Fórsa has won confirmation that civil and public service employers must abide by an agreed protocol governing the safety of staff returning to workplaces as coronavirus restrictions ease.
In a meeting with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) last week, the union also insisted that an agreed ‘Return to Work Safety Protocol’ must apply equally to employees who have remained in their workplace throughout the lockdown.
Its general secretary Kevin Callinan dismissed as “nonsense” suggestions from some employers that such workers could experience weaker safeguards.
Last week, Fórsa published detailed guidance for members who are returning to work. It addresses measures set out in the Government’s plan for a gradual reopening of the country, plus the agreed safety protocol.
The protocol outlines the steps that employers and workers must take to ensure a safe workplace as staff return when coronavirus-related restrictions are relaxed in the coming weeks and months.
It was recently agreed between the Government, unions, and employer representatives through a tripartite body called the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF). Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan is one of four union reps on the LEEF.
Kevin also wrote to Fórsa branches this week to advise them on engaging with local management to ensure that adequate preparations are made before the return to work, which is expected to unfold over a number of months, with many workers continuing to work remotely for some time.
The safety protocol requires employers to implement a number of measures in advance of staff returning to workplaces. They include:
• Appointing Covid-19 workplace representatives
• Implementing a Covid-19 response plan
• Preparing information for staff
• Making physical changes to underpin social distancing
• Sending ‘self-declaration’ forms to staff before they return
• Preparing staff training
• Cleaning and sanitising premises, and
• Assessing the need for personal protective equipment (PPE).
Fórsa officials are now in detailed negotiations with employers on the application of the safeguards in specific sectors and workplaces across the economy. Discussions are well advanced with local authority employers, including on the reopening of libraries, which is due to commence on 8th June.
The union has also sent detailed comments on safety measures required in schools to education employers.
Its health officials have raised the need to apply the protocols in settings that have remained open throughout the crisis, while exploring the scope for increased remote working now that the Covid-19 health crisis has peaked.
Discussions are also underway in civil service departments and non-commercial semi-state organisations.
Read the Fórsa advice HERE.
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