Angry Doncaster warehouse and rail firm staff blast bosses ignoring PM’s lockdown message

Angry warehouse and rail company workers in Doncaster have blasted firms which have told staff to keep on working during the coronavirus lockdown.

Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 12:47 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 12:48 pm

The Free Press has received messages and complaints about a number of employers in the town who have told employees to keep coming into work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They include retail giants IKEA, ASOS and Next as well as rail firms Wabtec and Volker Rail.

Next has a number of warehouses and distribution centres in the Doncaster area – including at Armthorpe and Redhouse - and one angry worker took a angry blast at Next in a Facebook post, accusing bosses of putting wealth before health.

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A worker at Wabtec Rail has complained about the unhygienic state of the toilets during the coronavirus crisis.

Daniella Falvey, who lives in Doncaster, but works at Next in South Elmsall wrote: “I know I wrote this status last night but I was told to take it down.. but you know what, I don’t give a f*** anymore!

“I never write my personal/work life on Facebook but Next do not sell essential items like food and toilet roll.

“They close stores but yet do not close their warehouses and calls centres, not to forget the delivery drivers.

“Why should ya employees put our lives at risk because Doris down the road wants a new coat or a nice candle?

“There’s no canteen or rest area nor smoke shelter. Employees are having to have their breaks on the shop floor, in their cars and car park, smokers are having to leave site for a fag.

“There’s no way you can stay two metres away from someone when working in a warehouse.

“I’ve literally been crying knowing I have to go back to work putting myself at risk but I’m not just risking myself I’m also putting my family at risk.

“I’ve been trying to find alternative arrangements for my daughter so I don’t put her at risk because Next are too selfish to let us stay at home.

“Not only is it taking affect on us it also takes its toll on people with mental health issues.

“We’re not key workers so we can’t get childcare for our children? We’re offered to take holidays or take unpaid leave.

“You have no idea what you are doing to us! It’s none essential work. Close down and stop spreading coronavirus for money. Listening to your employees – it’s wealth before health.”

Another worker who declined to be named, said: “Think it would be an idea to put pressure on employers still making us work. What is the point in self isolating then going to work everyday with hundreds on site – and some already gone home with symptoms.”

Another wrote: “Next warehouse think it is essential to stay open with all its employees having no place to eat or rest during breaks - they have taken to having to sit on the floor outside to eat and smoke.”

We have asked Next for a statement.

But there have also been complaints about other firms, including IKEA which has a distrubtion centre at Armthorpe.

One worker, who declined to be named said: “All three shifts.. days, afters and nights are depleted with co-workers self isolating for two weeks. Yet managers are asking workers to all go on one shift. It surely cant be right gathering all workers on one shift?”

An IKEA spokesman said: “These are extraordinary times and our absolute priority is to ensure the health and safety of our co-workers.

“In line with government guidance that online retail is still open and encouraged, our online fulfilment operation in Doncaster remains operational. We have already put enhanced cleaning plans and enhanced social distancing measures in effect, and the co-worker restaurant is operating a takeaway service only, with food provided for free.

“Those self-isolating in line with government guidance are being paid.”

An employee at rail manufacturing firm Wabtec Rail also got in contact to complain about the state of toilets and workers in close proximity.

He said: “Wabtec Rail isn’t critical work to the efforts to contain and fight Covid-19 yet they are claiming to be key workers to the railway.

“The toilets are a state. Canteens and locker rooms full of men and no hand sanitizer on site.

“People have been raising concerns about having family members in the vulnerable person category and they were told if they want time off they would have to take it unpaid or use holidays.

“In my opinion the issue is the decision makers on if the site should shut. The company seem to be ignoring the issue and are playing with people’s lives.”

A spokesman for Wabtec said: “Wabtec operations at the Doncaster facility and sites around the globe are essential to supporting the world’s critical rail infrastructure and the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The rail industry is vital for carrying fuel, medicine and healthcare supplies during this unprecedented crisis.

“Of utmost importance is the safety and health of our employees in Doncaster and around the world. Since the outbreak, we have taken increased measures across our Doncaster site, including:

Established protocol for employees exhibiting symptoms in line with guidance for the health authorities regarding quarantine and investigating contact contamination;

Established centralized crisis management team to review employee concerns as raised and determines course of action;

“All employees who are classed as at heightened risk have been given the opportunity to not attend work, on full pay, until confirmation from the government is received about whether they should socially distance themselves;

“All employees over the age of 70 have been requested to socially distance themselves, either working from home or not working, on full pay;

“Limited the number of employees working within a given area, ensuring 2m distancing;

Staggered shift and break times to reduce the number of people on site, or in a particular area at any one time;

Around 115 non-production workers are working remotely;

Those not able to work remotely, within an office environment have been spaced at least 2m apart from colleagues;

Enhanced cleaning of all areas;

Banned all travel locally and internationally;

No non-essential visitors allowed on site;

Controlled delivery of materials to site, removing any person to person contact;

Covid-19 specific telephone number and email address to answer all employee queries;

Established an Employee Assistance program to provide further support…among many other actions.

“Over our past 150 years, the rail industry has survived several pandemics, two world wars, and numerous crises. But through it all, it has stayed on the move and delivered for those that needed it most. The same holds true today.

“Rail is critical in this global fight against COVID-19 and Wabtec ̶ along with the railroads, our suppliers and even our competitors ̶ must be ready to help the industry deliver the equipment and supplies it so desperately needs to support a recovery.”

Another got in touch to complain about Doncaster rail firm Volker Rail.

“It is impossible to stay two metres apart at work,” they said. “Everyone else is being told to stay at home, but we are still here, potentially all exposing the virus to each other.”

We have asked Volker Rail for a response.

Online retailer ASOS was also cricitised for staying open.

One worker who contacted us said: “There are hundreds of people working there, dining together, using the same toilets and clocking in and out using fingerprint devices.

“This is absolutely unbelievable. There are no masks or gloves provided.

“Workers have to deal with returned packages from all over UK, even though the virus stays on surfaces for some time.

“It’s a clothing industry, so it’s nothing urgent or necessary.”

We have contacted ASOS for a response.