The coronavirus outbreak at the Greencore factory was so bad that the UK government recently published new health and safety legislation for England in direct response to it. The sandwich factory based in Northampton had nearly 300 workers test positive for COVID-19 in mid-August.
As researchers of employment and management who’ve been following this case, we suggest this situation was by no means destined to unfold as it did. Indeed, we believe it could have been prevented had the voice of workers, articulated through their union, the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), been listened to and acted upon by the management in the lead-up to the outbreak.
A timeline of the outbreak at Greencore reveals some of the missed opportunities to properly listen to staff concerns – something our research shows has a big impact on workplace health and safety. This case also presents lessons for the economic recovery ahead for how to return to workplaces safely and prevent mass outbreaks.
March 31: BFAWU starts to campaign for full pay for furloughed workers after the company announced it will not top up pay beyond the 80% provided by the government. According to a BFAWU official, this resulted in 60% of Greencore workers receiving less than minimum wage during the lockdown, which made it harder for them to comply with subsequent requirements for self-isolation as staff were compelled to continue working to make ends meet.
April: In a series of meetings, BFAWU raises concerns about staff access to risk assessments, testing, distancing, personal protective equipment (PPE), temperature checks and the impact of distancing on the pace of work.
May 7: BFAWU raises concerns about the effectiveness of the company’s contact-tracing process, the lack of a written COVID-19 procedure and the lack of company sick pay for most workers during self-isolation because of their “flexi-contracts”.
July 27: Four Greencore workers test positive, followed by another four two days later. By August 4 there are 24 cases.
August 10-12:Greencore arranges for private company Randox to test 1,100 workers, which together with NHS testing identifies 287 cases of COVID-19. Those who test positive and their households are told to self-isolate but the factory remains open.
August 18: BFAWU submits a formal grievance over the lack of sick pay. While it seems that most managers receive company sick pay, many shop floor workers had to rely on statutory sick pay of £95.85 a week.
August 21: It emerges that there are links between Greencore cases and cases at other nearby factories. Greencore says it has seen no evidence of this. Meanwhile, employment agencies are asked to stop sending workers to multiple factories to prevent the spread of the virus.
August 21: Following pressure from BFAWU, Greencore announces an immediate cease to production at its Northampton site to allow staff to self-isolate for 14 days. It later emerges that some workers in security and dispatch continued working to “monitor and maintain the site” under official agreement. This is despite claims they mixed with workers in other departments.
August 28: The government publishes new regulations requiring anybody who worked at Greencore between August 7 and August 21, and other members of their household, to self-isolate until September 5, under threat of a £100 fine, unless they meet criteria for an exemption.
Since March, workers at Greencore challenged the adequacy of COVID-19 protections through the BFAWU union. Although they were not able to prevent a serious outbreak of COVID-19, they won improvements, setting up a hardship fund to provide immediate support, and advising on the importance of contact tracing beyond the household. To the extent that Greencore listened to them, this helped protect workers and the wider public.
We have worked closely with the Department of Health & Social Care, Public Health England and other government bodies, who have been hugely supportive of our response. If there was any sense that we weren’t implementing the necessary protections then they would of course not allow us to continue to operate. All of our sites have wide-ranging social-distancing measures, stringent hygiene procedures and regular temperature checking in place.
We have also engaged tirelessly with the BFAWU to answer their questions and concerns throughout this process and indeed have valued their input. We have a number of union representatives who are now supplementing our regular safety teams and supervisors to ensure that all of extensive measures that we have in place are being adhered to.
However, the fact that workers felt the need to resort repeatedly to formal grievances suggests the company could have acted more quickly and the union suggests that some issues are still not resolved.
When the gradual lifting of the UK lockdown was announced in early May, the prime minister encouraged people who had been unable to work remotely to begin talking to their employers about the practicalities of a safe return to the workplace. Given the growing amount of research on the benefits of employees being able to voice their concerns for a company’s health and safety, the wider importance of these conversations and managing the return to work is vital to recognise.
Greencore workers had a voice through their union representatives. But for many others elsewhere, airing concerns can be difficult, or even impossible, if managers do not make the space for it.
The Greencore case highlights the importance of organised workers’ voices in this crisis. It also suggests that without sufficient economic security, crucially including full sick pay for all workers who need to self-isolate, other measures to encourage or enforce self-isolation are unlikely to be effective.
