Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 15 April 2020

Passport workers forced back to offices as Home Office shirks its duty of care

UK Passport Office, photo Neil Turner/CC

UK Passport Office, photo Neil Turner/CC   (Click to enlarge)

PCS shop steward

I work for the civil service and am a member and rep of the PCS trade union. Like many of my colleagues, I was shocked and appalled at the Home Office's decision to call workers at passport offices back into the workplace after a three week hiatus due to concerns over Covid-19.

This move is contradictory to official government guidance which advises people to stay at home and avoid all non-essential travel, and it will understandably worry and anger many Passport Office workers.

It is completely contradictory to the department's duty of care to its workers. It also contradicts the department's earlier approach. This was to close all offices for three weeks, after the government, already dragging its heels, announced stricter conditions for tackling the spread of the virus on 23 March.

What has changed since then? The amount of Covid-19 cases reported in the UK has increased on a daily basis and, tragically, so has the number of people who have died. In fact, the government and health professionals still can't say when the peak of the outbreak will arrive! So what is the justification for forcing workers back to offices now?

Shockingly, the Home Office has reportedly tried to justify this move by stating that 80% of the population will contract Covid-19 anyway, and that "we cannot hide away from it forever". They also claimed: "You are no more at risk at the workplace as you would be at home or at the supermarket."

It is true that passports cannot be issued from home due to staff not being issued with laptops and other equipment, as has been the case in other government departments, and because the software required it cannot be put onto personal devices at present.

But why should workers pay for this? Many of them are on or just above minimum wage and are being told to risk their lives and the lives of loved ones they live with.

It is also hardly essential work, with people currently unable to go on holiday or business trips abroad due to the crisis. The only alleged essential work involved would be the issuing of passports to people who need them for purposes such as claiming benefits.

But according to PCS members in the Department for Work and Pensions, it isn't true that passports are required for this. If it were the case, then the department should put in place very limited cover, only asking workers who aren't vulnerable, don't live with anyone who is vulnerable, and are showing no symptoms, to come into the office.

Even under these circumstances, other health issues should be taken into consideration, such as mental health, and nobody should be forced to return to work or face disciplinary action.

Moreover, why can't the department pay to have laptops with the required software on them sent to workers' homes and avoid anybody having to risk going into the office?

Equally worrying has been general secretary of the PCS Mark Serwotka's approach to the Covid-19 crisis. While Serwotka has correctly described the Home Office approach as "cavalier" and condemned the move, he has done so in words only, asking that offices are closed during the crisis.

His approach has been to let the bosses off the hook, effectively suspending negotiations over pay, office closures and other issues. As well as standing up for members' health and safety, and for a maximum number of workers to be able to work from home, Serwotka should not falter but push for all PCS policies!

For full resourcing of departments, the stopping of permanent office closures and a 10% pay rise for all. It is the underfunding of public services that has exacerbated the problems in tackling the coronavirus crisis.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • We must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation £


Your message: 


In The Socialist 15 April 2020:

Coronavirus news

MPs get £10k each for lockdown expenses - where's ours?

Dispatches from the front: NHS staff say give us PPE, not medals!

Johnson's hospitalisation: a tale of two treatments

Big pharma's profiteering holds back drug supply

Lockdown increases domestic violence calls - Tory money a drop in the ocean

NHS nurse: we're not wasting PPE - the Tories don't value us

Rapacious capitalism and the spread of coronavirus

What we think

Exit strategy? PPE and mass testing and workers' control of workplace safety

Fight back against the corona propaganda war


London Transport workers fighting private companies and TfL to secure health and safety

Workplace news

Unite opposes all cuts to domestic violence services

Passport workers forced back to offices as Home Office shirks its duty of care

Collectively demanding safe warehouse working conditions

Usdaw shop workers' union activists meet via Zoom

Coronavirus workplace news in brief


Sabotage - the inner workings of Labour's political machine exposed


Plymouth students discuss rent strike

Final push for May Day greetings

Socialist Party coronavirus crisis finance appeal

Join an online Socialist Party meeting during lockdown

The Socialist Party and socialist ideas are growing

Lessons from history

How the catastrophe of WW1 sparked revolution

Readers' opinion

Going viral: Socialist comments on the corona crisis


Home   |   The Socialist 15 April 2020   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleDWP: Demand safe working and more jobs

triangleReject the Ministry of Justice pay offer

triangleBallot majority essential to continue DVLA strike action

triangleGovernment departments move to impose pay cuts

triangleEscalation needed


triangleWeetabix - workers have had enough

triangleSolidarity to the striking workers at Charité and Vivantes hospitals in Berlin

triangleClick here for a report. Speakers included: Sharon Graham - newly-elected Unite gen sec; Sarah Woolley - BFAWU gen sec; Carmel Gates - Nipsa gen sec (designate); Joe Simpson - POA deputy gen sec; Joe Kirby - RMT NEC & offshore worker

triangleUnite young and old to defend the pensions triple lock


triangleDeaths of despair: Health crisis - capitalism in the dock

triangleWorkers shouldn't pay for health and social care plans

triangleNHS and social care - make the rich pay, not the workers


triangleOn the frontline, and still fighting for the NHS

triangleClimate change, capitalism, and the struggle for socialism

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Carmarthenshire Unison: 'Recognise our union!'



Returning to campus: Students need to fight


Youth Fight for Jobs

We won't pay for capitalism's failings



Oaks Park school: Redbridge Labour council backs strike-breaking bullies



Scrap tuition fees - end university marketisation



Campaigning for socialism at Oxford Brookes Uni


Youth Fight for Jobs

Youth Fight for Jobs launches campaign in Brighton



Putting socialism on the map in Chichester



Reclaiming Pride as protest in Nottingham



Solidarity to the striking workers at Charité and Vivantes hospitals in Berlin


Fighting Fund

Fighting fund target reached: Help us continue to raise our banner and programme



On the frontline, and still fighting for the NHS



TV review - Grenfell: The Untold Story



Goodlord dispute: Labour's leadership weasled out of backing strike action



Save jobs and services - nationalise rail

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 077 7221 5281

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793



Alphabetical listing

September 2021

August 2021

July 2021

June 2021

May 2021

April 2021

March 2021

February 2021

January 2021