I wanted to provide you a brief report on a Departmental Whitley Council meeting on Covid-19 that took place between NIPSA reps and Senior DfC management on Thursday 21 May 2020.
NIPSA has just become aware that Aramark, having taken over the new cleaning contract for the NI Civil Service, is now considering significant cuts to working hours across the contract. While not directly a matter for DfC, TUS were clear that should there be a cut in cleaning hours within DfC buildings, this would place our members at an increased risk of contracting Covid-19 and this may mean that we would advise members, under H&S legislation, that the workplace was unsafe and they should not attend it. Management were clear that they were working with Central Procurement Directorate to understand the reasons for any proposed cuts and that their objective was to retain cleaning hours and ensure the H&S of staff.
Covid-19 Recovery Plans
Management have shared a high level Covid-19 Recovery plan for DfC with TUS that sets out a framework to returning staff to work safely. This would include increasing the numbers of staff able to work from home, work remotely at other sites and return to work safely in DfC offices. This recovery plan would also feed into and from the NICS Recovery plan being developed. However management accepted that they are in the development stage of this plan and would meet with TUS shortly when they had a more detailed plan for consultation.
Management had recently provided TUS a draft paper setting out their redeployment principles that would allow for staff to be redeployed to priority work. This policy would work in conjunction with the NICS redeployment policy. TUS stated that they accepted the need to allow for redeployment to priority work but had a number of comments about the policy and could not agree to it in its current form. It was agreed that TUS would provide its comments in writing and a further meeting would be arranged.
Covid-19 Risk Assessments
TUS had provided a draft guiding principles paper and a draft risk assessment checklist to management for urgent consideration. Management commented that they broadly agreed a with the vast majority of the proposals but sought a further meeting to iron out a few concerns. This would be arranged as soon as possible.
Management confirmed that they hope to receive around 3000 Mini-PCs at the end of May. Following receipt, these will have to be reconfigured and will then be issued out to those staff who are currently at home so as to increase the percentage of the workforce with capacity to deal with the high volume of priority work that needs actioned. However this work will likely take a few months before it is complete. TUS asked that staff currently in work who have a vulnerable or shielding person living with them should also be allocated a Mini-PC.
Please contact your seconded officer or myself if you have any queries.