Social distancing for supermarket workers

Submitted by martin on 16 April, 2020 - 4:48 Author: Charlie George

Protective screens have been put up between till operators in most supermarkets, in order to enable them to open twice as many tills while ostensibly adhering to social distancing guidelines, but many staff feel like they just don’t go far enough.

According to a senior USDAW official, the union approved their use in Tesco (where I work) without even seeing the screens, and upon seeing them doubts were raised about why they had been approved in the first place.

The policy pushed by USDAW and adopted across many of the supermarket chains is that it is to remain only one checkout operator per island unless it is absolutely necessary to open more tills, but so long as other social distancing measures are in place, such as the one-way one-in-one-out system, this should be an unusual exception and the screens must certainly not be an excuse to drop these other measures designed to protect customers and staff.

One checkout operator has said they “don’t feel protected at work at all” as a result of the shoddy implementation of these protective screens, and as such, some Tesco staff have taken action. In some stores, checkout operators working with their USDAW reps have enforced local agreements with their managers that under no circumstances should they be working back to back with anyone whether there’s a screen in place or not. In at least one instance the manager’s refusal sparked a short walkout before they caved in.

Staff in all supermarkets should discuss amongst themselves the protections and policies they believe they require and organise to enforce them locally and force the Union to push for national implementation, ensuring maximum safety for everyone in the store.

• For more on supermarket workers' struggles in the pandemic, see the Safe and Equal campaign.

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