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Commons catering staff could be advised to walk out over unsafe conditions amid pandemic, says union

CATERING staff at the House of Commons could be advised to walk out if health and safety measures are not put in place, a union warned today.

The London region branch of GMB is calling on management to adhere to regulations and the government’s guidance on Covid-19, and to meet five coronavirus safety tests.

If the tests are not passed and protective measures are not enacted “as a matter of urgency,” they will consider the workplace unsafe and tell staff that they have the right to leave, the union said.

GMB pointed out that staff in parliamentary bars would not be providing an essential service and would be at high risk.

The five tests are to consult with the workforce and unions, enable working from home wherever possible, protect and provide support for vulnerable and at-risk groups, secure safe transport to work and on-site, and enough personal protective equipment for everyone who needs it.

The union accused management of not consulting GMB or other unions over their decision to have staff return to work, or over a risk assessment taking place.

GMB House of Commons branch secretary Will Conway said: “The unions represented in [the Commons] were not told about the decision or the risk assessment until after it had happened.

“We were told that a PCS (Public and Commercial Services union) rep had been informed. This does not appear to be true.

“There is no evidence, on either side, of contact with the GMB, and the assessment and walkthrough happened on the local reps’ day off.

“What is clear is that the government’s own guidelines are being breached by management.”

The PCS has been approached for comment.

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