Dundee City Council workers face disciplinary action if they smoke on shift under a new policy which has been branded “heavy-handed”.
The policy, seen by the Tele ahead of it coming into force on Thursday, explicitly bans staff from smoking on company time.
This applies when they are outside, travelling between offices and on tea breaks, meaning workers can only smoke on unpaid lunch breaks.
The ban applies even if smokers aren’t identifiable as council workers and does not distinguish between cigarettes and vaping.
Those who flout the policy face “disciplinary action”.
George Barr, local Unite convener, slammed the plan as “heavy-handed” and said some workers feared losing their jobs.
Mr Barr said: “We have been asking what help the council will give and it doesn’t look like it will be anything substantial.
“The council should be helping people to give up if it wants to enforce this policy, especially if people could potentially be sacked for smoking. This is an attack on people who smoke. It’s not an easy thing to give up – and not everyone wants to either.”
Council workers who spoke to the Tele on condition of anonymity don’t believe the policy will be enforceable.
One said: “I think this is going to affect a lot of people. I can see why the council is doing it but I don’t think they’re doing it in the right way. I smoke about 20 a day. When I first heard about the policy I thought about buying a vape but they’re banning those too.
“A lot of the older people are worried they’ll lose their jobs if they get caught, and they’ll lose their pensions – pensions that are in tobacco. It’s ludicrous.”
Dundee, together with Angus and Perth and Kinross Councils, invests £56.3 million of pension money in tobacco firms through the Tayside Pension Fund. Another worker said enforcing the ban could create rifts between employees and their managers.
“I don’t think it’s enforceable,” the worker said. “Managers are going to have to go round telling people to put it out and that’s going to be more hassle for them.
“The council is going about this completely the wrong way.
“Look at the NHS’s no-smoking policy – you still have to walk through a cloud of smoke to get in the front door at Ninewells.” The council says the move is a response to a Scottish Government report which called on authorities to adopt “fully smoke-free policies”.
A government spokeswoman said it encouraged councils to “make their grounds smoke-free”, adding: “Cosla has published guidance for local authorities on how to implement this.”
Cosla, which represents most Scottish councils, said authorities were ultimately free to choose how to impose a smoking policy.
A spokesman added: “Councils play a vital role in improving public health outcomes for our communities and this often begins with our own staff policies and our own premises.”
Council bosses claim the policy will protect adults, and reduce the number of adult “role models” seen smoking in public by children.
A spokesman for the local authority said: “The council has revised its smoking policy as we are working to protect the health of employees and also promote positive health messages across the wider community, in line with the agreed ‘Our People Strategy’ and health and wellbeing framework.
“The council is committed to helping achieve the national targets on reducing smoking in the Scottish Government’s ‘Creating a Tobacco-Free Generation’ strategy.
“A key part of that approach involves discouraging children and young people from taking up smoking.
“One way to assist that is to reduce the number of adult ‘role models’ who can be seen smoking in public.
“Across Dundee, there has been the introduction of voluntary no-smoking areas at children’s playparks and we will be looking to extend this to more open spaces in the future.
“The new policy mirrors recent changes brought into effect by NHS Tayside and by other councils across Scotland. The council will assist any employees who want to try to give up smoking.
“There was detailed discussion with trade unions during the formation of the new policy and employees will be able to ask their line managers about the implications for them at the start of this early implementation stage.”