Union demands clarity from council over workers’ crisis support

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New Forest District Council
New Forest District Council’s Appletree Court HQ in Lyndhurst

A TRADE union is urging New Forest District Council to be clear over what support will be in place for employees during the coronavirus outbreak.

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Unison said it has tried to work with the council but it was “dismayed” by its attitude, writes Maria Zaccaro of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

In a statement, Unison said: “The pay of workers on zero hours contracts is not clear. Nor is it clear if those who take sick leave owing to Covid-19 will have that absence counted when the council looks at their sickness absence.

“This means that some staff may come into work when not fully fit. Those who have to self-isolate as they live with people who are vulnerable is particularly unfeeling.

“They are being told to take annual leave or unpaid leave. People should not be put in the position of choosing between providing for their families or risking their health.”

The union claims that the council told its employees that those who will not be able to work because of school closures will still get paid in April but it has not made clear what will happen in May.

Sarah O’Donoghue, Unison’s regional organiser, said: “This is a time when we need to be working together to fight this invisible enemy.

“Every worker who goes into work who doesn’t have to, perhaps in fear of triggering sickness absence or fear of not being able to pay their bills, risks infecting colleagues and members of the public.

“We urge NFDC to behave like the responsible employer it needs to be to ensure that no workers come into work unless their work is essential and they are fully fit.”

Unison is also calling on NFDC to halt all sickness-related sanctions and disciplinary procedures – a request it has already made to Hampshire County Council.

In a statement, New Forest District Council said: “We are working closely with our staff in these difficult and unprecedented times. We recognise the outstanding efforts that a great many of our staff are making in the challenging times we are in.

“We have made, and are making, decisions based on the current situation but appreciate that this may change as the situation progresses.”

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