Hundreds join engaging Facebook live event

31 Jul 2020

Hundreds of people joined our latest Facebook live event last night and raised important points on home working, returning to work, coronavirus and our pay campaign.

There were a large number of questions for PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka during the hour-long event hosted by our president Fran Heathcote, which has so far reached more than 12,000 people with over 3,000 engagements.

As the main focus of the event was safe working, as employers draw up return to work plans in light of the government’s messages around changes to home working, Mark began by outlining our view on the changes, which if implemented could see an extra 100,000 staff having to go back to work. PCS estimates that currently more than 300,000 staff are home working in the civil service. 

“Our view has been why change that (home working) if it’s been working well? If the safest thing for people to do is not take risks. And I say that against the backdrop of even the government figures telling us that over 45,000 people have died in the UK as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

“(And this is) at a time when we’ve seen spikes (in infection rates) in places like Leicester and Oldham, and when we know Public Health England is openly worried about a second wave of the virus, which could have potentially devastating effects as we move into the autumn and winter months.”

Mark referred everyone to consult our 5 tests for safe working and if asked to return to their workplace to contact their rep or the PCS response team before considering returning.

No one should be forced back

We will continue to argue that no one should be forced into the workplace, especially as new lockdown rules have been imposed on 4 million people across northern England, the chief medical officer for England, Chris Whitty, saying today “the ONS data suggests we have reached the limits of what we can do in terms of opening things up in society” and Boris Johnson announcing he is postponing the latest round of lockdown easing in England.

Nothing we have seen or heard so far has changed our view and advice that it is safer for staff to remain at home. That is the view of the government’s own scientific advisers, which we trust more than the prime minister or ministers. 

Devolved areas

We had lots of questions on safe and home working in the devolved areas. In Wales, for example, the Welsh Government has consistently said that people should work from home where they’re able to do so. It has closely consulted unions on workplace guidance and has legislated to enforce two-metre social-distancing at work. The majority of Welsh Government civil servants are working from home and there is no sign of that changing for the foreseeable future.

In other parts of the devolved public sector where PCS members work – the culture sector, in particular – we have started to see a gradual return to physical workplaces as the lockdown has been eased but the approach taken has generally been consistent with our 5 tests, with unions involved in risk assessments.

Non-devolved employers are also subject to the Welsh Government’s public health rules but we have nevertheless seen staff return to some workplaces, as elsewhere in the UK, in a way that we would regard as premature.

For more information where you live contact your local PCS team.

Sign and share our petition

During last night’s event Mark also highlighted the fact that the prime minister and his cabinet colleagues had praised UK government workers for their dedication to keep key public services running during the pandemic but now they were being let down on pay again with yet another below inflation pay offer. Mark encouraged everyone to sign and share our petition for fair pay which has had more than 36,000 signatures since its launch 11 days ago.

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