RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: Get off your Peloton, or you'll be on your bike! WFH has been scrapped and Boris wants the Civil Service to lead the charge back to the office... But the unions, with dreary predictability, are in uproar

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

Say what you like about partygoers at the notorious Downing Street Bring Your Own Booze bash, but at least they turned up for work that day.

That’s more than can be said for countless other civil servants who were pedalling on their Pelotons or munching Hobnobs in front of daytime television, while pretending to ‘work from home’.

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

Much of Britain was getting back to normal yesterday, as commuters packed trains and buses on their way to the office.

There were traffic jams in all our major cities, although this could probably be down to the crazy congestion created by ‘temporary’ cycle lanes and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods brought in by anti-car fanatics under cover of Covid.

Global Tech News Daily

Rush hour returned with a vengeance as employees responded to the lifting of Omicron Plan B restrictions. Yet London’s Whitehall, at the very heart of government, remained virtually deserted, just as it has been for the past 22 months.

Working From Home, like bike lanes and LTNs, was also supposed to be a temporary measure. However, as far as millions of people are concerned it is now an entitlement, set in stone.

Global Tech News Daily

Say what you like about partygoers at the notorious Downing Street Bring Your Own Booze bash, but at least they turned up for work that day. That’s more than can be said for countless other civil servants who were pedalling on their Pelotons or munching Hobnobs in front of daytime television, while pretending to ‘work from home’

Say what you like about partygoers at the notorious Downing Street Bring Your Own Booze bash, but at least they turned up for work that day. That’s more than can be said for countless other civil servants who were pedalling on their Pelotons or munching Hobnobs in front of daytime television, while pretending to ‘work from home’

The Prime Minister’s exhortation to civil servants to get back to their desks was widely and contemptuously ignored.

With depressing predictability, public sector union leaders went bananas over the absurd notion their members might actually report for duty.

Dave Penman, general secretary of the First Division Association, which represents senior government mandarins, spluttered indignantly that the PM’s instruction to return to the office was ‘insulting’.

He sounded just like Fred Kite, the stroppy shop steward played memorably by Peter Sellers in the brilliant Boulting Brothers’ 1959 industrial relations satire I’m All Right Jack.

Penman is someone whose members are paid six-figure salaries, some as much as £275,000 a year, yet he thinks it is unreasonable to actually expect them to turn up for work. You couldn’t make it up.

He talks about highly rewarded staff being ‘forced’ back to work, as if they are rounded up at gunpoint and herded into the office in shackles.

Another major civil service union, the PCS, said: ‘There should not be a reckless, headlong rush to increase numbers at workplaces.

‘Instead, there needs to be a properly planned approach, which allows the employer and the union to negotiate safe arrangements.’

Elf’n’safety is the excuse wheeled out constantly to justify the culture of institutionalised idleness which has set in since the first lockdown in March 2020. And when we knew little about the Covid virus, an ultra-cautious approach was only sensible.

But following Britain’s spectacularly successful vaccination programme and with Omicron on the wane — and about as deadly as the common cold or a bad hangover — that simply won’t wash any more. There is no good reason why staff can’t resume their former working practices.

Still, I warned you a couple of months into the pandemic that even when the Covid crisis abated there would be nothing normal about the so-called New Normal.

Millions now take it as an inalienable right that they are entitled to decide when and where they work.

Listen to callers on radio phone-in shows protesting that it is unfair to make them go back to their offices. As the ex Tory Prime Minister Harold Macmillan said in other circumstances, they’ve never had it so good.

They speak of their enviable new work/life balance and all the money they are saving on rail fares by not having to commute into town every day.

Millions now take it as an inalienable right that they are entitled to decide when and where they work

Millions now take it as an inalienable right that they are entitled to decide when and where they work

During the first (or was it the second?) lockdown, I heard a man from Canterbury, in Kent, boasting on LBC that he was £10,000 a year better off, as he no longer had to buy a season ticket or an expensive sandwich for his lunch. Why should he fork out a fiver for a fancy barista coffee when he can make one simply by walking to his kettle in the kitchen?

On further examination, it turned out he was still receiving his generous London weighting allowance, something to which he should no longer be entitled since he was ‘working from home’ full time.

Had I been his employer listening to that call, I would have immediately cut his salary by ten grand for the duration of the pandemic and only restored it when he came back to the office.

As I wrote at the time, he might have been happy as a pig in clover, but one man’s WFH is another’s P45.

The hospitality sector has been hammered by successive lockdowns. Pubs, cafes and sandwich bars have closed in droves. Some of our city centres may never recover.

