517
Unassigned04
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