Donegal-based E&I Engineering
E&I Engineering has refuted claims that it ‘bullied’ staff who voiced concerns about working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.
It comes amid the worst public health crisis in a generation when many businesses have shut.
The Irish Government deems E&I an essential business, however, employees still remain fearful of the disease spreading in the workplace.
The E+I Engineering workforce comes from both sides of the border. It is the largest electrical switchgear manufacturer in the UK & Ireland is considered a global leader in the critical power distribution sector.
The company operates in 40 countries, designing and making systems for a worldwide market, and employs 1,700 staff around the world - just under half of those are based in the north-west plant.
Staff from the city have contacted the Derry News to raise concerns about difficulties experienced while trying to social distance at the plant.
People work ‘over the top of one another’ with 4/5 men sharing the same tools during the day and in communal areas such as corridors and canteens it becomes more problematic to maintain distance, an employee who wished to remain anonymous explained.
They also have to interact with team leaders who can be in contact with up to 15 people.
He added: “You’re in that close contact that if one person gets it, it’s likely the whole place will get it.”
He believes that aspects of the work at E&I are essential but says that emergency teams could be used to carry out that critical work.
Staff have been permitted to wash their hands every two hours but feel they’re ‘back to square one’ when putting on ‘dirty work gloves’ again.
Employees were warned against posting on social media and told if they’re observed in breach of social distancing protocols outside the factory that disciplinary action could be taken - something he described as ‘bullying tactics’.
In response, an E+I Engineering spokesperson said it is continuing to operate on a flexible basis to deliver essential electrical equipment for critical infrastructure projects.
“We refute any claims of bullying and encourage any employee to report instances of bullying via the proper channels. Any instance of bullying will be investigated fully in line with our policies and procedures.
“Our number one priority is to ensure the continuing health, safety and well-being of our employees and their families.”
Following clarification from the Irish Government on Saturday March 28, the company was ‘formally notified’ that E+I Engineering are classed as an essential business and should therefore remain open.
Part of the government confirmation reads: “The manufacture of products necessary for the supply chain of essential services; computer, electronic and optical products including semi-conductors; electrical equipment, machinery and other equipment…
“The Government also recognises that many companies in Ireland are critical to global supply chains that are responding to the Covid-19 crisis, and many companies also perform critical global roles in other aspects of medicine, as well as security, cyber, cloud and data centre infrastructure.”
The company went on to say that it has taken a number of steps to ensure the safety of its staff.
These include, flexible working – office based employees are working from home as far as possible, and are only attending the factory in small numbers when required.
“Production staff are attending the factory in a range of shifts with the aim of reducing the number of staff in the facility at any one time. There is a maximum number of 300 staff in the building at any one time.
“The facility is 300,000 sq ft. Campsie facility has a maximum of 75 staff in the building at any one time, with a facility of more than 225,000 sq ft.
“Strict adherence to 2m social distancing practices on the factory floor, in the office, and during break times.
“Increased number of breaktimes to reduce the number of staff congregating in the canteen at one time.
“H&S team and management ensuring that all workers are always at a 2m distance.”
The spokesperson added: “Antibacterial wipes provided to clean tools. Employees are instructed to clean each tool before and after use.
“Employees have their own individual tool boxes which accounts for approx. 70% of the tools required. The remaining 30% are shared tools for miscellaneous jobs. These are being cleaned before and after use.
“Clock in procedures no longer require fingerprint authentication.
“Enhanced cleaning of the facilities with extra cleaning staff now assigned during normal work hours
"Increased awareness among staff and other common sense approaches to improve hygiene practices i.e. large number of hand sanitisation stations, posters, online learning modules.
“We are communicating with the employees and will continue to do this in the days and weeks going forward.
“This is a dynamic and fluid situation that we are reviewing daily.”
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