Matalan to start furlough scheme for Knowsley warehouse workers

Matalan has announced that it is implementing a furlough scheme at its warehouse after Knowsley.

Last week some worker had expressed their concerns about how social distancing measures were being observed at the centre.

ITV News was contacted by a significant number of employees who work at the warehouse distribution centre in Kirkby, Merseyside over fears social distancing guidelines set out by the government were not being followed.

The retailer had said it was continuing to operate "with a number of precautions in place" in line with the latest Government and Public Health England advice.

The move means that staff who choose not to go into work will now be able to get 80% of the salary, in accordance with government guidelines.

The union GMB said that it was a "massive win for victory and common sense".

Shaun Buckley, GMB Regional Organiser, said: "This is a big win for the health and safety of our members - not to mention plain common sense.

"We were inundated with messages from worried GMB members in a state of panic that Matalan bosses were putting workers and their families’ lives at risk."

A spokesperson for Matalan said: "Along with the rest of the retail industry, we continue to operate our online business closely following the Government guidance, going above and beyond to ensure the safety of both our employees and our customers.

"Over the past few days, we are pleased to have received approval from both the Environmental Health Officer (the EHO) and a representative of the GMB, who have both visited our Knowsley DC and have both deemed the site safe to work.

"Furthermore, since these visits we shut down our warehouse for 3 days to undertake a deeper clean of the site.

"We are taking our responsibility as a large North West employer to look after our staff extremely seriously."

The union disputed Matalan's claim that they had declared it safe to work.

Shaun Buckly said: "It is categorically untrue to say GMB has declared the Matalan site safe.

"I personally visited the site yesterday during a skeleton shift and observed social distancing measures were in place, but I've raised concerns about social distancing protocols for when the site has three hundred staff rather than a third of that number as was the case yesterday."

Though they did admit that Matalan had said that they would address the union's concerns about social distancing, protective gloves and hand sanitiser.