PCS pressure has led to a temporary halt on HM Passport Office staff being forced back into their offices to do routine work.
A leaked transcript of a video conference meeting involving top HMPO bosses last week suggested up to 2,000 members of staff could return to work on "routine" passport applications despite a ban on international travel and a rising Covid-19 death toll in the UK.
We have pressed hard for the Home Office and HMPO to ensure staff are kept safe at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Our pressure has begun to have an effect as HMPO has called a temporary halt to bringing more staff back into offices this week.
Listening to concerns
We've listened to the concern from our members across HMPO and the wider Home Office. They have told us that they understand and support the department in delivering essential services at this time of national crisis. But they have also told us that they find it extremely difficult to understand why, when we are seeing the highest fatality rate in Europe, their employer considers this a time to take wholly unnecessary risks with their health and well-being. After meeting with the Cabinet Office on Thursday we received a response on Saturday morning. We then wrote to the permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft calling for an immediate halt to bringing HMPO staff back into work.
On Saturday evening, the Home Office responded to say it had intended from today (14) to re-open the Belfast and Newport offices and to increase the numbers of staff in the office at the 5 other sites which had remained open with skeleton staffing. But has “now decided to defer this action for a short period to enable further discussions to take place with PCS and staff so as to ensure that all concerns about safety measures, whether that be for the office environment or for travel into the office, have been aired, responded to and addressed where necessary."
Safety our priority
This is a welcome move. But this would not have come about had it not been for the pressure from our union. PCS puts members’ health, safety and well-being as our absolute priority. We hope further talks demonstrate HMPO's commitment to members’ safety as their number one priority too, and limit the numbers of staff expected in offices to an absolute bare minimum going forward.
This temporary pause shows one of the benefits of being a PCS member – join today.
We've asked for the Home Office to provide us with the specific numbers of people expected back in each of the main 8 Passport Office sites this week. We expect the number of staff from HMPO, Sopra Steria and agencies to be the absolute minimum necessary to deal only with critical work, such as genuinely urgent and compassionate cases. Not routine passports and marriage certificates.
Sign and share our petition to HMPO chief operating officer Myrtle Lloyd, to demand the employer changes its stance and enables staff to work from home.