Some stores have confirmed they will remain open on Boxing Day, despite calls to give retail staff a well-deserved break.
However, a selection of retailers including supermarkets have confirmed they will be giving staff time off over Christmas so they can spend time with family.
Asda and Waitrose have said they will not be open on December 26th to give staff a break after a difficult 2020. Asda employees who were scheduled to work will still get paid.
Unions have called for similar action across the sector, however, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Lidl will still be open on Boxing Day, meaning their staff will be working.
Now, the big chains have responded.
A spokesperson for Morrisons told Kent Live: “We will be opening our stores on Boxing Day for a limited number of hours to help our customers.
“The well being of our colleagues remains a key priority to us and our stores are working hard to ensure all colleagues get a meaningful break during the Christmas period so they can spend quality time with their family, friends or loved ones.
“Working on Boxing Day is voluntary for our colleagues and they receive double pay and time back in lieu.”
They confirmed, however, that all frontline colleagues will receive a 6% bonus on their earning for the next 12 months rather than the usual 8-12 weeks. The statement explained: “The changes represent a bonus payment of £1,050 for a full-time frontline colleague compared to the £351 that would have been paid last year.”
Sainsbury’s has confirmed they will be open on Boxing Day but will be putting measures in place to give as many staff as possible the day off.
Bosses claim they have been accepting Boxing Day holiday requests where possible and staff had received financial bonuses.
A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “Our colleagues do a fantastic job and have worked incredibly hard this year, so we’re doing everything we can to make sure they are able to take some time to rest and enjoy the festive season with their families, including reducing opening hours in supermarkets on Boxing Day.
“We’re recruiting more colleagues into our business than ever before so that we can give as many people as possible the time off they have asked for. This includes 12,000 temporary colleagues to support us this Christmas. For colleagues that have requested it, we have made sure they are able to take at least two consecutive days off over Christmas.
“In recognition of the outstanding service given to customers every day throughout the pandemic by our colleagues, this year we made two thank you payments to frontline workers.”
Tesco has confirmed it will be open on Boxing Day with reduced hours. According to the BBC, staff will be reward with an extra 10% bonus over Christmas and New Year.
The general trade union GMB’s national officer, Roger Jenkins said: “GMB has been requesting Asda to allow their key worker heroes family time over Christmas, so we are pleased they have agreed to our calls.
“It’s a shame this is not extra holiday – workers will have to book a day of their annual leave entitlement. GMB now calls on the rest of the retail sector to follow suit and repay these key workers with a chance to spend Boxing Day with their loved ones.”
The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) welcomed Asda’s news of ‘doing the right thing by their staff’ but added that ‘we don’t think that is too much to ask for’.
Manchester’s George Floyd mural has been defaced with racist graffiti once again
The mural of George Floyd in the Northern Quarter has been defaced with racist graffiti once again.
A local councillor took to social media to share the news, slamming the ‘racist cowards’ who vandalised the artwork overnight.
The tribute was created by graffiti artist Akse P19 in Stevenson Square after Mr Floyd’s death sparked protests across the world.
Akse recently had to repaint the mural after it was defaced earlier this month. Around the same time two men were also arrested after filming themselves urinating on the artwork.
Councillor Jon-Connor Lyons, representing Piccadilly ward on Manchester city council, took to Twitter to share the news that once again the mural has been hit by a ‘racist vandal’.
The incident occurred at around 5.30am this morning, with a suspect spotted by CCTV operators before being chased and caught by police.
Mr Lyons took to Twitter to share the news, writing: “Earlier this morning, police officers gave chase to another racist vandal who decided to come in the dead of night to attack the George Floyd memorial.
“The man was spotted on CCTV & was chased by police through the city centre & was caught. Thank you to GMP for their vigilance!”
He added in a later tweet: “These racist vandals all come in the dead of night – they are cowards.
“They know themselves how shameful it is what they are doing, attacking a memorial of a man killed by police brutality, but obviously have to do it in the dead of night. Racist cowards the lot of them.”
Face masks and Covid tests for school kids won’t be ‘compulsory’
The guidance on masks and tests won’t be enforceable
News broke earlier in the week that secondary school students would have to wear face masks and take twice-weekly Covid tests when they return to classrooms from March 8th.
It’s now been confirmed that neither of these measures will be enforceable, with schools told they won’t actually be able to make students wear a mask.
This is despite the government saying that secondary school pupils would need to wear them, both in classrooms and in the corridor.
However, according to the finer details of the ‘operational guidance’ for schools, ‘no pupil should be denied education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.’
While before Christmas a lot of secondary school and college students were wearing masks in corridors and communal areas, the ‘roadmap out of lockdown’ revealed this was being expanded so kids would have to wear them in classrooms too.
The official document states: “The government also recommends that the use of face coverings in Higher Education, Further Education and secondary schools is extended for a limited period to all indoor environments – including classrooms – unless 2m social distancing can be maintained.
“Face coverings are now also recommended in early years and primary schools for staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible, for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas.
“All children will once again be expected to attend school, as they were in the autumn term.”
The move had divided opinion among parents, with some saying they might keep their kids off school if they’re forced to wear masks, while others said they were in favour of it.
As well as face masks, it’s now been revealed that the twice-weekly Covid tests secondary students were meant to be taking are also ‘not compulsory’.
Education minister Nick Gibb confirmed that testing will be voluntary for pupils, saying that it remains ‘highly recommended’ to do so, however.
Mr Gibb added that it will not be a case of ‘no test, no school’, also clarifying that face masks will not be compulsory in schools, even though the government strongly advises pupils to use them.
He told Good Morning Britain: “No, they’re not compulsory but we highly recommend it, it’s everybody doing everything we can to identify asymptomatic cases of Covid, helping to reduce the transmission.
“The first three tests will be taken in the school that will show the students how to do it most effectively and it’s the students themselves that will do it at home with supervision by their parents.”
The UK’s Covid-19 alert level has been downgraded
‘It is really important that we all – vaccinated or not – remain vigilant and continue to follow the guidelines’
Following the threat of the NHS being overwhelmed receding, the Covid alert level in the UK has been downgraded.
According to the UK’s chief medical officers, the alert level should move from 5 to 4, Sky News reports.
This is because the numbers of patients in hospital are ‘consistently declining and the threat of the NHS and other health services being overwhelmed within 21 days has receded’.
Under Level 5, there was ‘a risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed’, while under Level 4 transmission of coronavirus is now ‘high or rising exponentially’ – so there’s still a way to go.
The four UK chief medical officers and NHS England’s national medical director said in a joint statement that they agreed the alert level should be downgraded.
This follows advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre, but is also ‘in light of the most recent data’.
They added: “The health services across the four nations remain under significant pressure with a high number of patients in hospital, however thanks to the efforts of public we are now seeing numbers consistently declining, and the threat of the NHS and other health services being overwhelmed within 21 days has receded.
“We should be under no illusions – transmission rates, hospital pressures and deaths are still very high. In time, the vaccines will have a major impact and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated when they receive the offer.
“However, for the time being, it is really important that we all – vaccinated or not – remain vigilant and continue to follow the guidelines.
“We know how difficult the situation has been and remains to be for healthcare workers, we thank them for their immense effort, skill and professionalism throughout the pandemic.”