20 March 2020 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Thousands of energy and utility employees should be classed as 'key workers' so that they can keep energy and water supplies running without interruption during the coronavirus emergency, says Unite, Britain and Ireland's largest union.
Unite, which has tens of thousands of members in the sector, is asking business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) secretary Alok Sharma to guarantee that energy and utility workers are included in the 'key worker' category.
This would mean that energy and utility workers would be immediately on the list of those whose children would be provided with access to schools, while most schools remain shut indefinitely.
Peter McIntosh Unite national officer for energy and utilities, said: "Our members are 100 per cent committed to do whatever it takes to maintain energy and water supplies to UK consumers and businesses at this time of national emergency. This is especially true of vital public services, such as the NHS.
"But we believe that workers in the energy and utility sectors deserve reassurance that, while they are working 24/7 to keep energy and water supplies running smoothly, their children are being well looked after in a school setting, so they don't have that extra worry.
"We don't believe that's an unreasonable request - and we will be pressing the business secretary Alok Sharma to guarantee this as soon as possible.
"In the meantime, Unite is proactively in contact with energy producers and suppliers, as well as with the water industry, to ensure that the lights remain on and the water continues to flow.
"It goes without saying that all essential services, including the NHS, rely on energy and utilities to function - we are firmly committed to seeing that continues to happen in the weeks ahead."
Unite members are in fixed workplaces such as nuclear power generation plants, contact centres dealing with important customer calls, and mobile services working on maintenance and repair.
Facilitate approached BEIS for comment.