PCS reacts angrily to suggestions Passport Office staff will be forced to return to work during pandemic

09 Apr 2020

A leaked transcript of a Zoom meeting involving top HMPO bosses suggests up to 2000 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. 

According to the BBC, Deputy Chief Scientific Officer Rupert Shute told the meeting that staying at home was important but "we also have to keep functioning our lives".

"You are no more at risk at the workplace as you would be in your home or at the supermarket. It is about minimising it," he said.

"We are working on the assessment that 80% of us, if we haven't already, will get the virus."

He added: "We cannot hide away from it forever."

PCS have written to the permanent secretary this morning asking for clarification that the points made in the meeting are not actually the Home Office position. The union has asked for clarity on the official position and called on the Permanent Secretary to listen to the full recording of the meeting. We have also called on the Home Office to publically distance themselves from the quotes made by the deputy chief scientific advisor.

Reacting to comments made by management at HMPO, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:  “It is absolutely scandalous that HMPO are suggesting our members can go back into work during a pandemic to process routine passports.

"The cavalier approach to our members health and safety is shameful and ultimately puts them in greater danger of contracting Covid-19. 

"We have already had members die as a result of contracting Corona and pressured civil service managers in other departments to shut offices so staff can work from home.

"For the deputy chief scientific advisor at the Home Office to suggest that going into work does not put you at greater risk of contracting Corona is extremely irresponsible and totally contradicts current government guidance. 

"Processing passports is not critical work while we are in lockdown and international travel is practically non-existent due to the Corona pandemic. 

"We call for an immediate investigation into these remarks by Rupert Shute and urge the Home Office to publicly distance themselves from his comments."


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