COVID-19: Belgian driver speaks out

1 Apr 2020

Our story comes from a BTB affiliate: a concerned Belgian father who works in the road transport industry as a driver delivering goods. He tells us about the complete lack of health and security measures in his company: No disinfectant. Sinks so small, it’s almost impossible for himself and his colleagues to properly wash their hands. The soap dispensers are either empty or broken. No paper to dry their hands or the paper is just lying around on the floor. Toilet seats are either broken or non-existent.

Social distancing isn’t respected, especially when it’s prime time for deliveries and there are too many to go through. Drivers from different companies have to come together to prepare deliveries to different areas.  The distance between them is definitely below the recommended 1,5 metres. Under these circumstances, it’s obvious that none of the current guidelines are followed.

“So what?” says the driver’s employer

Aside from the unsanitary conditions under which the driver has to work; he has two little ones at home identified as very much “at-risk” if they come into contact with COVID-19 due to severe health problems. Their family doctor is certain: if the kids were to contract the disease, they would most likely not survive. So he quite rightly urged the driver to stop working until the health crisis subsides. The driver urgently contacted his employer and asked for temporary unemployment, proving the risk with evidence provided by the doctor. So what? said the employer. Leaving work now would be suicidal and the company would go bankrupt if all employees would be put on temporary employment. The driver then redirected his query to his supervisor. Same answer there: “So what, I have kids too”.

The driver then tried the last resort: he applied for social leave and legal holidays. It was a ‘no’ this time too. And why? Because he is considered as a key worker and there is a shortage of drivers to carry out the job. As the sole provider for his family, he fears that an official complaint would lead to unemployment which he cannot afford…

Our driver is now in touch with his local union: BTB! People matter and unions are here to show it!

If you have a story to share, please contact:

 

Zala Turšič, European Transport Workers’ Federation
Communications Officer
z.tursic@etf-europe.org
+32 478 79 41 12

Begüm Boynukalin, European Transport Workers’ Federation
Communications Officer
b.boynukalin@etf-europe.org
+32 478 79 40 53

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