A TRADE union has accused the firm responsible for repairing and maintaining council homes of putting workers and tenants at risk by carrying out non-essential work.
Unite the Union called on Mears, which has a contract with Rotherham Council to maintain its council homes, to carry out urgent work only and delay any non-essential repairs until after lockdown.
The call has had the backing of Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey but the council said it was following Government guidance and it had safety measures in place.
A Unite the Union spokesperson said: “During the first lockdown, non-essential work was suspended and they were doing emergency work only.
“This time, they have asked staff to do non-essential work.
“The concern our members have got is that they are going into a lot of different tenanted properties it could be up to 20 properties a day.”
The spokesperson said Mears had put safety measures in place but many of the jobs could have waited until after lockdown.
“It’s jobs such as replacing someone’s kitchen unit door as opposed to emergency work that we agree they should be doing such as leaking pipes or security of property,” he said.
The spokesperson said staff were especially concerned about passing the virus onto vulnerable tenants.
Shane Sweeting, Unite the Union’s regional officer, said: “The trade unions have requested that the delivery of non-essential work be put on hold as a supportive measure in getting the number of positive cases and chance of transmission of the disease reduced.
“This has fallen on deaf ears and the response is a flippant one of ‘it’s business as usual’.
“Mears continues to put their staff and the constituents of Rotherham at risk.”
In a letter to council chief executive Sharon Kemp, Mr Healey said: “The Covid safety concerns, of course, relate to both Mears workers and council tenants, especially when the overriding objective of the national lockdown is to reduce the number of social contacts and reduce the spread of the virus.”
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Tom Bell, Rotherham Council’s assistant director of housing, said: “Following the initial lockdown last year the Government issued national guidance regarding working safely in customers’ homes.
“This guidance was considered with our contract partners in detail; this included the development of associated risk assessments to ensure safe working practices.
“Tradespeople are specifically referenced under current Government guidance as being amongst only a few examples where it is deemed reasonable for a person to go into another household; in this case, to undertake repairs and maintenance work.
“Contractors’ risk assessments have been formulated and implemented between the council and Mears with specific reference to the coronavirus and national guidance, focusing on social distancing, washing or sanitising hands regularly, ensuring work areas are well ventilated and wearing the correct face covering or mask.
“Tenants are also able to refuse non-statutory works if they are not content for them to go ahead.”
Mr Bell said the situation would be under constant review.