Over three months after Fórsa submitted a comprehensive claim, and sought negotiations to agree guidelines on the development and management of remote working in the civil and public service, the union has warned that the public sector risks becoming a laggard on the issue.
The union submitted its claim after months of informal engagements with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER), during which officials repeatedly said management proposals would soon be tabled. But no proposal has yet been put to the union.
Union officials believe the lack of agreed public service-wide guidelines will create a disjointed approach in the run-up to a national ‘return to work’ later this summer.
While the 15-month working from home experiment has been fraught for some workers, for the vast majority it has been a positive experience and there is a huge appetite for remote and blended working arrangements when the Covid-19 restrictions end.
They fear that individual civil service departments and public service employers will adopt different policies and practices. “This is already becoming the reality, and it’s bound to lead to confusion, anomalies and, possibly, disputes,” according to a spokesperson.
Ironically, the Tánaiste this week called on employers to “make remote and home working a much bigger part of working life.”
Launching the Government’s ‘making remote work’ campaign, along with updated guidance for employers, Mr Varadkar said: “I encourage employers and workers to talk to each other and agree a more permanent arrangement that suits both”.
The State campaign builds on last January’s launch of the Government’s national strategy, which pledged to make remote working the norm for 20% of public sector staff.
The new campaign was welcomed by ICTU general secretary Patricia King, who said the pandemic had awakened Ireland to the potential for remote working.
“While the 15-month working from home experiment has been fraught for some workers, for the vast majority it has been a positive experience and there is a huge appetite for remote and blended working arrangements when the Covid-19 restrictions end,” she said.