Union taking government to court after death of Plaistow cleaner

The United Voices of the World Union is taking the government to court following the death of Emanue

The United Voices of the World Union is taking the government to court following the death of Emanuel Gomes. Picture: UVW Union - Credit: Archant

A union is taking the government to court following the death of an outsourced cleaner.

Trade union United Voices of the World (UVW) announced on Tuesday, July 14 it would bring a judicial review against the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) following the death of Emanuel Gomes who lived in Plaistow.

Mr Gomes died of suspected Covid-19 on April 23, according to the union. However, the government maintains his death certificate says he did not have coronavirus.

He worked at the MoJ from February 2018 and was outsourced to cleaning company OCS.

According to UVW, when Mr Gomes fell ill he felt forced to carry on working because statutory sick pay was not enough to get by on.

A UVW spokesperson said Mr Gomes should have been able to take time off to rest, recover and seek medical treatment.

“Emanuel simply couldn’t afford to get sick. Forcing him to make that choice ended up costing his life,” he added.

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Since his death, OCS has announced it is to pay enhanced sick pay rates to workers at MoJ managed sites for Covid-19 related absences for the period April 1 to July 31.

The company described Mr Gomes’s death as a tragedy and expressed sympathy to his family and friends. It said its response to the pandemic complies with Public Health England guidelines.

UVW is asking a judge to consider the lawfulness of the government not making face masks in workplaces compulsory, citing the right to life under article two of the European convention of human rights.

If successful, it could force employers to supply workers with face masks.

Petros Elia, a UVW organiser, said: “If face masks are needed on transport and in shops, then they must also be needed in workplaces.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We have worked closely with our contractors to make sure employees have appropriate protection, in line with public health guidance.”

The department maintains there is no evidence of a coronavirus outbreak at its Westminster headquarters.

West Ham MP Lyn Brown said: “What happened to Emanuel is tragic, and I believe it is similar to the situations that so many Newham residents have been in during this pandemic.

“Workers being forced to go to work when there is a risk to themselves and others is wrong.”