Firstly, I want to acknowledge the significant efforts of reps and members in attending work, and working remotely, to deliver the essential service of paying benefits to the most vulnerable in our society. It is correct that this work is properly acknowledged and that members are rewarded for their efforts and so we continue to push both DfC and NICS management on this.
Within DfC, NIPSA Seconded Officers and local NIPSA representatives have been actively engaging management at all levels to ensure that our members deliver this essential service but in a safe working environment. We can not and will not accept minimum standards of health and safety in workplaces.
To this end, we have argued or and agreed the following health and safety requirements:
- That safe distancing standards are in place to ensures that staff do not work within 2 metres of each other;
- Circulation space so that as staff travel around offices - when entering and exiting buildings, going on breaks, using stairs, etc - they have minimum contact with work colleagues;
- Cleaning regimes have been increased so that touch points such as door handles, desks, kitchens, toilets, etc are cleaned more regularly;
- That offices will not open unless there is a cleaner on site;
- Cleaning materials for staff to assist in keeping workplaces free from the virus.
- Improved engagement with LTUS and Seconded Officers on H&S issues.
However, while things have improved significantly for members, we must all remain vigilant. We must be mindful of our responsibility not only of our own health and safety but that of our work colleagues. As you engage colleagues in work, think of their safety as well as your own. Do not abuse their personal space. Think before approaching a colleague's desk to discuss work - ask yourself can this be done in another way.Try to communicate by email or phone rather than face-to-face, even if they are just across the office.
If any member has a concern about their health and safety whether in work or working remotely, please raise your concerns with your line manager in the first instance. If the matter is not resolved, then please contact your local NIPSA representative or your Seconded Officer. And should the matter not be quickly resolved, or a colleague's persistent actions continue to place you at significant risk, then you have the right to withdraw your labour under health and safety legislation. However we will work with management to ensure this is will not be required.
I would ask that you continue to look after your health, including your mental health and the health of your colleagues. Please raise any concerns quickly and engage your NIPSA reps when you have a problem. By working together, we will continue to provide this essential service in a safe working environment.