4 June: The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is applying to intervene in a High Court legal challenge brought by multi-millionaire Simon Dolan. Dolan, a conspiracy theorist and businessman based in Monaco, is attempting to force the government to prematurely end the lockdown, a move that would disproportionately impact low-paid and BAME workers.
The IWGB will argue that the Government was obliged, under Articles 2 (Right to Life) and 14 (right to freedom from discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights, to impose the lockdown because in order to protect lives, particularly those of BAME and low paid workers.
BAME workers are disproportionately represented in low-paid and precarious sectors. In addition, these workers are more likely to attend work in spite of the restrictions because they face destitution otherwise. This dramatically increases their chances of contracting - and dying from - Covid-19.
The Office of National Statistics figures published on 7 May revealed black people are four times more likely to die from the virus than white people. Bangledeshi and Pakistani males are 1.8 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white males. This trend is amplified in the healthcare sector itself, with the British Medical Association reporting 94% of clinicians who have died due to the virus were from a BAME background.
Mr. Dolan, who is reported by the Sunday Times Rich List (2020) to be worth £200 million, says the government has ulterior motives for the lockdown such as “limiting freedoms” and “mandatory vaccinations” famously comparing lockdown Britain to Nazi Germany. He has expressed concerns about people receiving “a cheque for nothing” with regards to universal credit and the furlough scheme introduced by the government.
IWGB President Henry Chango Lopez says: Simon Dolan’s actions show a deplorable disregard not only for the lives of those on the front line of this crisis, but for everyone’s health and safety. Then again, so too has the Government, by failing to take the necessary steps to protect their health and safety at work. The Government not only has a moral obligation, but a legal one to maintain the lockdown and protect everyone’s lives, but especially those of BAME people who have been disproportionately hit by this crisis.”
Rook Irwin Sweeney partner Alex Rook, who is acting on behalf of the IWGB says: “We have applied on behalf of the IWGB to intervene in the case to ensure that the issues of ordinary working people are heard. The state has an obligation to protect the right to life pursuant to Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and this is particularly compelling where those at the highest risk, in particular low-paid and BAME workers, have suffered historic discrimination. The main issue is whether the United Kingdom’s government took swift enough action when other states acted earlier and imposed more restrictive lockdowns, not that its actions were overly restrictive.”
The IWGB is also being represented by barristers Hugh Southey QC and Sheryn Omeri.
The IWGB is concerned the Government, which already delayed the publication of the report on racial disparities in Covid-19 deaths, may seek to avoid mention of low-paid and BAME workers in the proceedings, fearing criticism for having failed firstly, to regulate zero-hours contracts and the so-called ‘gig economy’ and secondly, to fortify health and safety regulations. For this reason, the union will argue that low paid workers need an independent voice in the debate.
Separately, the IWGB is also applying for its own Judicial Review, to force the Government to extend health and safety rights to 'gig economy' workers and is taking legal action against it for its failure to protect millions of precarious workers.
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