Union raises Covid objections to NI Assembly meeting to nominate First Minister

Union raises Covid objections to NI Assembly meeting to nominate First Minister

NIPSA has objected to the Assembly meeting in full tomorrow to nominate Michelle O'Neill (centre, left) as First Minister due to concerns over social distancing amid other Covid complaints.

Staff reporter

Reporter:

Staff reporter

A LEADING public service union has said it is concerned the NI Assembly will breach Covid guidance if it meets in full tomorrow to, in theory at least, elect a new Executive.

NIPSA has raised concerns with the management of the NI Assembly regarding what it says are "plans to ignore Covid guidance" and have all 90 MLAs, as well as Assembly staff, attend the Plenary session tomorrow (Friday).

Previously, there were restricted numbers allowed to attend meetings in the Assembly Chamber in order to protect MLAs and staff debating business.

However, NIPSA says it understands previous protections have been set aside for tomorrow's Plenary session in the Assembly Chamber and all 90 MLAs and necessary Assembly staff will be required to attend in person despite this being at odds with the current Covid guidance.

Dooley Harte, NIPSA HQ Official, stated: "We understand the previous option to proxy vote has been removed and therefore MLAs and staff will be required to attend the Assembly Chamber in person to register and vote on the next Speaker and the next First and Deputy First Ministers.

"We are also aware no new risk assessments have been completed to properly assess the impact on the health and safety of MLAs and certainly no risk assessment has been completed to change the agreed protections for staff, our members, such as adhering to social distancing, masks and sanitisers. There has also been no ventilation test carried out to ensure the Covid transmission is mitigated.

"NIPSA has therefore raised our concerns with management and asked that MLAs and staff are not placed at risk by meeting in an environment that is not Covid safe and is not in line with the current guidance agreed by the last NI Executive.

"Such a decision shows a complete disregard for staff, especially those who may be clinically vulnerable and/or pregnant. We have urged management not to place our members at risk and to seek alternative arrangements."

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