Council staff get Covid-19 assurances
by Mehak Dugal and Bernard Harbor

Local authority staff who contract the Covid-19 virus, or who are advised to ‘self-isolate’ by a medical practitioner, are to receive basic pay including fixed allowances from day one.


And coronavirus-related sick leave will not be counted as part of the employee’s sick leave record, so long as they have medical or HSE confirmation of the need to self-isolate.


The measures are set out in Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) guidance, which issued at the end of last week on foot of discussions with Fórsa and other unions.


Fórsa has expressed its full support for all reasonable steps that local authority management is taking to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus. But the union says collective agreements covering staff pay, conditions and health and safety must be respected.


In a letter to the Local Government Management Authority (LGMA), which represents local authority employers, the head of Fórsa’s municipal and local government divisions said measures to contain, delay and mitigate the effects of Covid-19 were a priority.


Peter Nolan said: “We support all necessary measures, but we have told the LGMA that collective agreements must continue to be respected. That means we expect advance consultation and agreement if measures that would alter collective agreements are being considered.”


Fórsa also said immediate arrangements should be made to protect staff with compromised auto-immune systems or other vulnerabilities to the virus. “We also want employers to make preparations to enable staff to work from home where possible,” Peter said.


Meanwhile, Irish Water is liaising with local authorities on contingency plans to maintain services if essential operating staff are impacted by the virus. In a letter to water unions, it said the provision of water would be treated as a national emergency in such circumstances.


ICTU responded on behalf of the unions, saying they would support the necessary flexibility as long as existing collective agreements are respected. It said consultation with union representatives would be required before any special arrangements were put in place. 


Departments and agencies across the civil and public service are implementing measures to help contain the spread of the virus, with some considering the use of remote working where possible. A number of departments are enabling remote IT facilities for their staff.


While some – mainly private sector – employers have made arrangements for staff to work at home, official advice has so far fallen short of recommending the cancellation of large gatherings. That may well change in the coming days.


Read the DPER guidance HERE.


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