As MPs return to Westminster tomorrow PCS is warning there are inadequate measures to control the numbers coming on to the parliamentary estate.
While the government insists MPs will be kept safe from coronavirus with new working practices there is pressure to return to ‘business as usual’ levels of service.
We believe there are significant risks posed to our members, particularly those in roles where they are unable to work from home, including: security, cleaning and catering, and to vulnerable MPs working on site as politicians travel to and from Westminster.
It is our belief that even with social distancing and personal protective equipment, staff working in the House of Commons, the Lords and the parliamentary estate will not be safe from coronavirus.
We will continue to work with the health and safety team at parliament and are not intending to impinge on the “democratic function” of the Commons.
However, we are not satisfied that the estate is a Covid-19 secure workplace, that a planned return to business as usual is premature and carries considerable risks, and we will not sacrifice the safety of our members.
Particular issues flagged up by PCS reps include being able to ensure long queues that will inevitably build up due to social distancing measures at entry points such as 1 Parliament Street are safe, that a return to physical voting endangers people and that staff are given the power to challenge MPs and peers who could possibly flout or ignore Covid-19 safety measures.
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “It takes incredible guts to take a stand on safety when there is incredible pressure on parliament to fully reopen.
“Our members take enormous pride in keeping parliament secure and functioning. This in fact goes to the heart of why they do not believe it is safe for MPs, themselves and their colleagues to fully reopen parliament.
“The recent introduction of the hybrid system of working in the Commons was a resounding success, so the government does not need to change course when a second Covid spike is such a strong possibility.
“Jacob Rees-Mogg and other Tory ministers need to heed the warnings from PCS and sister unions and reach an agreement on the way forward that ensures full democratic participation in parliament and keeps our members safe.”
Read further information on our response to the coronavirus outbreak on the employer pages of our website.
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