Tory MPs accuse union chiefs of wanting civil servants to ‘stay at home forever’ after defying Boris Johnson’s call for them to get back into the office
- Andrew Percy said the union chiefs can’t have a ‘stay at home’ policy forever
- Union members were told to challenge bosses who ordered them back to desks
- Former Cabinet Minister David Davis urged civil service union chiefs to ‘behave responsibly’
Union chiefs were last night accused of wanting staff to ‘stay at home forever’ after defying Boris Johnson’s clarion call for workers to get back to the office.
Tory MPs reacted with anger after the Public and Commercial Services Union told their members to challenge bosses who ordered them back to their desks.
Former Minister Andrew Percy said it was ‘unacceptable’ that vital public-sector work such as issuing passports was going undone while private employees had toiled to keep the country going during the coronavirus crisis.
‘It’s unacceptable for them to refuse to come back to work while people in distribution centres and factories around the country have continued to go to work to feed civil servants during this period,’ he said.
Union chiefs were last night accused of wanting staff to ‘stay at home forever’ after defying Boris Johnson’s clarion call for workers to get back to the office
‘Many of those workers would now like a holiday and can’t have one because of this refusal to go back to work in offices which can be achieved safely.
‘The union chiefs cannot have a policy of stay at home forever – especially not now that we know people can return to work safely.’
Following the Prime Minister’s call, Alex Chisholm, the Civil Service’s new chief operating officer, last week told all ministries that it was time to ‘change the default that civil servants should work from home and accelerate the return to the workplace from August 1’.
But the Public and Commercial Services Union told its 200,000 members they did not have to accept that guidance, claiming it was a political issue.
A spokesman for the PCS, Britain’s largest civil service union, said the back-to-the-office demand ‘is not based on our members’ health and safety, or on helping our economy. It is based entirely on political pressure being exerted by some Tory MPs who are demanding that the Civil Service is used as an example to get everybody back to work.
Former Minister Andrew Percy said it was ‘unacceptable’ that vital public-sector work was going undone while private employees had toiled to keep the country going
‘Our advice to members is clear: if you are working from home and you get approached by anyone in your department asking you to now go back to work, don’t just accept that’s what you have to do.’
The dispute comes amid growing concerns over delays to passports caused by home-working, with more than 400,000 people now said to be waiting for their applications to be processed.
The Home Office has now said it will ‘seek to expedite’ applications from Britons due to travel within the next 14 days and who have been waiting on the Passport Office for more than four weeks.
The PCS has admitted that some people are having to wait for as long as 143 days for passports but insists that ‘small and often cramped offices’ make social distancing difficult for the Passport Office’s 4,000 staff.
Former Cabinet Minister David Davis urged civil service union chiefs to ‘behave responsibly’ and work with the Government to find way of getting people back to their workplaces.
He added that if he was in Government, he would be asking union leaders: ‘What are you suggesting? That you stay [at home] all summer?’
However, Mr Johnson’s plea to get people back to their offices has also gone unheeded by some of Britain’s top firms. A study of big employers with a total of 400,000 staff between them found that only about 40,000 of them have returned to the workplace.
Former Cabinet Minister David Davis urged civil service union chiefs to ‘behave responsibly’