Usdaw disappointed that postcode lottery remains for essential workers

John Swinney, Dumbarton High Street and Jackie Baillie.

By Democrat reporter

Retail trade union Usdaw continues to ask local councils to accept that workers in the food and pharmaceutical supply chains are defined as key workers and therefore able to access school childcare provision.

The shop workers’ union has thanked Jackie Baillie MSP (Labour, Dumbarton) for pursuing the issue at yesterday’s Scottish Parliament Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee Meeting, but remains disappointed that the Minister fails to provide much needed absolute clarity has left it open to individual council to interpret.

Ms Baillie told the committee: “I want to ask the Deputy First Minister about the designation of key workers. Police officers, who are considered to be category 2 workers, are being denied childcare, which is severely compromising their ability to do their job. Pharmacy and food retail workers, who have been working really hard, are defined by the Scottish Government as being part of the critical national infrastructure.

“Can he confirm that those workers are also in category 2 of the key worker definition, because in some areas they are being denied support? Will he therefore ensure that the guidance to local authorities is clarified in order to avoid a myriad of different approaches being taken, so that our category 2 key workers receive the childcare support that they need?”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “I understand the seriousness of the issues that Jackie Baillie raises, but there is an important point that must be borne in mind, which is that we have to minimise the number of children who are brought into learning and childcare settings. If we do not do that, we will defeat the public health advice that is driving this exercise. I am sorry if that sounds hard, but we must be conscious of the need to limit the number of children who come into such settings. That is why I appeal to employers and families to follow the tiered guidance that we have put in place, which is about trying to find alternative solutions for childcare before trying to secure places in childcare settings through local authority provision. Jackie Baillie asked for clarity about the guidance, and I confirm the points that she made about the composition of category 2 workers. We have deliberatively left flexibility in the hands of local authorities, so that they can take into account the circumstances that they are presented with. Some sectors are more prevalent in some parts of the country than they are in others. If we specify a uniform national approach, we will just create a different set of anomalies from those that Jackie Baillie has raised. We need to allow the key workers whom we need to contribute to the national effort to be able to get childcare support. That is the objective that we jointly share with our local authority partners.”

Stewart Forrest – Usdaw Divisional Officer for Scotland says: “Usdaw is extremely disappointed with the guidance issued by the Scottish Government on Friday regarding school closures. In the rest of the UK, the essential role of food and pharmaceutical workers has been recognised, with these workers rightly prioritised for childcare provision. This has not been made clear in the guidance for Scotland.

“There is an extraordinary effort being undertaken by workers throughout the supply chain, to keep Scotland fed. The supply of food and medicine is always an essential service, now more than ever. There should be no question whatsoever that our members in these roles are essential workers and that they need to be prioritised, yet the Scottish Government has created a postcode lottery by leaving it up to local councils.

“Our members appreciate Jackie Baillie MSP standing up for their rights. It remains deeply disappointing that the Scottish Government have not stood by our essential workers. We have been forced to write to local authority leaders directly, but we will not let this rest until our members, who are doing essential work in very difficult circumstances, have the correct support that they desperately need.”

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