Prospect members in the HSE were asked last week to volunteer to take part in an external project in Brunei, just days after it emerged that the sultanate was to start punishing LGBT people by stoning them to death.
Through its science division, the HSE does commercial work overseas including work for governments - one of these is Brunei. Prospect was assured that this kind of work would not take anyone away from already over-stretched frontline services. Last week an email went to all HSE staff requesting volunteers to be seconded to Brunei to assist with this particular contract work.
This prompted widespread outcry from our members who did not think it appropriate to send workers to a place where they could be executed because of their sexuality.
Following the concerns raised by Prospect the HSE has now paused deployments.
Garry Graham, Prospect deputy general secretary, said:
“It is welcome that HSE has listened to our concerns and chosen to pause these deployments to Brunei.
“We have very grave concerns about civil service staff being asked to work in a country with such a terrible record on equality and respecting the rights of others. It shouldn’t have taken outrage from staff and concerns from ourselves for this change to happen.
“Assisting Brunei and other regimes in improving health and safety enforcement may be a laudable objective but it cannot be seen in isolation from the broader legal rights and responsibilities of the state to protect its citizens, whatever their sexuality.
“We will be seeking assurances from ministers that the government does not have any further commercial contracts hidden away that will require public servants to work in Brunei.
“Does this pause mean a change in policy with regards to providing commercial services to intolerant regimes? Will inspectors be required to go to Brunei in the future once the publicity around its horrible policy dies down? And more generally, will the HSE honour its commitment that regulation will not be compromised for the pursuit of commercial work?
“This is not the first incident of government trying to make up for austerity by carrying our commercial work abroad.
"Our first priority remains the safety of our members and speaking up for their right to work without fear of discrimination.”