Workers at a council in the south of England last week forced their bosses to take action to protect their safety.
Colin, who works in a social care team, became concerned after workers were crammed onto one floor of a council building. Meanwhile other areas of the building were empty.
He told Socialist Worker that non-essential workers were kept in the council building, and there was increasing footfall in shared areas like kitchens and toilets.
“After about three or four days, our concerns were escalating and were not being acted on.
“So I quoted Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act. This advises workers that they have the right not to work if they feel their health and safety is being threatened.
“Within half an hour of mentioning that, there was a meeting of the senior management.
“It’s a shame that I had to quote legislation for them to listen,” he said.
Management moved some workers to a vacant floor, making it safer for all council workers.
And Colin said that many more workers could stop coming into communal council buildings—if only management would listen.
“The entire team can work from home. “There’s no reason for myself and colleagues to be in the office—other than management worrying we won’t be doing enough work.
“We still have to do visits to clients, but there’s no reason for us to be office-based, we’ve all got the capacity to work from home if required.”
And Colin said that the council wasn’t making use of workers’ offers to be re-deployed to essential services that need more support.
“A lot of my colleagues working from home, they feel undervalued and de-skilled. They’re putting themselves forward volunteering for jobs and they’re just being told ‘no’—but management aren’t giving reasons why.
“They created lists of workers willing to do other work right now—but they are claiming that for now these workers are not needed.”
Colin’s experience shows that far from management worries about workers slacking off during the Covid-19 pandemic, their skills and experience are not being put to use in the most effective way.