SOUTHAMPTON City Council bosses say they will not force any workers to put themselves at risk during the coronavirus crisis after concerns were raised over potential personal protective equipment shortages in the city.

It comes after a trade union warned the council that employees will be instructed not to go to work should the authority not be able to provide them with adequate PPE.

Hayley Garner, Unite branch secretary in Southampton, said Unite raised concerns over a framework drawn up by the city council. 

The council said the framework was prepared in April for a worst-case scenario and revealed that after asking city businesses for help, it has not run out of PPE at any point.

The city council said: “We were compelled to produce this framework in the first week of April during the national shortage of PPE. 

“In order to mitigate those very real PPE shortages, and ensure that the framework did not need to be activated, we put out requests to local businesses for help.

“Through these efforts, by the end of April the council had built up stock from low levels to a position where we had secured six months’ worth of supplies based on usage levels at that time, and this remains the case today.

“We have thankfully not run out of PPE at any point.”

The authority also said the framework states that working in conditions without adequate PPE cannot be imposed on staff.

Ms Garner said the framework lists a number of actions that could be considered in the case of a complete lack of PPE or an extreme shortage.

She said: “The framework states that potentially the PPE could be used beyond the expiry date, that we could be using PPE from another country where the standards may be lower, using home-made PPE and disinfect single use PPE.

“The framework also says staff volunteers, which may include those who have previously been infected and so they are likely to be at lower risk of infection, could be sought provided no pressure is placed on the staff to volunteer.”

Ms Garner has urged the council to confirm the amount of PPE available for staff as she claims the authority previously said it has six-months worth of PPE supply.

“However this framework contradicts the messages being given to us,” Ms Garner added.

Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith added: “In April they [the council] came to me saying that they needed the government to support them to ensure that they have enough PPE and now it transpires that they have six months worth of PPE.

"Why would they need this framework? It is time they come clean about it."