Fórsa this week published new guidance for health staff and other workers who are working in, or could be asked to work in, environments where there is a higher-than-average risk of contracting the coronavirus.
The union, which represents workers across the civil, public, private, voluntary and semi-state sectors, is committed to co-operating with emergency measures to contain the virus, protect citizens and workers, and maintain essential services during the unprecedented public health emergency.
And its general secretary Kevin Callinan said that Fórsa members had shown a determination to co-operate with efforts to beat the virus and protect and care for citizens.
“All of us are hugely grateful to the large number of workers in various sectors whose jobs mean they are – or could be – in contact with people who have the virus. We appreciate that this puts them at higher risk than most, and we value and admire the exceptional contribution they’re making in this crisis.
“Now we want management in the HSE and elsewhere to underline their safety commitments to staff who must work in environments of heightened risk with regard to Covid-19,” he said.
The union has sought the following commitments:
- Volunteers should be sought for higher-risk tasks and work areas wherever possible
- For the protection of patients, clients, the public and workers themselves, staff must have the training and qualifications required to undertake their allocated tasks and functions safely and effectively
- Adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), and training in the use and disposal of PPE, should be provided, along with any other necessary supports (eg, mental health support) that can reasonably be expected
- The individual family circumstances of staff should be taken into account when people are being allocated to higher-risk tasks and functions. In particular, those living with – or whose caring responsibilities demand contact with – elderly and other high-risk groups should not be obliged to work in high-risk areas except in very exceptional circumstances, and
- Wherever possible, such workers should also receive other practical supports from their employer, including childcare supports
- There will be equity in the application of these criteria.
Kevin said the union’s new advice was not a criticism of public service managers. But he said fresh, clear and public reassurance would bolster staff commitment and morale as the country enters the next phase of the corona crisis.
“From the outset, Fórsa has advised its members to co-operate with all necessary measures, including some that might not be acceptable in normal times. Sometimes this will mean doing different things, in different ways, at different times – including being temporarily reassigned to different tasks and organisations,” he said.
Fórsa officials will be raising the union’s new stance with employers across the civil and public service.
Read Fórsa’s new advice HERE.