Arising from the government’s announcement yesterday, the Union has been working with An Post management in its plans to deal with what is recognised as an evolving crisis that is unprecedented in living memory. From the CWU perspective, the objective must be the wellbeing of our members, while maintaining continuity of services to the public we serve. In so doing, there are clear messages and protocols to adhere to. In our discussions with the Company we have sought that measures are put in place immediately to provide the necessary protections to reduce risk to staff and provide flexibility in attendance, leave etc.
COVID-19 is a new respiratory illness for which the symptoms may include one or more of the following:
- A cough
- Shortness of breath
- Breathing difficulties
- Fever (high temperature)
The World Health Organisation (WHO) advice is that the simplest way to stop the spread of infections in the workplace is to make sure the workplace is clean and hygienic. While the Company has the responsibility to ensure this is the case, so too has every individual. Surfaces (e.g. desks and tables) and objects (e.g. telephones, keyboards) need to be wiped with disinfectant regularly. Enhanced cleaning arrangements will be implemented at all locations, with antiseptic wipes made available to Cleaners for this.
Company Communication with Staff
We are assured that the Company is in the process of finalising guidelines for its Front-Line Managers and that these will issue shortly.
We are also assured that guidelines on safe working, including an operational change, will issue to all customer-facing staff from next week.
Regular Hand Washing/Hand Sanitisers
According to the HSE the promotion of regular, thorough hand washing and coughing/sneezing etiquette, are critical to stopping or delaying spreading of the virus. It is therefore concerning that the Company has not been able to secure the necessary Hand Sanitisers up to now.
The Union is aware 13,000 hand sanitisers were ordered by the Company on the 3rd February 2020, the delivery of which has been delayed by its supplier. Thankfully, after much consternation, we are assured that the first consignment of 5,000 items is now in transit and will be in place by Wednesday at latest (Business shut down Tuesday). We have asked the Company to prioritise distribution to all customer-facing staff in the first instance.
Where staff are required to self-isolate on medical advice, the Company has confirmed they will be paid. This absence will be treated as special leave and will not impact on sick pay entitlements.
Any data that is processed must be treated in a confidential manner, i.e. any communication to staff about the possible presence of coronavirus in the workplace, should not generally identify any individual employee(s). As a Union we are aware that there has and will continue to be ongoing speculation about possible cases. This is not helpful. It is unfair to colleagues and we would ask all members not to engage in this kind of speculation. Company protocols shared with the Union have satisfied us that, where there is a confirmed case of COVID-19, escalation will be swift and appropriate timely action will be taken. We will have an ongoing engagement with the Company to ensure that this is the case.
Closure of School, Creches and Universities
The closure of creches, schools and universities has created difficulties for working parents. The Company has confirmed direct line managers will have authority to agree locally the most flexible working arrangements possible in order to meet the individual’s circumstances and to maintain service requirements.
The advice from the HSE states that close contact involves 15 minutes or more in the Company of a confirmed infected person. In the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19 An Post will close the site immediately, commence a contact tracing protocol, and carry out a deep clean of the premises.
The HSE has advised An Post the virus cannot be contacted by the handling of mail or money. To address concerns associated with the shared use of handheld scanners and unnecessary contact with customers, the Company is finalising guidelines to minimise the risk. We are assured that these will issue to all C&D Operatives next week.
As this is unprecedented territory for all, with the likelihood of restrictions being in place for months, ongoing reviews will take place, with updates provided to members by GS Circular and/or our website. It is a period of great stress for all and we will, as a union, do our utmost to protect and support members. Adherence to the medical advice, protocols and guidelines are the best actions to lessen the impact on society generally.
Publication Type: Circular