UNION leaders have voiced concern about suggestions staff at Newport's Passport Office should return to work despite the coronavirus lockdown.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) said it has been pressing managers across the civil service to close offices so people can work from home.

A leaked transcript of a Zoom meeting involving Passport Office (HMPO) managers, reported by the BBC on Thursday, suggests that up to 2,000 members of staff at the seven passport offices around the UK - of which Newport is the only one in Wales - could return to work on routine passport applications.


One employee - who asked not to be named - said they and their colleagues felt "frightened, pressured and disposable".

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "It is absolutely scandalous that HMPO are suggesting our members can go back into work during a pandemic to process routine passports.

"The cavalier approach to our members' health and safety is shameful and ultimately puts them in greater danger of contracting Covid-19.

"We have already had members die as a result of contracting corona and pressured civil service managers in other departments to shut offices so staff can work from home.

"For the deputy chief scientific adviser at the Home Office to suggest that going into work does not put you at greater risk of contracting corona is extremely irresponsible and totally contradicts current government guidance.

"Processing passports is not critical work while we are in lockdown and international travel is practically non-existent due to the corona pandemic."

A Home Office spokesman said: "Her Majesty's Passport Office is fully adhering to public health advice across all our offices and adopting social distancing measures to keep both its staff and customers safe.

"It continues to operate at substantially restricted staffing levels with a significant number of people working from home where possible, and staff are prioritising emergency cases. Guidance is also available for people who are travelling into work.

"It was made clear in the meeting that the Government's priority is slowing the spread of coronavirus and we all have a part to play in order to protect the NHS and save lives."

The Home Office added that government advice has been clear that people may travel for work purposes, if they cannot work from home.