Fórsa wants immediate dialogue on public service remote working

Ireland’s leading public service union has today (Tuesday) welcomed the publication of a new Government ‘Blended Working Policy Statement,’ which would see the civil service switch from pandemic-related remote working provisions to long-term ‘blended working’ arrangements between September 2021 and March 2022.

Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan said his union was ready to engage immediately with civil service management to reach agreement on the details. But he warned that the initiative should be capable of rapid roll-out across the entire public service, rather than being confined to Government departments and agencies.

Mr Callinan said most of the principles and objectives laid out in the Government statement chimed with Fórsa’s approach, which was set out in a claim submitted to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in March 2021.

“We have waited a long time for this development and we now need immediate discussions to agree the detail, build on the momentum of the past 18 months, and agree a framework fit to be rolled out across the public service.

“I particularly welcome the statement’s commitment to a consistent approach across the civil service, and to transparency and fairness on access to remote working. This emerged as the number one issue for public servants in a large opinion survey conducted by Fórsa last summer.

“We stand ready to engage with the objective of agreeing a clear and consistent public service approach to remote or blended working, based on principles of fair access, adequate employee protections, and robust measures to underpin continued public service quality and productivity,” he said.

Fórsa’s detailed claim on remote working, which was submitted in March 2021, sought agreement under 20 broad headings, including:

  • The consistent application of agreed guidelines for identifying functions that can be performed remotely, and for selecting staff to be allocated to home working arrangements
  • Fair access and the right to request remote work
  • The principal that individual employees can decline remote work arrangements
  • Compliance with health and safety legislation, including specific measures relating to mental health, pregnant women, young workers, and workers with disabilities
  • Specific advice on compliance with working time legislation and the ‘right to disconnect’
  • Agreed guidance on flexible work arrangements, work attendance and time measurement
  • The provision of management training and supports to line managers
  • The promotion of regular, quality communications between line managers and their staff, and the inclusion of remote workers in collective workplace activities including business meetings and training
  • Strong direction that staff who work remotely should routinely spend some time in the workplace
  • Full transparency and agreement over the use of any surveillance products or practices, and a guarantee that employees’ rights to privacy and a reasonable work-life balance will be protected, along with full compliance with the provisions of data protection legislation.

Fórsa says discussions should also address measures to underpin productivity and service quality, and that any agreement “should preclude individual departments, organisations or managers from opting out of some or all elements of an agreed approach unless an objective rationale is demonstrated.”