Workplace safety and lockdown (John Moloney's column)

Submitted by AWL on 10 November, 2020 - 7:50 Author: John Moloney
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Our Group Executive Committee in the Department for Work and Pensions is continuing to discuss our dispute with the DWP over workplace safety. That dispute and the threat of industrial action has wrung concessions from the bosses, including a commitment that individual Job Centre workers will have the final say over where a claimant is seen face to face.

It now seems that the employer will make concessions over the other central issue in the dispute, the extension of Job Centre opening hours. Our reps and activists will discuss the proposals; the GEC will decide a way forward.

In the Department for Transport, our members working as driving instructors continue to discuss the possibility of action to resist a push to conduct driving tests in unsafe conditions. Although tests in England has now been suspended until 4 December, there may be a push to resume them soon after, and it’s unlikely conditions will really be safe enough to justify that within a month. In Wales, where the 23 October — 9 November lockdown is just ending, our members are organising to resist any push to resume tests. Discussions will take place about whether to progress to formal industrial action.

Members in the court service have faced a wave of Covid cases. Outsourced workers such as cleaners and security guards are amongst the most exposed, as the Ministry of Justice has sought to increase court capacity to deal with a backlog of cases. Outsourced workers in courts are mainly employed by an agency called OCS. Our members there have also recently rejected a bosses’ pay offer, so there’s a potential for parallel disputes over both pay and safety issues. We’d seek to work with the United Voices of the World union in that, who organise OCS workers at the Ministry of Justice head office. They recently agreed a formal recognition agreement with OCS there, the first non-TUC union to do so.

• John Moloney is the assistant general secretary of the PCS civil service workers’ union, writing here in a personal capacity

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