With coronavirus infection rates rapidly increasing PCS has called on the Cabinet Office to introduce greater safeguards for staff and the public, including closing jobcentres and suspending driving tests in higher risk (tier 2 and 3) areas.
In letters sent this week to Mervyn Thomas, Cabinet Office executive director for employee and trade union relations, and permanent secretaries Peter Schofield (DWP) and Bernadette Kelly (DfT), PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka called for urgent action to protect staff and the public.
Mark urged the Cabinet Office to issue an unequivocal statement to delegated areas instructing office workers who can work effectively from home to do so over the winter to help contain the virus. He also insisted that vulnerable workers should not be required to attend a workplace under any circumstances.
We have urged the DWP to ensure that no departmental worker will be required to attend the workplace in locations currently defined as tier 2 and 3. This would obviously mean, for example, the general closure of jobcentres in those areas.
We have also sought confirmation that staff will be permitted to conduct interviews remotely during the course of the pandemic, except where face-to-face meetings are required for the most vulnerable service users. And that employees will face no sanction if they refuse an instruction to have a face-to-face meeting with a non-vulnerable service user.
We also told the department to speed up the rollout of IT kit to all staff to enable home working as soon as possible.
Warning to DfT
From the DfT we sought confirmation that driving tests would be cancelled in Scotland, Wales and tier 2 and 3 locations because of the heightened risk to our members and the public.
We warned that if the department continues to disregard our members’ health, safety and wellbeing it is highly likely to lead to a trade dispute between PCS and the department. We will act to ensure that our members are safe.
We also reminded the DfT of its legal duty to consult health and safety reps and unions, which it is not doing, on the increased risks and tiering, and to adjust its risk assessments accordingly.
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