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DHL Supply Chain has again been forced to defend itself against union claims that it is "endangering thousands" with "inadequate" coronavirus social distancing and safety measures and by forcing self-isolating workers to survive on statutory sick pay (SSP).

GMB, Unite, Usdaw, RMT and URTU today (16 April) called on DHL Supply Chain, which employs around 41,000 people in the UK, to work with them to resolve its workforce’s concerns over COVID-19 safety and the rate of pay for staff who are self-isolating or have been furloughed.

The unions said DHL Supply Chain’s refusal to acknowledge "urgent concerns" over a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), and the possibility that symptomatic and at-risk staff may stay at work because of the dramatic drop in their incomes on SSP, showed an "utter disdain" for its workforce.

The joint trade unions statement said: “DHL is one of the largest and wealthiest logistics companies in the world and during the COVID-19 pandemic should be leading by example.

“Instead the company is showing utter disdain for its workforce by disregarding the urgent concerns of its staff over a lack of PPE and a failure to carry out safety and social distancing measures across its operations.

“DHL’s refusal to grant full company sick pay to symptomatic workers who need to self-isolate, or to those with underlying health conditions, is also a huge cause of concern.

“There is a real danger that staff who should not be leaving the house will continue to go to work because they cannot afford to pay their bills on the basic SSP rate of £95.85 a week. All DHL staff should be entitled to full company sick pay if they are forced to self-isolate.

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“A company that is worth tens of billions should also be topping up the wages of those staff who have been furloughed, instead of simply taking advantage of the government’s job retention scheme.

“DHL’s inadequate response to the pandemic is endangering thousands. We call on the company to meaningfully negotiate with the joint trade unions to address the concerns of its loyal workforce, many of whom are exposing themselves to risk to ensure essential services keep running.”

The joint statement comes only 10 days after DHL Supply Chain 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 there had walked out on three separate occasions.

A spokesperson for DHL Supply Chain said: “We are disappointed by the trade unions’ joint press release when we have worked side by side in recent weeks to reinforce the vital message around social distancing.

"Equally, we are not aware of any shortages of PPE at any of our operations nationally.

"We are a large and complex business, and since the crisis began we have succeeded in redeploying a significant number of our employees to support food distribution, ecommerce and most importantly to provide vital logistics support for NHS Nightingale.

"Our key priorities continue to be the well-being of our colleagues and providing long-term employment for as many of them as possible, and we look to our trade union partners to continue to support us in the fight against COVID-19.”