DHL Supply Chain has expressed surprise at allegations by the GMB union that it was failing to provide sanitation at its Swindon distribution centre, and denied claims that staff had walked out.

The union said “almost all warehouse staff” had downed tools on 2 April after DHL Supply Chain had failed to provide adequate hand sanitiser, gloves and PPE at the depot it runs on behalf of Marks and Spencer (M&S).

It said this walkout followed two previous ones by staff on 24 and 26 March and the union condemned DHL Supply Chain “for its cavalier attitude to health and safety.”

But the company said no colleagues had walked out and that it would open the doors to independent inspections to demonstrate it was complying with social distancing measures.

Andy Newman, GMB branch secretary, said: “DHL’s failure to provide adequate PPE and sanitation is incompetent and a disgrace.

“This has descended into a complete farce and Marks and Spencer now need to step in to ensure safe social distancing is enforced, and work practices are modified to meet government guidelines to prevent virus contagion.

“It’s the same in every other workplace, why does DHL think this is any different?”

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However, a DHL Supply Chain spokeswoman told that the Swindon site was following the government’s updated guidelines: “We simply do not recognise the situation the GMB describes, nor its motivation in causing disruption when the country is united in fighting the COVID-19 virus,” she said.

“Contrary to the GMB’s claim, no colleagues walked out yesterday, or on any other day this week.

“We are open to independent inspection to verify our social distancing measures and our operations are continuing, with close cooperation from our recognised trade union partner, Unite.”

The spokeswoman said its local management teams were enforcing the rules around COVID-19, there were daily staff briefings and posters were displayed throughout the site.

She added: “Hand sanitiser stations are strategically located throughout and at the start of each shift colleagues are asked if they have any symptoms.

“Shifts and breaks are now staggered, with hazard tape used to demarcate muster points, the transport desk and security huts.

“Canteen hours have been amended with a limit of one person per table, and the cleaning schedule upgraded to include regular sanitising of all touch points including tables, vending machines and microwaves.”

The spokeswoman said new cab cleaning processes had also been introduced and chairs removed from meeting rooms to comply with social distancing regulations.