Unions seek priority access to lateral flow tests for shopworkers

Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called for workers who cannot work from home to have priority access to lateral flow test kits until supply problems are resolved.

The call has been backed by retail trade union Usdaw.

TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “With Omicron cases rising rapidly, it is even more important that people test regularly if they cannot work at home and are in contact with others. But supply problems with lateral flow tests are putting workers at risk. And it increases the danger of Omicron outbreaks in workplaces shutting down vital services. The government must give priority access to test kits for anyone who is required to work outside the home, to help protect workers and the community.”

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary, added: “Supply problems with lateral flow test kits are putting working people at risk and vital services in danger of being shut down. The government claims there is no shortage of tests, but this morning their website states that there are currently none available.

“So we welcome and endorse this call by the TUC. Our members working in retail are key workers delivering essential services. They cannot work at home, they have worked throughout the pandemic and they deserve priority for test kits to help them and the public stay safe and well by reducing the risk of virus transmission in shops.”

In Scotland supply of lateral flow tests remains good, according to reports. A Scottish Government spokesman told The Herald: “Lateral flow devices are easy to obtain in Scotland. They can be collected from over 1,000 community pharmacies and dispensing GPs, over 60 testing sites and from many other collection points established by our local authorities under our community testing programme.

““The issues experienced in recent days with the UK Government online ordering portal relate to a restriction on the number of tests that can be posted out to households each day. The Scottish Government has raised this issue with the UK Government and they plan to have a solution in place this weekend that will double the number of tests that can be dispatched each day.”

In addition, Usdaw is concerned that the government has not yet reintroduced social distancing measures.

“This should be a key method of reducing the rate of infection and we are talking to employers about promoting social distancing, hand hygiene and the wearing of face coverings in stores,” Lillis added.