Members have reacted to the Home Office deputy chief scientific advisor's comments and we are seeking assurances from the permanent secretary over the official Home Office position.
Many members who joined the HMPO dial–in on Tuesday were outraged when they heard from the HMPO Chief Operating Officer and the Home Office deputy chief scientific advisor, who made the following points:
- Covid 19 is something we can’t avoid, we are all going to get it at some point. It’s about having a strong NHS when you do get it.
- There has been no distinction between critical and non-critical work, it’s perfectly okay to continue with your business, it is vital that you do for the supply chain and economy.
- The risk to staff is no greater whilst going to work than remaining at home.
- Staff working in London are at no increased risk than anywhere else in the country. The probability of encountering Covid-19 is uniform throughout the country.
- We are in for the long haul, there could be numerous peaks over months and years. Life is never going to be normal again!
- Covid-19 is something that humanity is going to have to live with and manage, not something we can squash or eliminate.
- We need to slow down the spread, not stop it, the anxiety this causes shouldn’t be shied away from
- You are not putting yourself in harm’s way by going to work.
PCS fervently disagrees with the position put forward by the HMPO COO and scientific advisor. Many members have rightly expressed anger with the assertion that our members are at the forefront of the government’s next stage of virus control. That is, the deliberate infection of them. This is so shocking as it amounts to next stage herd immunity, an absolutely outrageous position that needs challenging.
PCS has written to the permanent secretary this morning asking for clarification that the points made in the meeting are not actually the official Home Office position. We’ve asked for clarity on the official position and called on the Permanent Secretary to listen to the full recording of the meeting. And we’ve called on the Home Office to publically distance themselves from the quotes made by the deputy chief scientific advisor.
PCS challenges HMPO over return to routine work
PCS has set up an online petition that we are asking everyone to sign to demonstrate the strength of feeling and demand a reversal of the proposals to bring large numbers of staff back into offices for routine passport work. Please share the link widely around colleagues through text, email, WhatsApp groups, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Over the past week since HMPO announced a change to their position on expectations of staff coming into offices PCS has been putting pressure on HMPO to desist from this. HMPO have publically stated they want up to 25% of staff in offices at any one time dealing with routine passport applications. While for PCS this figure is unacceptable, the reality is the majority of staff are being asked to come back to the office greatly heightening the risk to them and others from contracting or spreading the Covid-19 virus.
We’ve written to the permanent secretary, the second permanent secretary, the HMPO director general and to the HMPO Head on Engagement over recent days challenging their attempts to bring large numbers of staff back into workplaces while setting out our demands to protect members. These have been set out in recent members briefings issued to members.
We have also been holding daily conference calls with HMPO and have been forceful in putting over our concerns. Unfortunately this has not resulted in sufficient moves to allay our fears and give the reassurances we want on members’ safety. We therefore need members to help their union in exerting more pressure on HMPO to change its position and keep members safe by keeping people out of offices.
PCS has been absolutely clear that technology should be made available for staff to work from home as this is the safest option and anyone expected in the office should be under strictly safety measures and only on a voluntary basis.
PCS has been frustrated by HMPO's response and has asserted now is not the time for increasing the number of staff attending HMPO buildings with the fact that the Covid-19 situation continues to escalate. If HMPO chose to disregard this then we ask for written assurance that HMPO are prepared to accept any liability for any deaths or serious Covid-19 related illness that is suffered by anyone as a result of the employers demand that our members abandon the stay at home advice.
Remember to sign the petition and encourage colleagues to sign it too.