Fórsa, the largest public service union has accused public service employers of flouting Covid-19 public health restrictions by forcing more people than necessary to travel to work during Level 5 restrictions.
Fórsa said the national effort to bring the coronavirus under control could be undermined by widespread management failure to properly identify which workers need to attend their work premises to undertake essential functions during the emergency.
The union says guidelines issued to public service managers fall short of official Government advice to employers across the economy, with the result that there has been no significant reduction in the numbers of public service staff being instructed to travel to work since the country entered Level Five restrictions last month.
The official economy-wide Government advice at Level Five is that employees should work from home unless they perform “an essential health, social care or other essential service,” which “cannot be done from home.”
But the guidelines issued to public service employers by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER), most recently on 23rd December, are substantially weaker. They say: “Home working will continue as and when deemed appropriate by the employer, having regard to the changes that may be required at each level.”
Fórsa spokesperson Bernard Harbor said far too many public servants were being required to travel to work to perform roles that can and should be done remotely at the height of the pandemic.
“The public health advice is clear: Staff should be working from home unless their attendance in the workplace is absolutely necessary to provide essential services. Yet there are many more public servants being ordered into the workplace now than last March, when infection rates were lower and the pressure on our health service was considerably less severe.
“The letter and tone of the HR advice to public service managers is at odds with official restrictions deemed necessary to bring the virus under control. This is contributing to a form of macho-management, which fails to put public safety first by properly distinguishing between those who need to be in the workplace right now and those who don’t.
“Fórsa is speaking out because we believe staff and service-users are being unnecessarily exposed to potentially virus-spreading interactions in workplaces and on public transport, and that this will likely impede the national effort to contain the virus,” he said.