Hundreds of Dundee city council workers are considering strike action due to fears “non-essential” jobs are putting their lives at risk.
More than 300 Unite members in the council’s contract services have been asked to take part in the ballot.
Workers said it comes after managers assigned jobs such as replacing door handles and measuring properties for future projects during the second lockdown.
The workers’ concerns have come to light after the GMB union highlighted similar issues among environmental department staff such as gravediggers and gardeners.
They are not listening
Dougie Maguire, regional co-ordinator for Unite, said his members were “angry and upset”.
He said: “Dundee city council contract services staff have been asked to continue going into people’s houses and do routine maintenance and continue the programme of works.”
He said the union had already been in contact with management to raise concerns about Covid-19 spread in the workplace.
“They are not listening,” he said.
“The guys have had enough. They’ve been in contact with us and the ballot papers are out.
“It’s a workplace consultative ballot at this time to gauge the strength of feeling.”
Business as usual
One worker, who did wish to be named, said he had been asked to do non-essential jobs such as fitting door handles and measuring spaces for future projects.
“It’s business as usual in there,” he said.
“We are being put out on jobs and you cannot avoid people. It’s impossible to work safely the way they’ve got the new restrictions.
“But the council are having none of it. I don’t feel safe at all. It’s been a few weeks now and we’re getting nowhere with it.
“We are being pushed into a corner where we have to consider strike action because we don’t feel safe. It’s ridiculous.
“We’re quite willing to provide an essential service, but we’re not willing to do non-essential work. Our essential service should be ensuring properties are wind and watertight.”
1,691 people caught Covid at work
Labour councillor Richard McCready called for more dialogue between unions and management.
He said Health and Safety Executive figures show at least 1,691 people caught Covid-19 at work in Scotland since April last year.
“That’s likely to be an underestimate,” he said.
“I have written to the chief executive calling for this situation to be sorted sooner rather than later.
“Dundee City Council should take the health and safety of its workforce seriously, as well as the health and safety of the wider population of our city.
“The public sector should be leading by example in these difficult times.”
‘Service delivery’ will continue
A Dundee City Council spokesman said: “The safety of our staff is a top priority for the council. We thank them for their commitment to keeping vital services in the city going.
“In line with national Scottish Government guidance, which is now enshrined in law, the council is only carrying out essential repairs to its housing stock.
“We meet regularly with the trade unions, corporately and also at individual service level, to provide information and to listen to issues that require to be addressed.”
He said the council has been robust in its approach to risk assessments and safe systems of work. Management had taken all the national guidance into consideration, he added.
“Engagement with the trade unions will actively continue. So that we can listen to concerns and provide explanation for service delivery continuing,” he said.