Invisible workers and protected with delay

Invisible workers and protected with delay

Commerce, supermarkets, transport and cleaning services have been slow in providing masks and gloves to their staff.
The front line of battle in this virus crisis is dressed in uniform and hidden behind masks and screens . However, while the pandemic rolls over and counts the affected state health and security forces, there are other guilds, invisible most of the time, who are not so lucky. The service sector is known these days to be a fundamental part of the system , but although it is as vulnerable as the rest of the staff on the street, it remains condemned to anonymity.

The closing of schools and the state of alarm “increased sales by 71% in mass consumption,” says Ignacio Biedma, an expert at Nielsen. The shops, however, took time to protect their workers , the unions denounce, but at the moment it is not known how it affected them. Neither they nor the transporters, cleaning or hospitality staff in hospitals. It is difficult to make an accurate x-ray of these sectors, since the adaptation seems irregular. “We do not have confirmed data,” summarizes the head of Commerce for CC OO, Ángeles Rodríguez.

“We estimate that there are already hundreds of casualties in commerce, but it will not be transparent with them. It will depend on the company; some do not count those who do not call to say that they are admitted, ”explains Cristina Estévez, head of UGT-Commerce and department stores. He assures that “from the first day there are people with anxiety crises because they know that they do not have protection mechanisms at work and we are exhausted to ask for them. Our main concern is the people who will become infected because the appropriate measures have not been taken. ”

The day the store closings were announced and the following two will be marked on the department store calendar as one of the most profitable for sales, only comparable to Christmas campaigns. “It caused a wave of visitors to super and hyper. Sales of packaged food increased by 77.5%, fresh food by 51.3% and cellulose products by 170% ”, explains the Nielsen spokesperson.

But during these first two days, “there was a lot of pressure to take measures; at the beginning some did not have masks, they did not keep the safety distance and we even had to call the police in some cases, “summarizes Rodríguez. Both trade unionists highlight two success stories: Ahorramás and Eroski. “I believe that this crisis will help clients, with information on who best protected their workers, to make decisions for their purchase,” predicts Estévez. Mercadona reinforced measures weeks ago to separate the clients’ personnel with capacity control, partitions and glove distribution.

Providing workers with masks, gloves, disinfection liquids and even screens would have been the first measure taken by the service sector, “but almost all have been worryingly slow,” says Estévez. One of the businesses most affected by this consumer demand was transportation, both last mile and Europe. According to the company that connects drivers for the relief of trucks and goods, Trucksters, “it was the workers who warned us, before the situation in Italy exploded, that this was fatter than we thought; they were heroes ”, assures Luis Bardají, its general director, who says that gloves and masks began to be sent already then and, in the relays,“ instead of changing vehicles, the load is unhooked, the driver staying inside the cabin”.

El sector del transporte que no se dedica únicamente a los productos —el textil o la automoción, por ejemplo, van a perder enteros—, al contrario que la alimentación, “es uno de los que más reforzados van a salir”, aunque, según Bardají, “no sería justo que solo gane el que más factura, sino el que se dio más prisa por proteger a sus trabajadores y tomar decisiones y rápidas y el que estaba preparado para el teletrabajo”, punto en el que destaca su compañía al ser una empresa digital que se comunica directamente con los trabajadores a distancia. “La clave es que no haya retrasos en el sistema de relevos, y la única parte que no podemos controlar es que haya atascos en las fronteras a consecuencia de los controles”.

Invisible workers

Este empresario explica que una de las grandes preocupaciones que manifiesta el sector en estos días es “poder asegurarse el retorno, no tener que quedarse en el país dos semanas esperando una carga, lo que les está llevando a pedir que las rutas eviten ciertos sitios”. Menos ejemplar es el caso de la última milla y los repartidores y riders que están ayudando al negocio de la restauración y al pequeño comercio. Este sector, polémico siempre por las condiciones de sus trabajadores, tampoco parece haber sido de los más rápidos en la adquisición de medidas de seguridad.

Transporte de alto riesgo
Empresas de reparto como la franco-catalana Stuart, con un modelo similar a Glovo pero más centrada en parafarmacia y alimentación, remarcan su papel en esta crisis como “estratégico”, en palabras de David Guasch, su director general en España. Stuart ha compartido con los trabajadores la lista de recomendaciones de Sanidad, pero reconocen que “no pueden saber al 100% que todos estén bien equipados” para el servicio. “Como son autónomos no podíamos proveer a todos de material para que se protegieran; a algunos se les envió”, indica. Un discurso que no chirría con lo que detectan los representantes de los trabajadores.

La semana pasada el sindicato de limpieza de A Coruña denunciaba precisamente la escasez de medios que tenían especialmente los trabajadores de los camiones de la contrata de Ferrovial Servicios Cespa para ejercer su trabajo con seguridad. “Siempre hemos sido invisibles, pero somos los que cerramos el círculo llevándonos su basura; nuestro riesgo es alto”, señala Miguel Ángel Sánchez, portavoz del sindicato gallego STL. “Si no nos ayudan, a la pandemia se le añadirá un problema de salubridad; y la ayuda empieza por dotarnos de medios a todos y además difundir protocolos de actuación adecuados de cómo deshacerse de los residuos estos días”. Asegura que existen las mismas quejas en algunos puntos de Canarias y Barcelona.

Aunque, a todas luces, la pandemia pudiera estar resultando de riesgo para todas estas profesiones, lo cierto es que, como remarca la representante de UGT, “de nada sirve que ahora todos nos demos cuenta de lo que hacen si siguen siendo invisibles para sus propios empleadores”, explica, en relación a los ERTE, la batalla que les está tocando librar a los sindicatos y que afecta a más de un millón de personas.
Information about the coronavirus

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