Nadia Whittome, the youngest Member of Parliament in the House of Commons representing her birthplace of Nottingham in central England since her win in the December 2019 General Election, is now running a drive to encourage care workers to speak out if they have safety concerns.
- PTI London
- Last Updated: May 7, 2020, 6:49 PM IST
An Indian-origin Opposition Labour Party MP, who had returned part-time to her previous role of a care worker to join the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, says she was sacked for speaking out against the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) on the frontlines.
Nadia Whittome, born in the UK to a Punjabi father and the youngest Member of Parliament in the House of Commons representing her birthplace of Nottingham in central England since her win in the December 2019 General Election, is now running a drive to encourage care workers to speak out if they have safety concerns.
“Because I’ve spoken out about this [PPE shortages] I’ve been sacked from my employment. But this isn’t just about me, it’s not just about one individual case, or even one employer. Care workers across the country are being easily exploited by their employers, especially if they’re on zero-hours contracts,” said the 24-year-old Labour Party MP, who had pledged to donate the salary from her part-time role at the retirement home run by ExtraCare to a local COVID-19 support fund.
“If you are one of the care workers who has been pressured or threatened with disciplinary action for speaking out about the lack of PPE, then I’d like you to contact my office, in confidence, to share your experience. It’s really important that we get a picture of the scale of this happening across the country,” she said, in her appeal to care workers.
Her employer ExtraCare said in a statement that the reason for Whittome’s contract being terminated was that they no longer required extra staff and also that there were no problems with PPE at the Lark Hill retirement village where she had been based.
“Nadia joined us as a casual worker to help our care team and we welcomed her contribution, providing support on eight care shifts during March and April. Our in-house care team is now fulfilling our needs at this time and Nadia’s help is no longer needed,” the statement said.
“At Lark Hill, we have over three months’ supply of Personal Protective Equipment, including over 25,000 pairs of gloves, 7,700 aprons and nearly 6,000 masks we have access to further equipment should we need it. Reports that we have a PPE shortage are inaccurate and have caused concern amongst our residents we have had to invest a significant amount of staff time reassuring our residents as a result,” it said.
The retirement village, among the largest in the UK, added that as a result of “rigorous” infection control measures, no deaths have occurred within the Lark Hill care home as a result of COVID-19.
But Whittome said she will be collecting evidence on how care workers are “undervalued, underpaid, and fear speaking out” due to their precarious employment status.
She said: “Just over a month ago, when the coronavirus pandemic took hold, I returned to my part-time job as a care worker because I knew that this crisis would be falling on already underpaid, overworked care workers, who would be even more stretched.
“I’ve used the time to talk about the way in which the government’s response to this has neglected social care including a national shortage of PPE and testing, and how that’s risking the lives of staff, of residents and of the general public.”
Opposition Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer spoke out in his MP’s favour and tweeted that “no-one should be sacked for speaking out”.