But, hey, who cares? Just so long as a smug ex-commuter finds himself ten grand a year richer.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, when I worked as an industrial correspondent, the power in the labour market was concentrated among the big manual workers’ unions. With the decline of manufacturing, the pendulum has shifted. The most truculent unions now represent what we used to call ‘white collar’ staff, predominently in the public sector.

It is the Civil Service unions and, especially, the teaching unions who are most resistant to any move to return to normality. If they had their way, their members would WFH for ever, on full pay.

Certainly they haven’t suffered serious hardship as a result of Covid. To the best of my knowledge, no one on the public payroll was furloughed, forced to take a pay cut or made redundant.

Yet virtually everyone I know in the private sector, from directors downwards, accepted a significant reduction in their income to help their companies make it through the crisis.

In the case of small business owners and the self-employed, they had no option. The Government threw money at the problem, but hundreds of thousands missed out.

And for all the communitarian rhetoric and the saucepan-bashing for the NHS, I argued early on that we were not all in this together.

While doctors, nurses, orderlies, delivery drivers, supermarket assistants, telecoms engineers, postal workers, builders, you name it, braved Covid and turned out every day in all weathers to keep us fed and watered and ensure Britain kept ticking over, office staff battened down the hatches. As I asked back in August 2020: Why was it safe for White Van Man to go to work, but not White Blouse Woman?

The poor lambs bleated that it was far too dangerous to take a crowded bus to their desks, or tap away on a word processor which could be carrying the deadly virus.

Curiously, though, when the sun came out the risk-averse professional classes cast their fears aside and headed for the beaches.

And when Dishi Rishi unveiled his Money For Nothing And Your Chips For Free deal, there were millions of takers desperate to get their snouts in the trough.

I can remember wondering out loud at the time that if it was safe enough to sit in a restaurant cheek by jowl over a subsidised hamburger, why wasn’t it equally safe to go to work?

For the record, I don’t have a problem with WFH provided it doesn’t impinge on anyone’s performance or cause inconvenience to the paying public. Some firms are happy with a hybrid model, which sees staff in the office only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays — the so-called TW*Ts. If private companies are willing to let their staff work from home, that’s up to them. It’s their bottom line.

But clearly, when it comes to the public sector, where taxpayers’ money is involved, that’s not the case. The failings caused by institutionalised absenteeism at the Passport Office and the DVLA have been extensively documented, with hundreds of thousands of people waiting months for passports and driving licences.

The Covid First NHS bureaucracy has failed miserably to meet the demand for life-saving surgery and treatment for other conditions such as cancer and heart disease.

In some towns and cities, householders are going weeks without having their rubbish or recycling collected. Try ringing any government department or council office and see how long it takes them to answer, if they can be bothered at all ‘because of Covid’.

To my mind, the most telling story during this pandemic was the revelation that although the Civil Service Club in Whitehall was practically empty during the week, it was booked solid at weekends.

So comfortably-off members who considered it far too dangerous to venture into their offices had absolutely no such worries when it came to travelling up to town for an overnight stay, a West End show and dinner on a Friday or Saturday night.

These are the very people the mandarins’ union leader now says the Government is ‘insulting’ by asking them to return to their desks.

The coming weeks will be a test of the Prime Minister’s mettle. Until now, he has been strangely reluctant to confront the civil service unions over their refusal to do the job they are paid for — just as he caved in time and again to the rail unions when he was Mayor of London.

I’ve said before that Boris should take a leaf out of Ronald Reagan’s playbook. When Reagan was President of the United States he told striking air traffic controllers that unless they went back to work sharpish, they would be sacked. He was as good as his word.

The Prime Minister must now insist that all civil servants report to their departments immediately. Anyone without a reasonable excuse, such as a doctor’s note, will be considered to have declared themselves redundant and will be dismissed without compensation.

He could start with Sarah Healey, permanent secretary at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, where fewer than 20 per cent have been turning up in the office.

She recently boasted how she, too, was working from home, where she is able to put in an extra hour on her £1,350 Peloton every day.

Boris should read her the riot act and tell her in no uncertain terms that unless she is back at her desk on Monday, she’ll be on her bike — permanently.

To be fair to the Downing Street partygoers, they have by all accounts been on parade and working flat out during the pandemic. We would have cut them some slack had they not cynically flouted the rules they had imposed on the rest of us.

Now that the panic is over and restrictions are being lifted, it’s time for staff at every other government department to return to their offices without delay.

Heck, we won’t even mind if they have a party in the garden after work, provided they bring their own booze.

News Related


Max Verstappen's brutal comment to Lewis Hamilton over world title loss

Max Verstappen has brutally shown no mercy towards Lewis Hamilton after controversially pipping him to last season’s Formula One title. The 2021 world champion shrugged off talk of feeling sympathy ... Read more »

South Africa: Springboks’ home Test schedule for 2022 confirmed

© PA Images Springboks-huddle-at-training-2021-PA The Springboks are scheduled to face Wales in three Test matches in the Incoming series in July, before hosting the All Blacks and Argentina in the ... Read more »

Quiz: Did Stoke City win, lose or draw in each of these 25 games this season?

