Staff working at the DWP offices in the Guild Centre say they are concerned about health and safety during the Covid-19 crisis.Advertisement
One member of staff was sent home from work after developing a cough and two others have been identified as having coronavirus symptoms.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCSU) which represents staff in the Guild Centre, has written to employees advising them of their rights under the Employment Act.
In a letter from the branch representative, seen by Blog Preston, union members were told: “Health and Safety have now received numerous representations from staff who feel with three cases of Covid 19 with the lack of cleaning that has taken place they now feel unsafe to continue to work in the Guild Centre Preston. They believe that many more are now infected.
“Those infected may infect many more staff leading to serious illness or worse.”
The union claims it has asked management for accident forms relating to employees showing symptoms of Covid-19 but these have not yet been provided.
It advises colleagues of their right to leave work if they feel their health is at risk.
Read more: Colourful banner unveiled on the Harris to thank key workers
However a spokesman for the DWP says he is not aware of any staff walking out and management are doing “all they can” to protect employees.
One employee, who asked not to be named, said she was so concerned about the situation she had written to MP Therese Coffey, secretary of state for the Department of Work and Pensions, to voice her concerns.
She said: “There has been no deep clean and staff are told they have to attend work. How many more cases and deaths does Preston have to have before DWP provide IT kit so staff can work from home?
“The union is involved but management refuse to let them in office to check on deep clean. There is some IT for work from home but not enough. It is deeply concerning as it is a government department.”
A spokesman for DWP said management at the offices in Preston City Centre said measures are in place to maintain social distancing for all DWP employees.
He added the whole of DWP is rolling out IT equipment for staff to work from home.
Read more: New future for Ribchester House – but solicitors say they will stay in city centre
He said: “The worker who was sent home, their desk was deep cleaned using the usual procedures and they were told to stay at home.
“DWP Preston staff are spread across different offices but we are not allowing movement between them, and there is no hot desking. There is cleaning throughout the day, hand sanitiser, and everything you would expect to protect workers in the building.
“It does mean people from other offices are restricted.
“If workers are concerned they need to raise things with management.
“The management are in regular communication with the unions and I am not aware of any ongoing disputes or staff walking out.
“Staff are right to be concerned – it is a difficult time for everybody, but the management are doing everything they can.”
Read more: See the latest Preston news and headlines