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Gig economy workers could be ‘abandoned and made penniless’ by coronavirus outbreak, unions warn


THE threat of the coronavirus could leave millions of low-paid and gig economy workers “abandoned and penniless,” unions warned today.

Peter Lazenby's picturePETER LAZENBY

General union GMB said that one recent case saw a delivery driver told not to come into work, leaving them with no wages until they were given the all clear.

The union stepped in and the company backed down, but GMB warned that more and more gig economy workers were suffering the same fate.

GMB national officer Mick Rix said: “The threat of coronavirus is a huge problem for employers and workers across the UK.

“But workers in the so-called gig economy, or on zero-hours contracts, are left abandoned and penniless if they have to self-isolate.

“Once again the bogus self-employment model is screwing over the disadvantaged.

“GMB is calling on all employers — regardless of the contract — to do the right thing and pay their workers if they have to take time off due to the global health crisis.”

The TUC said that low-paid workers would not receive sick pay if they had to go into “voluntary isolation” because people who are paid less than £118 a week don’t qualify for statutory sick pay.

The union organisation said that nearly two million of Britain’s workers were not paid enough to qualify for statutory sick pay, including one in 10 working women.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Employers have a duty of care to support workers affected by coronavirus.

“No-one should have to worry about making ends meet if they have to self-isolate or if they fall ill. They should be able to focus on getting better.

“The threat of coronavirus shows why sick pay should be a day-one right for everybody.

“It’s not right that millions of UK workers miss out on this protection. The government must ensure everyone gets statutory sick pay, however much they earn.”

A British tourist on the Diamond Princess cruise ship has died from coronavirus.

The Japanese Ministry of Health said the man was the sixth person from ship, which has been quarantined off the country’s coast, to have died.

He is the first Briton to have died from the virus, also known as Covid-19.

Nineteen people have now been diagnosed with the illness in Britain after Wales reported its first patient and two more were diagnosed in England.

EasyJet has said it will be cancelling flights as a result of the continued spread of coronavirus.

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