© Provided by Football League World Championship – Stoke City v Fulham Stoke City will be eager to get themselves back towards the play-off places in the coming weeks and ... Read more »

Roy Keane to Sunderland: What does he offer? What EFL experience does he have? Can he get them promoted?

Sunderland’s managerial search has come down to two candidates, Football League World exclusively learnt yesterday.  The report states that Roy Keane and Grant McCann are the two options that the ... Read more »

DNCE announce their return and departure of Cole Whittle

© Bang Showbiz Joe Jonas’ DNCE confirm new music as trio Joe Jonas’ DNCE are reuniting without bassist Cole Whittle. The Jonas Brothers star has confirmed the ‘Cake By The ... Read more »

Eight things you should know about beloved North East rock star Sam Fender

North Shields rock star Sam Fender is up for a number of coveted Brit Awards at tonight’s ceremony, after a fantastic couple of years saw him shoot into stardom. Sam ... Read more »

Gerard Butler boards new heist thriller Just Watch Me

© Bang Showbiz Gerard Butler to star in heist thriller Gerard Butler is to play a thief in the new heist thriller ‘Just Watch Me’. The 52-year-old actor has boarded ... Read more »

Driver injured by shards of glass after brick thrown at moving train in Greater Manchester

The driver - who has not been named - was taken to hospital for treatment and is now recovering at home. Read more »

Sam Fender's former school teacher wishes him good luck ahead of Brit Awards

Sam Fender’s former head of sixth form has shared a kind message ahead of tonight’s Brit Awards ceremony where the North Shields star is up for three awards. The frontman ... Read more »

BP swings to highest annual profit in eight years

Oil giant BP has posted its highest annual profit in eight years amid mounting pressure on the sector as the cost-of-living crisis deepens. The group revealed it swung to a ... Read more »

2023 Range Rover Sport Spied Up Close With Thinner Camouflage

© Copyright 2023 Range Rover Sport spy photo It’s already looking more athletic than its bigger brother. It was two years ago when our spies first stumbled upon the ... Read more »

We simulated Burnley vs Manchester United to get a score prediction

Manchester United will be looking to put their FA Cup woes behind them and bounce back with a win on Tuesday, as they face Burnley in the Premier League. Anthony ... Read more »

Afcon 2021: Salah’s ego questioned by Murphy after Egypt final defeat to Senegal

Former England and Liverpool player Danny Murphy has questioned the decision to have Mohamed Salah wait for the fifth penalty against Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations final on ... Read more »

Derby County v Hull City: Latest team news, Is there a live stream? What time is kick-off?

Derby County host Hull City at Pride Park this evening as both sides look to get back to winning ways in the Championship.  Shota Arveladze was handed his first defeat ... Read more »

Bruce Mouat and Jennifer Dodds suffer heavy defeat in bronze medal match

© PA Wire Great Britain’s Jennifer Dodds and Bruce Mouat during their 9-3 bronze medal match defeat against Sweden (Andrew Milligan/PA Images) – PA Wire Great Britain’s hopes of winning ... Read more »

People are absolutely disgusted as disturbing footage of Kurt Zouma kicking a cat goes viral

Social media users have been left absolutely disgusted after disturbing footage of Kurt Zouma kicking his pet cat. The West Ham and France defender has issued an apology after footage ... Read more »

Eileen Gu ‘breaking boundaries’ but contradictions heighten tensions after gold

Eileen Gu is already the face of Vogue, Victoria’s Secret, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany but now she’s the face of these Olympics too – with medal bling to rival those ... Read more »

Man City legend Sergio Aguero opens up on fear after heart scare and jokes he is 'Ironman'

Sergio Aguero has recalled the fear he felt after being rushed to hospital when he appeared short of breath while playing for Barcelona. The Manchester City legend had only just ... Read more »

Royal Navy's £3bn nuclear headache to last DECADES - two dozen ships face scrapheap

Storage and maintenance costs of vessels withdrawn from service amount to about £30 million per year, news website Navy Lookout reports in its latest technical briefing. Continued delays are expected ... Read more »

‘Pay up!' Man, 85, furious as his state pension is ‘frozen' at £70 per week

State pension payments usually increase each year by the highest of 2.5 percent, average earnings or inflation under the triple lock. Even though this policy has been temporarily suspended, most ... Read more »

Northumberland to host Dark Skies Festival 2022 - and it starts this week!

