Unions say this is a clear example of how Parliament’s rules apply only to some and not to others.
Parliamentary unions have asked the Commons Commission to impose the wearing of masks in parliament after the Speaker of the House of Commons insisted that “there was no meaningful way” to get MPs to do so.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle wrote to MPs to tell them that starting July 19, when the requirement to wear a face mask indoors is lifted, they will be “encouraged” to wear a face cover while in parliament.
All other personnel must wear masks while moving around the property or entering the premises.
The unions GMB, TUS and Unite responded with an open letter to the speaker urging him to reconsider the council.
But the president said he would not force masks on parliamentarians.
In a letter to the unions, he said: “I have no power to prevent democratically elected members from entering the state when the House is in session.
“As such, there is no meaningful way to enforce the requirement that members wear a face covering.
“Also, the dress code, as you suggest, does not allow me to prevent a member from entering the Chamber.”
Following this, the Joint Unions in Parliament (TUC) have written to the Commons Commission in a final petition for it to take steps to protect staff in parliament before the loosening of the rules requiring parliamentarians to wear masks. on Monday.
The letter also urges the Commission to clarify that when a Member of Parliament does not wear a mask without a reasonable exemption, staff have the right to withdraw from the situation.
It reads: “If, as has been said, the Commission cannot compel members to adhere to the instructions on face coverings, then they must consider their obligations to protect staff who are in a situation where they are close to a member who refuses to wear a face covering.
“A safe work environment is not a choice, it is an obligation. As such, we believe that the Commission should make it clear to all House staff and members that, in circumstances where a member refuses to cover their face, the staff member may withdraw from that environment, and this would be a reasonable action to take. . “
The original open letter from the unions said the policy hinted at a breach of their duty of care to their own employees.
It read: “It would be fair to say that the reaction from staff throughout Parliament has been one of disbelief, anger and concern.
“This is a clear example of how Parliament’s rules apply only to some and not to others.
“After more than a year of collective efforts, staff will not feel protected in their workplace if parliamentarians are simply allowed to choose whether or not to take this simple step to help protect staff from possible infection.
A spokesperson for the House of Commons Committee said: “The House of Commons Committee has received more representation from unions in Parliament regarding the use of face masks in the House of Commons. Our priority is to ensure a safe Parliament that functions in accordance with government regulations.
“We expect the State Parliamentary figures to remain limited next week and that all pass holders continue to exercise caution as they enter step 4. Of course, we will monitor the situation on a day-to-day basis.”
Alexandra Warren is a freelance journalist.
Since you are here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there is a problem: we need readers like you to contribute to help us survive. We offer progressive and independent media that challenge the hateful rhetoric of the right wing. Together we can find the stories that are lost.
We are not funded by multi-million dollar donors, but rather we rely on readers to contribute whatever they can to protect our independence. What we do is not free and we run with very little money. Can you help by contributing as little as £ 1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you may donate, we are so grateful and will make sure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.