Plymouth manufacturers lobby Government for change to self-isolation rules
Plymouth’s manufacturers are lobbying the Government for a change to the rules around self-isolation fearing production will be hit by a shortage of workers.
Factory chiefs are contacting Plymouth’s MPs and the manufacturers’ organisation Make UK to put pressure on Westminster to relax rules.
They say production could be curtailed by large numbers of staff having to stay at home because they have been told to self-isolate for 10 days after being “pinged” by the NHS Test and Trace app.
Car producers Nissan and Rolls-Royce have already raised concerns about low staff numbers at their plants in Sunderland and Goodwood, and now Plymouth’s largest factories are fearing they will follow suit.
A meeting of the Plymouth Manufacturers Group (PMG) heard of concerns across the board as “freedom day” arrives on July 19 just as UK Covid cases rise.
The meeting was attended by more than 15 Plymouth manufacturers, including some of the largest employers such as Plessey, BD, Collins Aerospace, Kawasaki Precision Machinery, and Vi-Spring, with others such as Princess Yachts contacted afterwards and also giving support.
“We are lobbying the Government through local MPs and the offices of MakeUK for a relaxation of the rules, for Test and Trace to not be so indiscriminate,” said Steve Gerry, PMG secretary. “Otherwise production could be affected here, definitely.”
Plymouth has the largest concentration of manufacturing employment on the South coast of England and the sector supports more than 12,000 jobs in the city.
But there have been predictions of a “summer of chaos” for the UK as the number of Covid infections rises to about 50,000 daily, including more than 1,000 cases reported in a week in Plymouth, and the NHS app sent alerts to more than 500,000 people in the UK in a week.
Mr Gerry said: “We have examples of employers saying there is exponential growth in the numbers of workers having to self-isolate, and the projections are not good. We could be going from 40,000 to 100,000 daily cases by mid-August.
“In a matter of days some firms will be finding the situation untenable. The Government desperately needs to do something.”
He said one solution would be for people who have had two doses of the vaccine and have returned a negative test to be allowed to work even if they have been “pinged” by the app.
Meanwhile, he stressed that PMG members were also highly aware of the need for staff safety and have been canvassing and consulting with workers and that polls and surveys are ongoing, adding: “The importance of communication with staff is seen as paramount.”
He said firms had found staff are generally said to feel “apprehensive, nervous and hesitant” at the prospect of safety restrictions being lifted and said most Plymouth manufacturers are not expecting to relax protocols – including self distancing, temperature checking, hand hygiene, mask wearing, one way directions in workplaces – until safe to do so.
Mr Gerry said provisional dates for this were given as late August or September, with some even considering October.
“The rationale for this approach is associate/employee safety based on an assessed risk,” he said. “Having said that, some firms are taking steps to change working patterns. For instance, to reduce shift changeovers. Some are relaxing rules regarding visitors to site.
“Most firms are planning a phased return of home workers to the office. The timing of which varied but is commonly planned for August and/or September. Hybrid solutions are likely to be favoured. The longer term balance of home working is predicted by some to possibly change as people return.
But he added that from the PMG meeting: “There is a general recognition that as a nation – indeed the whole world – we will have to get used to living with Covid-19, much as we do with the common flu.”
This story appeared in the Plymouth Herald – here