Asos says Barnsley hub safe after union urges closure for coronavirus deep clean
May 14, 2020
Asos has defended its decision to keep its warehouse in Barnsley open after facing calls from a union to close the building for a deep clean. It comes after reports that a number of workers had tested positive for Covid-19. But the firm said the number of cases was minimal and the percentage of cases at the warehouse is much lower than in the local area.
In a letter sent to Asos founder Nick Robertson, trade union GMB said safety measures on site were “insufficient”. According to the union, a recent poll of almost 500 workers at the depot found 98% felt unsafe at work amid the coronavirus crisis.
"Asos has remained open and active throughout the current crisis and lockdown. Now, in light of confirmed coronavirus cases, they must close while a deep clean is carried out,” said Will Dalton, GMB organiser.
About 4,000 people are employed at the warehouse, which has continued to operate throughout the lockdown.
But in reply, Asos said there was no evidence to suggest that the confirmed Covid-19 cases were contracted on-site. It added that the percentage of the team affected was “significantly lower” than the national average and for that of the Barnsley Metropolitan area, within which the site is based.
“Of the nine people affected, close to half had not been on site for more than two weeks before testing positive for the virus, and all have self-isolated at home, in line with Government guidance. We remain in contact with them and wish them well with their recoveries,” an Asos spokesperson said.
“Given the warehouse’s size and scale, its level of automation and the extra, industry-leading health and safety measures we have put in place since the start of the pandemic, it remains a safe place to work.
“We and XPO Logistics, which manages the site on our behalf, are monitoring the situation closely and have taken further precautionary measures. This includes contact tracing – asking anyone who was in contact with the individual to monitor themselves for symptoms - and ensuring any areas where the individuals have been are cleaned as part of an enhanced hygiene programme.”
The fashion e-tailer insisted that its social distancing protocols exceed the latest Government guidelines “in many areas”, and added that it is communicating regularly with staff, the Community Union and the local Environmental Health office.
Commenting on GMB’s letter, Sir Steve Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council, said: “Our regulatory services team have been making regular unannounced visits to the [Asos] site to ensure the safety of staff. The company has put various measures in place to protect staff, and has quickly taken on board and acted on all advice and suggestions to improve things further.
“It is important to remember that Asos has a large workforce and this is a global pandemic. When employees test positive for the disease, it does not necessarily mean they contracted it at work.”
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