Angry workers at Exeter’s big Marsh Barton UPS delivery depot fear they may be at risk of spreading COVID-19 after two close colleagues who load the vans have reportedly tested positive.
Drivers and subcontractors say they are angry at the way UPS have handled the confirmed cases. Staff have been told to carry on working as usual unless they develop symptoms and subcontractors say they have not been informed.
One driver claims he works closely “within inches” of the loaders who have confirmed COVID-19.
“I was working really closely with the loader for my van – within inches, and he was not wearing a mask. I had a call on Sunday evening to tell me he tested positive but I could still go into work on Monday. It’s a joke.
“I wear a mask whenever I can but a lot of people down there don’t. There are about 20 loaders and none of them wear a mask.
“Now another loader has been confirmed positive. All the drivers on all the vans will have come into contact with them and the drivers have not even been given the option to self-isolate.
“There are now about 60 drivers running around, driving all over Devon and they could all be spreading coronavirus.
“I want to warn the public because our biggest clients are old people’s homes and hospitals. It’s absolutely disgusting.
“We are delivering medical supplies and masks, everything they need.
“Those drives have been in close contact, within inches of loaders who are positive. None of them should be at work. We’ve got one guy who’s battling cancer.
“Drivers can get a test if they have symptoms and at the moment we have several who don’t know if they are positive or not. But nobody has been told to isolate.”
The driver who lives in Exeter asked not to be named. He says staff have been told by managers that HR has told them they do not need to self-isolate.
He says he is concerned for public safety and for the safety of staff.
A UPS spokesperson said: “Our first priority is always the safety of our employees and the communities we serve. In any instance where there is a confirmed diagnosis, we immediately cooperate with health officials as required by local regulations, fully deep-clean the facility before work resumes, and communicate with potentially impacted employees.
“We have rigorous safety protocols in place that are in line with WHO, Public Health England, and local regulations, including cleaning our facilities multiple times a day, providing our employees with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), implementing social distancing, and providing supplies to clean their work stations and vehicles.
“If any employee experiences symptoms such as fever or respiratory infection, they are required to self-isolate and seek medical treatment immediately in line with government regulations.”
Another worker says he fears for his vulnerable grandmother’s life after hearing through word of mouth about the two positive cases at the depot in Exeter.
The man, who is a sub-contractor for shipping and delivery company UPS, alleges he was told casually by UPS employees that two members of staff had tested positive.
He claims all UPS employees have now started wearing face masks at the site, but is angry that no sub-contracting staff have been told to do so, or been informed about any positive tests.
The man, who asked to remain anonymous, has been trying to protect his grandmother who he lives with as she is shielding after being classed as especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
UPS neither confirmed nor denied whether there had been positive tests, but insisted they have ‘rigorous safety protocols in place’ to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“There is a bit of anger on my side.,” the worker said.
“I live with someone who is vulnerable – my gran – and we have been trying to shield her as best we can so I am pretty angry about not being told. I’m not happy.
“They are all walking around wearing facemasks now but none of us are. They are working as usual.”
After being asked for comment by DevonLive, UPS said it was up to ‘ local health departments or other authorities’ to disclose whether there had been positive cases or not.
A UPS spokesperson said: “ UPS is not confirming employee cases for employee privacy reasons nor does it discuss employee medical issues publicly.
“If there is a need to disclose a positive case for public health reasons, the disclosure will come from local health departments or other authorities. UPS fully recognizes the importance of our employees’ and service providers’ health and well-being.
“The ongoing health of our employees and service providers is essential for UPS to play the critical role it must now fulfill to keep the economy moving and our communities served.
“We and our subcontractors have rigorous safety protocols in place that are in line with WHO, Public Health England, and local regulations, including cleaning our facilities multiple times a day, providing our employees with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), implementing social distancing, and providing supplies to clean their work stations and vehicles.
“We have both a privilege and a responsibility to continue safely working during this challenging period.”
The Government says that those involved in ‘ delivery ‘ are classed as essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.