Portsmouth maintenance workers concerned about doing 'routine' work in lockdown
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Unite has voiced concerns about workers at Comserve, Portsmouth City Council’s outsourced building maintenance team, who are still going into homes to undertake work – while directly employed personnel have strict instructions not to enter people’s homes.
Because of this, these workers and the families they come into contact with are at a greater risk of contracting or transmitting coronavirus, thus hindering the city’s progress during lockdown, says Unite.
The trade union believes the council should instruct Comserve not to carry out this routine maintenance work.
Regional officer Richard White said: ‘Portsmouth council and Comserve are recklessly putting the health of tenants, workers and their families at risk by forcing them to undertake routine maintenance work during the lockdown.
‘Our members are entirely prepared to undertake emergency work and continue working on void properties, but insisting they work in people’s homes, when that work does not have to be undertaken is both foolhardy and dangerous.
‘Portsmouth council is guilty of applying double standards, it has strict rules for its directly employed staff who must not enter people’s homes while at the same time insisting outsourced workers do exactly that.’
Mr White added that he thought councillors needed to ‘come to their senses’ and place an immediate ban on routine maintenance work.
The council insists that it is taking these concerns seriously, but also considers these repairs important to prevent a backlog of work post-pandemic.
Councillor Darren Sanders, cabinet member for housing and preventing homelessness, said: ‘Non-essential repairs are allowed under the government's current guidelines, but they will only happen in Portsmouth if residents want them and they can be done safely.
‘The tradesperson can decide not to do the job, even when onsite, if it is not considered safe to do so.
‘We have strict safety guidelines we have agreed with our contractors.
‘Undertaking some repairs during lockdown in a Covid-secure way will prevent a backlog of maintenance to build up and those non-essential repairs potentially become bigger issues and causing more problems and stress for our tenants and putting more pressure on workers.’
The council will continue to keep its policy under review, Cllr Sanders added.