Northumberland is set to celebrate officially having ‘the most pristine dark skies in England’ with the return of the Northumberland Dark Skies Festival. Following the success of last year’s virtual ... Read more »

Coworth Park review: relaxing, tranquil and dreamlike

© Provided by The Week UK An exterior view of Coworth Park from the croquet lawn Doing as little as possible is the order of the day at this swanky ... Read more »

Lanzarote pleads with Spain to drop entry rules for Britons' holidays - ‘let them come'

The Tourism Federation of Lanzarote (FTL) has called for Spain to relax the travel rules for British tourists. It said that vaccine requirements are ruining the winter season for Britons. ... Read more »

Picture books for children – reviews

Young children’s counting books can (whisper it) be a bit dull. They’re brilliant, of course, at helping under-fives learn their numbers. But turning page after page of, say, farmyard animals ... Read more »

Roundup of Olympic gold medals from Tuesday, Feb. 8

© Provided by Associated Press – Sports Gold medalist Austria’s Benjamin Karl celebrates during the venue ceremony for the men’s parallel giant slalom at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. ... Read more »

NHS to prescribe ‘game-changer’ weight loss drug to tackle obesity crisis

© PA Wire NHS weight loss programme for obese patients The NHS is to prescribe a new weight loss jab in order to tackle the obesity crisis in England. The ... Read more »

Eddie Howe breaks Newcastle's silence on failed transfer for Manchester United's Jesse Lingard

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images. Opportunities have been hard to come by for Jesse Lingard at Manchester United this season. Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe has admitted to being a ... Read more »

Update emerges after Newcastle United’s January interest in Bournemouth player

Newcastle United remain interested in Bournemouth’s Lloyd Kelly, with the Premier League outfit set to offer a deal for the 23-year-old regardless of what level of football they will be ... Read more »

Former Rangers star gives club backing over transfer interest in 'very promising player'

Former Rangers star Ronald de Boer has given the club his backing over the possible signing of Danilho Doekhi. © Danilho Doekhi has been strongly linked with Rangers. (Photo by ... Read more »

Newcastle United owners can learn Liverpool lesson as Man Utd show what not to do

Newcastle will have to replicate last month’s lavish spending in future windows if they are to achieve their dream of mixing it with the Premier League big boys. Five new ... Read more »

SMALL CAP SHARE IDEAS: Gartner Cycle points to upswing for microbiome pioneer OptiBiotix Health

Take a good look at the chart below. It’s called the Gartner Hype Cycle. It’s so named because it represents the distilled learning of the research group Gartner on the ... Read more »

Paul Heckingbottom explains the role Sheffield United supporters can play in the club’s play-off push

Sheffield United have carried on their resurgence up the table since Slavisa Jokanovic’s departure and they look more likely than ever to make an assault on the play-off places. The ... Read more »

Kurt Zouma apologies after former Everton loanee filmed kicking cat

© Visionhaus/Getty Images Kurt Zouma of West Ham United during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United at Molineux Former Everton defender Kurt Zouma will reportedly ... Read more »

Grant McCann to Sunderland: What does he offer? What EFL experience does he have? Can he get them promoted?

A new Sunderland head coach is expected to be appointed this week and Football League World understands that the search for Lee Johnson’s replacement has been narrowed down to just ... Read more »

32-y/o starts: The predicted Cardiff City XI to face Peterborough on Wednesday night

Cardiff City will be looking to bounce back from their FA Cup defeat to Liverpool by picking up a positive result in their upcoming Sky Bet Championship game with Peterborough ... Read more »

How to watch every Premier League match on TV this week and kick-off times

© Michael Regan/Getty Images Nine Premier League midweek fixtures will be shown live on BT Sport across Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The Premier League returns this midweek with most teams ... Read more »

Noel Whelan predicts Lewis will ‘not be part of the squad’ next season

© Stu Forster/Getty Images Sport Jamal Lewis – 4 Jamal Lewis was controversially left out of Newcastle United’s 25-man Premier League squad for Matt Targett and reports suggested he would ... Read more »

Pundits agree over Manchester United vs Burnley result prediction

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Scott McTominay scores against Burnley earlier this season Manchester United return to action in the Premier League this evening as they travel to Burnley. Ralf Rangnick’s ... Read more »

Steven Gerrard to repeat Rangers trick at Aston Villa amid stunning Cameron Archer form

Former Premier League goalkeeper Paul Robinson has backed Aston Villa loanee Cameron Archer to force his way into Steven Gerrard’s first-team plans next season. Archer is currently playing his football ... Read more »

Newcastle United vs Everton: Lee Ryder's Premier League preview

Newcastle United winger Allan Saint-Maximin got it right this week when he said that draws are no longer much use to the much-maligned Magpies. Every point in the Premier League ... Read more »