Siptu claims outdoor council staff are being forced to work despite health warnings

Union urges Minister ‘to reinforce Nphet’s message asking employers to prioritise the safety of staff’

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien: Urged by Siptu to encourage councils to limit operations to those who are “vital for public health”.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien: Urged by Siptu to encourage councils to limit operations to those who are “vital for public health”. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The country’s largest trade union, Siptu, has complained that some of the State’s local authorities are unnecessarily requiring outdoor staff to come to work, despite health warnings .

In a letter to the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, the trade union said a list of essential council workers was drawn up by the Local Government Management Agency.

“Some local authorities have interpreted the list as a licence to maximise the numbers and duration of staff in work,” said Siptu, which provided a list of cases where staff have endured public health breaches at work.

In one county council, workers were required to travel in council trucks, or vehicles in groups of more than two, or to share toilets and canteens where no arrangements have been made for regular cleaning.

Three local authorities, Siptu complain, have outdoor staff at work doing routine as well as essential work, while three more councils are dealing only with emergency calls, “while outdoor staff remain located at home”.

Urging Minister O’Brien to intervene, Siptu said it wants him “to reinforce Nphet’s message asking employers to prioritise the safety of staff” and to limit operations to those who are “vital for public health”.

In a separate letter to the Local Government Management Association, the union complained that “adherence to the requirements on Covid have become very relaxed” and “fall below the guidance” given by public health.

“Local authorities must, in the first instance, be certain that bringing these workers in to work is necessary at all, particularly in light of the appeal by the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan to employers to only have people to work where it is absolutely essential,” it said.