Stores to fit pro­tec­tive check­out screens to shield staff

The Guardian - - News Coronaviru­s - Sarah But­ler

Mor­risons, Ice­land, Sains­bury’s and Aldi are to in­stall thou­sands of pro­tec­tive screens at check­outs to keep staff safe as con­cerns grow about their well­be­ing while deal­ing with hun­dreds of cus­tomers a day dur­ing the coro­n­avirus out­break.

Sev­eral re­tail­ers have asked shop­pers to keep at least two me­tres away from staff at tills but some shop work­ers have said on so­cial me­dia that they have not been al­lowed to wear pro­tec­tion such as masks.

The gen­eral sec­re­tary of the shop work­ers’ union, Us­daw, Paddy Lil­lis, said: “We have in­creas­ing con­cerns about the safety and wel­fare of staff.”

Su­per­mar­kets and their staff have come un­der huge pres­sure as shop­pers have stock­piled goods and pri­ori­tised cook­ing at home.

Some re­tail­ers said they had strug­gled to source enough pro­tec­tive equip­ment for staff in stores, be­cause sup­pli­ers were un­der­stand­ably giv­ing pri­or­ity to the NHS. More than 3,000 su­per­mar­ket work­ers have signed a pe­ti­tion on the em­ployee cam­paign­ing plat­form Or­gan­ise call­ing for masks and gloves to be sup­plied.

Lil­lis said: “We are call­ing on re­tail­ers to con­tinue to im­prove their stores and pro­ce­dures to help pro­tect staff.”

The union wel­comed the new mea­sures but said it wanted re­tail­ers to pro­tect staff fur­ther with mea­sures in­clud­ing a limit on the num­ber of cus­tomers in a store at any time, an in­creased se­cu­rity pres­ence, restrictio­ns that re­quire cus­tomers to shop alone if pos­si­ble and only buy what they needed and mea­sures to en­force es­sen­tial work­ers’ and vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple’s shop­ping hours

Mor­risons’ chief ex­ec­u­tive, David Potts, said the com­pany had em­ployed 83 fit­ting teams to in­stall pro­tec­tive screens at ev­ery check­out as soon as pos­si­ble. “The well­be­ing of col­leagues is para­mount,” he said. It has also put hand sani­tiser on all tills and marked out so­cial-dis­tanc­ing points.

Tesco, Sains­bury’s and Asda are un­der­stood to be re­view­ing fur­ther pro­tec­tion mea­sures such as po­ten­tially lim­it­ing the num­ber of shop­pers in stores at one time, but have not pro­vided work­ers with masks.

Tesco said it had in­tro­duced so­ciald­is­tanc­ing mea­sures, such as lines on the floor, around check­outs and queue bar­ri­ers in large stores.

Sains­bury’s said it would now be ask­ing cus­tomers to stand two me­tres away from each other and staff wher­ever pos­si­ble and to pay by card. It will start in­stalling acrylic screens at the end of this week. But one Tesco worker told the Guardian: “A lot of work­ers don’t feel com­fort­able.”

Mean­while, Sains­bury’s is also hand­ing hourly paid staff in its su­per­mar­kets, Ar­gos chain, de­liv­ery net­work and cus­tomer con­tact cen­tres a one-off 10% in­crease in hourly pay between 9 March and 5 April. Sains­bury’s said the pay­ment was in recog­ni­tion of “go­ing above and be­yond to serve cus­tomers”.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: JEFF MOORE/EYELINE

▼ A wo­man keeps her crash hel­met on while shop­ping in east Lon­don. Su­per­mar­ket trips have risen 12%

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