I wanted to drop you a note about a meeting yesterday with management about work ongoing accommodation pressures as they move to bring in up to 900 additional staff before the end of March next year.

In order to train, consolidate and place these new staff, management need training facilities. And these staff will need to be placed into offices to consolidate that training. However, with Covid risk assessments reducing staff numbers in offices and many staff not being able to work from home, we have been engaged with management to provide necessary IT to increase homeworking for experienced staff to free up office space for these new staff. While this may have implications for a large number of members, the priority at the minute is getting space to train the 200 additional AOs and 100 EOII work coaches being recruited over the next 2 months.

Causeway Exchange, Lanyon Place and the Design Centre

Work is ongoing across the department to provide appropriate accommodation with access to the DOI network and we await implementation plans from management. However the immediate priority for management is accommodation to train these new staff and to facilitate this, they may seek to repurpose parts of Causeway Exchange, Lanyon Place and/or the Design Centre to enable training within the Belfast area. They may need all, part or none of each building for training new staff as this has still to be decided. This will mean that those staff normally housed in these buildings may be moved to other accommodation, as yet undecided. However this is only for those staff that must attend the office to carry out their duties and will not directly impact on those staff working from home. In fact, homeworking for this is more likely to be extended, not diminished. However ‘touchdown zones’ in different locations may be set up to facilitate printing, stationary, access to papers, etc.

At our meeting yesterday, we demanded that engagement with local NIPSA reps in Causeway Exchange, Lanyon Place and the Design Centre begins as soon as possible. We understand that managers may not be able to answer all the questions reps and staff may have but we consider it crucial that local reps engage management through their local Whitley mechanisms to get as much information as possible. It is however also important to remember that the final plans on this are not yet agreed and may be subject to change. This could be a significant exercise for members in these offices as their office is relocated to another building. But it may not and this is the work ongoing at the minute.

I met with seconded officers yesterday and given we have a number of branches in each location we agreed that it was important that each building had a single point of contact for reps and managers to contact. I would ask that you engage your seconded officer as normal on other matters but for this issue only, we have established the following points of contact:

  • Causeway Exchange: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Design Centre: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Lanyon Place: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

As I say, we expect most issues to be resolved through the local Whitley procedures and section office will support you in this process if required. We would advise that you contact you management and seek an urgent Local Whitley Committee meeting with this as a single agenda item.

I will come back to all members and reps when I have more information. Be reassured that our priority is that our members remain as safe and as protected as possible while working. And our objective is to ensure that as many members as possible get the opportunity to work from home in doing so.

Dooley Harte
Assistant Secretary