Tom Vickers is Convenor of the Work Futures Research Group and a member of the Centre for People, Work and Organizational Practice at Nottingham Trent University. He has received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust and the British Sociological Association.
Helen Shipton is Co-Director of the Centre for People, Work and Organisational Practice in Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University and Vice Chair of the British Academy of Management. She has received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, the British Academy/ Leverhulme Trust, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the Lloyds Foundation.
Wilson Wong has received research funding from the EU Objective 2 programme. He is a member of the CIPD, Prospect Trade Union, and Chair of the Human Capital Standards 1 and Deputy Chair Knowledge Management Standards 1 Committees at the British Standards Institution.
In this specific predicament, U.S. officials have to choose a strategy to deliver the aid without the perception of benefiting Hamas, a group the U.S. and Israel both classify as a terrorist organization.
When aiding people in war zones, you can’t just send money, a development strategy called “cash transfers” that has become increasingly popular due to its efficiency. Sending money can boost the supply of locally produced goods and services and help people on the ground pay for what they need most. But injecting cash into an economy so completely cut off from the world would only stoke inflation.
So the aid must consist of goods that have to be brought into Gaza, and services provided by people working as part of an aid mission. Humanitarian aid can include food and water; health, sanitation and hygiene supplies and services; and tents and other materials for shelter and settlement.
Due to the closure of the border with Israel, aid can arrive in Gaza only via the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, will likely turn to its longtime partner on the ground, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, to serve as supply depots and distribute goods. That agency, originally founded in 1949 as a temporary measure until a two-state solution could be found, serves in effect as a parallel yet unelected government for Palestinian refugees.
USAID will likely want to tap into UNRWA’s network of 284 schools – many of which are now transformed into humanitarian shelters housing two-thirds of the estimated 1 million people displaced by Israeli airstrikes – and 22 hospitals to expedite distribution.
Since Biden took office, total yearly U.S. assistance for the Palestinian territories has totaled around $150 million, restored from just $8 million in 2020 under the Trump administration. During the Obama administration, however, the U.S. was providing more aid to the territories than it is now, with $1 billion disbursed in the 2013 fiscal year.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency is a U.N. organization. It’s not run by Hamas, unlike, for instance, the Gaza Ministry of Health. However, Hamas has frequently undermined UNRWA’s efforts and diverted international aid for military purposes.
Humanitarian aid professionals regularly have to contend with these trade-offs when deciding to what extent they can work with governments and local authorities that commit violent acts. They need to do so in exchange for the access required to help civilians under their control.
Similarly, Biden has had to make concessions to Israel while brokering for the freedom to send humanitarian aid to Gaza. For example, he has assured Israel that if any of the aid is diverted by Hamas, the operation will cease.
This promise may have been politically necessary. But if Biden already believes Hamas to be uncaring about civilian welfare, he may not expect the group to refrain from taking what they can.
Security best practices
What can be done to protect the security of humanitarian aid operations that take place in the midst of dangerous conflicts?
Under International Humanitarian Law, local authorities have the primary responsibility for ensuring the delivery of aid – even when they aren’t carrying out that task. To increase the chances that the local authorities will not attack them, aid groups can give “humanitarian notification” and voluntarily alert the local government as to where they will be operating.
Under the current agreement between the U.S., Israel and Egypt, the convoy will raise the U.N. flag. International inspectors will make sure no weapons are on board the vehicles before crossing over from Arish, Egypt, to Rafah, a city located on the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt.
The aid convoy will likely cross without militarized security. This puts it at some danger of diversion once inside Gaza. But whether the aid convoy is attacked, seized or left alone, the Biden administration will have demonstrated its willingness to attempt a humanitarian relief operation. In this sense, a relatively small first convoy bearing water, medical supplies and food, among other items, serves as a test balloon for a sustained operation to follow soon after.
In that case, the presence of U.S. armed forces might provoke attacks on Gaza-bound aid convoys by Hamas and Islamic jihad fighters that otherwise would not have occurred. Combined with the mobilization of two U.S. Navy carrier groups in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, I’d be concerned that such a move might also stoke regional anger. It would undermine the Biden administration’s attempts to cool the situation.
On U.N.-approved missions, aid delivery may be secured by third-party peacekeepers – meaning, in this case, personnel who are neither Israeli nor Palestinian – with the U.N. Security Council’s blessing. In this case, tragically, it’s unlikely that such a resolution could conceivably pass such a vote, much less quickly enough to make a difference.
