Working conditions at the DVLA, employment rights and Holocaust Memorial Day - Weekly Update 30/01/21
It’s been a busy week this week! I started the week highlighting the appalling stories of non-Covid secure working conditions at the DVLA in Swansea. Many people are petrified of going into work there, but they have all asked for anonymity because they are scared of a backlash from senior management if it is found out that they have complained. I was able to speak in a debate on Monday on the topic of the UK Government’s plans to undermine employment rights and I made sure I raised the issue of the DVLA headquarters then too.
Workers in this country are facing the biggest crisis in generations, yet the UK Government have decided to strip away the rights of those key workers who are keeping this country going, and we know that those with low paid jobs are going to lose out the most. Managers, directors and, yes, even Members of Parliament like us will not be the big losers in any erosion of employment rights. It will be those on zero-hour contracts, those at the beginning of their careers and, as usual, women who will be disproportionately affected. The Prime Minister proudly told us that he would not do anything to undermine workers’ rights, yet here we are facing a shake-up of the protections that are in place to defend workers and consumers from unsafe situations. I heard the Secretary of State say on Monday evening that his Government’s record spoke for itself. Well, if we want to catch a glimpse of what we can expect from this Government, we need look no further than how they treat their own workers at the DVLA offices in Swansea. With everything people have been through over the past year, the least they should expect is a Government that works to improve things for workers, not makes life even harder.
I was pleased to speak up for rail workers during Transport Questions this week. I asked the Department about the shocking doubling of Covid deaths among rail workers as well as the increase in absences from work since December. When subcontractors are included, this number increases. There are many who are concerned that too many rail companies are trying to act as if it is business as usual – the UK Government needs to make sure that all workers are kept safe while they are working so hard to keep the country moving. While additional cleaning is important, for the safety of both passengers and staff, the train companies cannot be expected to convey large numbers of passengers where social distancing cannot be observed. No rail worker should be put at risk from Covid and the UK Government have a duty to ensure that all are protected from this virus.
We had an interesting session of the Welsh Affairs Committee this week, discussing renewable energy in Wales with Rhys Wyn Jones, the Director of RenewableUK Cymru, Hywel Lloyd, the Chair of Re-energising Wales project advisory board at the Institute of Welsh Affairs, and Professor Nick Jenkins, who is the Leader of the Centre for Integrated Energy Generation and Supply Research Group at Cardiff University. The Covid pandemic has reinforced the message of how important it is that we look after our natural environment – we only have one planet and we have done a shocking job of looking after it so far. Renewable energy is our chance to make the world greener for our children and grandchildren and to also contribute to better health outcomes and wellbeing for people today. But it’s also important that green initiatives and investment in renewables contribute to local economies and help boost not only the health and wellbeing of people, but also their financial stability.
This week also included a time for reflection. Every year on the 27th January, we mark Holocaust Memorial Day. This is a day to remember those who were murdered during the Holocaust and in the genocides that came after. We must learn the lessons of the past and use them to create a safer, better future. The theme for this year was ‘Be the light in the darkness’. Whilst we think about the darkness in humanity, we can also recognise those who resisted the darkness and became the light. We can all choose to be the light in the darkness.
You can keep up to date with Welsh Government announcements and information on their dedicated coronavirus page. If you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01792 899025. My office is not open, my staff and I are working from home, but my email and phone are still being monitored and responded to. You may experience a slight delay in receiving a response from us as the demand has increase, but we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Keep well and remember – and remember - observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe!