“Government should value key workers, not just clap them on Thursdays”
Key workers have kept our communities running and safe during the coronavirus lockdown. UNISON Cymru Wales caught up with Osian Richards, senior technical engineer, Caernarfon, Gwynedd Council to find out how he has been working.
Tell us about your job during the pandemic
It’s very similar to normal. Mostly, my job’s about asset management, looking after the bridges and other highway structure in Gwynedd, 3,000 highways structures and 650 bridges. The work involves managing the inspection routine, maintenance work and major works. Most of this can carry on as it’s a very rural county; the only aspect to stop is major works.
We have been planning the remedial works for the coming year and also designing a new bridge for construction hopefully next year. The only construction work being undertaken is emergency maintenance to keep the network running.
I’m chair of the UNISON Gwynedd branch and all of the branch officers have been working well as a team to help our members during the coronavirus and we’ve had great support from Jo Findlay our regional organiser.
The fact we have a good working relationship with the council makes things much easier.
What’s your view of how public service workers have responded to the crisis?
People have responded really well. Some, like care workers, are working in extremely difficult situations and refuse workers have been concerned about waste potentially contaminated with tissues.
Many workers have been scared and it’s a stressful time but everyone has been working hard to keep the services going and get provisions out to the public. Council staff have been understanding and flexible and the local community appreciates the work we’re doing.
What’s your message to the government?
Government has talked down care workers and other front line staff in the past, describing them as ‘low-skilled’ and not important. Well, now we’ve seen the truth. They are not low-skilled and their work supporting people in their homes or in care homes is holding up the NHS and holding up our community.
I am concerned many care workers will suffer post-traumatic stress disorder when this is all over. With the nature of their job, they may be used to elderly people passing away but not in this manner.
Public service workers are the backbone of society. I want government to properly fund and look after care workers and not just clap them with fanfare on Thursday nights.
How are you going to celebrate the end of the lockdown?
I am very lucky living in the countryside near Bangor. There are a lot worse places to be locked-down but the first thing I’m going to do will be to take my dogs for a walk on the beach so they can run around.