Our union (PCS) National Executive Committee will meet this week to discuss a formal position on criteria for any possible return to work. The majority of civil servants can work from home, so there’s no reason why any return to the workplace shouldn’t be voluntary.
Other ideas being discussed include a demand that distancing measures be maintained in the workplace, facilitated by mechanisms such as staggered start times, to regulate the amount of people who are in the workplace at any given time. We also want a clear agreement around a protocol for what will happen when there’s a confirmed case of the virus in the workplace, which would include all other workers being sent home and the workspace isolated.
We’re planning joint campaigning with the United Voices of the World union (UVW) targeting the cleaning contractor OCS. Two UVW members working for OCS at the Ministry of Justice died from the virus, which prompted a walkout by other cleaners. Those cleaners were told by OCS they would only receive Statutory Sick Pay if they went off sick, so kept working despite being ill.
We had an agreement in place with the civil service that outsourced workers who needed to self isolated would be paid in full; we have to increase the pressure to ensure that agreement is enforced right across the sector.
We’ll be working with UVW to ensure the maximum pressure is put on the Ministry of Justice.
• John Moloney is assistant general secretary of the civil service union PCS, writing here in a personal capacity