A Northern Ireland union rep is calling for workers in the hospitality trade to be better protected after statistics showed many of them are significantly more likely to die due to Covid.
The Office of National Statistics figures show that the ‘age-standardised mortality rate of death involving COVID-19’ is higher in working age men, at 31.4 deaths per 100,000, compared with 16.8 deaths per 100,000 women.
But when they compared professions, they found that men who are ‘restaurant and catering establishment managers and proprietors’ had a death rate of 119.3 per 100,000.
Other professions at higher risk were ‘metal working and machine operatives’ with 106.1 deaths per 100,000 males; ‘food, drink and tobacco process operatives’ at 103.7 deaths per 100,000; ‘chefs’ at 103.1 deaths per 100,000; ‘taxi and cab drivers and chauffeurs’ at 101.4 deaths per 100,000; ‘nursing auxiliaries and assistants’ at 87.2 deaths per 100,000 and ‘elementary construction occupations’ at 82.1 deaths per 100,000.
Among women, the ONS listed ‘social workers’ among the higher rates at 32.4 deaths per 100,000; ‘national government administrative occupations’ at 27.9 deaths per 100,000 and ‘sales and retail assistants’ at 26.9 deaths per 100,000 as being statistically significant.
The ONS statistics are for England and Wales, but reacting to the news, NI Unite hospitality organiser Neil Moore said they “confirm fears among many hospitality workers locally that they face a much higher risk from the Covid-19 pandemic than many other types of worker”.
He added: “These statistics are a sickening confirmation of the risks faced by hospitality workers. They are all the more concerning as, by comparison to other sections of the workforce, most workers in this sector tend to be young and with low levels of illness or clinical vulnerabilities.
“The scale of this divergence can only be explained by the failure of bosses and owners to take the action needed to protect hospitality workers. They also reflect the failure of Ministers in Westminster and locally in Stormont to provide meaningful protection to hospitality workers.
“Government has refused to make mandatory a full sick pay entitlement to all those who need to self-isolate or to tackle the precarity of employment leaving many workers with no choice but to work in unsafe conditions.
“They facilitated reopening before it was safe and without any requirement to secure workers’ agreement. We’ve witnessed unscrupulous employers consistently breaching Covid Health and Safety guidelines when lockdowns were lifted – most recently over Christmas.
“In light of the expected government announcement on quarantine hotels – employers must be forced to tighten up on Health and Safety and workplace infection control measures. Hospitality staff expected to work in such environments must be prioritised for vaccination.
“There needs to be a wider commitment to facilitate ‘roving’ union health and safety reps and to legislate them real powers to ensure workers’ safety in smaller and non-unionised workplaces, to protect the wider public health and the NHS.”
Unite the union say they have launched a ‘Make My Workplace Safe’ campaign at www.unitehospitality.org/makemyworkplacesafe ‘which allows workers to report health and safety breaches and to take action collectively with their colleagues to make their workplace safer’.
Ben Humberstone, Head of Health Analysis and Life Events at ONS reacted to the mortality rates.
He said: “Today’s analysis shows that jobs with regular exposure to Covid-19 and those working in close proximity to others continue to have higher Covid-19 death rates when compared with the rest of the working age population. Men continue to have higher rates of death than women, making up nearly two thirds of these deaths.
“As the pandemic has progressed, we have learnt more about the disease and the communities it impacts most. There are a complex combination of factors that influence the risk of death; from your age and your ethnicity, where you live and who you live with, to pre-existing health conditions. Our findings do not prove that the rates of death involving Covid-19 are caused by differences in occupational exposure.”
-- to www.belfastlive.co.uk