Topher L. McDougal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
“The majority of wound infections often manifest themselves immediately postoperatively, so close followup should take place […]”
Credit: 2023 Barbarewicz et al.
“The majority of wound infections often manifest themselves immediately postoperatively, so close followup should take place […]”
BUFFALO, NY- October 20, 2023 – A new research perspective was published in Oncoscience (Volume 10) on October 4, 2023, entitled, “Diagnosis and management of postoperative wound infections in the head and neck region.”
In everyday clinical practice at a department for oral and maxillofacial surgery, a large number of surgical procedures in the head and neck region take place under both outpatient and inpatient conditions. The basis of every surgical intervention is the patient’s consent to the respective procedure. Particular attention is drawn to the general and operation-specific risks.
Particularly in the case of soft tissue procedures in the facial region, bleeding, secondary bleeding, scarring and infection of the surgical area are among the most common complications/risks, depending on the respective procedure. In their new perspective, researchers Filip Barbarewicz, Kai-Olaf Henkel and Florian Dudde from Army Hospital Hamburg in Germany discuss the diagnosis and management of postoperative infections in the head and neck region.
“In order to minimize the wound infections/surgical site infections, aseptic operating conditions with maximum sterility are required.”
Furthermore, depending on the extent of the surgical procedure and the patient‘s previous illnesses, peri- and/or postoperative antibiotics should be considered in order to avoid postoperative surgical site infection. Abscesses, cellulitis, phlegmone and (depending on the location of the procedure) empyema are among the most common postoperative infections in the respective surgical area. The main pathogens of these infections are staphylococci, although mixed (germ) patterns are also possible.
“Risk factors for the development of a postoperative surgical site infection include, in particular, increased age, smoking, multiple comorbidities and/or systemic diseases (e.g., diabetes mellitus type II) as well as congenital and/ or acquired immune deficiency [10, 11].”
Continue reading the paper: DOI:https://doi.org/10.18632/oncoscience.589
Correspondence to: Florian Dudde
Keywords: surgical site infection, head and neck surgery
Oncoscience is a peer-reviewed, open-access, traditional journal covering the rapidly growing field of cancer research, especially emergent topics not currently covered by other journals. This journal has a special mission: Freeing oncology from publication cost. It is free for the readers and the authors.
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G77 Nations, China, Push Back On U.S. "Loss And Damage" Climate Fund In Days Leading Up To UN Summit
As was the case in primary school with bringing in presents, make sure you bring enough for the rest of the class, otherwise people get ornery...
This age old rule looks like it could be rearing its head in the days leading up to the UN COP 28 climate summit, set to take place in the United Arab Emirates in about six weeks.
At the prior UN COP 27, which took place in Egypt last year, the U.S. pushed an idea for a new World Bank "loss and damage" climate slush fund to help poor countries with climate change. But the G77 nations plus China, including many developing countries, are pushing back on the idea, according to a new report from the Financial Times.
The goal was to arrange how the fund would operate and where the money would come from for the "particularly vulnerable" nations who would have access to it prior to the upcoming summit in UAE.
But as FT notes, Pedro Luis Pedroso Cuesta, the Cuban chair of the G77 plus China group, has said that talks about these details were instead "deadlocked" over issues of - you guessed it - where the money is going and the governance of the fund.
The U.S.'s proposal for the fund to be governed by the World Bank has been rejected by the G77 after "extensive" discussions, the report says. Cuesta has said that the nations seek to have the fund managed elsewhere, but that the U.S. wasn't open to such arrangements.
Cuesta said: “We have been confronted with an elephant in the room, and that elephant is the US. We have been faced with a very closed position that it is [the World Bank] or nothing.”
Christina Chan, a senior adviser to US climate envoy John Kerry, responded: “We have been working diligently at every turn to address concerns, problem-solve, and find landing zones.” She said the U.S. has been "clear and consistent" in their messaging on the need for the fund.
Cuesta contends that the World Bank, known for lending to less affluent nations, lacks a "climate culture" and often delays decision-making, hindering quick responses to climate emergencies like Pakistan's recent severe flooding.
The G77 coalition voiced concerns about the World Bank's legal framework potentially limiting the fund's ability to accept diverse funding sources like philanthropic donations or to access capital markets.
With just days left before the UN COP 28 summit, the World Bank insists that combating climate change is integral to its mission and vows to collaborate on structuring the fund.