LONDON â€” Workers for the U.K.â€™s Labour Party accused the organization of pressuring staff back into the office â€” despite publicly calling on employers to â€œembraceâ€ flexible working.Â
An email sent to staff at Labour headquarters last month, seen by POLITICO, read: â€œThereâ€™s a strong need for people to work together in the same place to help build strong working relationships, to promote team working, creativity and collaboration as well as to welcome and assist new starters to our organization.â€
It added: â€œFor our party to succeed and, crucially, to win elections, we need to safely, and successfully, work together in person again. This can take place alongside flexible and working at home arrangements, as we have all learned to adapt to these changing circumstances.â€
The memo, sent by Labourâ€™s head of HR Martin Beecroft ahead of COVID restrictions being lifted, made extensive reference to mitigation measures in the office and support for people who need to self-isolate.
However, members of staff said they felt â€œscaredâ€ and â€œpressuredâ€ by the communication, which came in the midst of a major redundancy trawl as Labour seeks to rescue its ailing finances.
One party official said: â€œManagement were trying to force us back during the pandemic. Now theyâ€™re gaslighting us, saying itâ€™s good to come in for our wellbeing, while they hang the threat of redundancy over us.Â
â€œIâ€™ve never known anything like it in the party. Me and my colleagues feel pressured to turn up and scared for our future.â€
Others claimed senior managers were unhappy at the absence of staff from the office in April, during the build-up to local elections, when government guidance was still to work from home if possible.
Trade union representatives from Unite and the GMB have appealed to the senior management to be more flexible, according to several party employees.
A former aide to the party said managers had sent a â€œclear message to staff that they have to come back to work from Southside [the London headquarters].â€ He said that message had been â€œreinforcedâ€ in briefings on Thursday at which employees were told which departments were likely to see job cuts ahead of a forthcoming restructuring.
Labour Party workers have raised concerns over a lack of ventilation and social distancing in the office.
In an interview with the Guardian last week, leader Keir Starmer said ministers and civil service bosses were â€œwrongheadedâ€ to try to make people come back to the office and should not be standing in the way of working from home.
Starmer has promised a â€œright to flexible working,â€ and urged employers: â€œDonâ€™t stand in the way of that change. Actually embrace it, and put a framework around it.â€
On Tuesday staff will receive details of â€œOrganise to Win,â€ a plan drawn up by former civil service chief Bob Kerslake and head of finance Simon Mills to overhaul the party structure.Â
Some employees, including political advisers to the shadow cabinet, were warned to expect redundancies in their departments, before the Labour Party posted adverts for several central job vacancies at the weekend.
The Labour Party was contacted for comment.