NIC-ICTU calls for high level engagement with Government and employers on COVID19 crisis

16 Mar 2020

Owen Reidy - ICTU

The Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has today reiterated its call for meaningful engagement with government and employers on the potential implications of the COVID19 crisis for workers in Northern Ireland.

Speaking today, Owen Reidy Assistant General Secretary of the ICTU said, “we wrote to a series of government Ministers about COVID19 on the 5th March 2020 raising the concerns of workers in the event they have to self-isolate or become unwell with COVID19. 

"In that letter we argued that £94 sick pay a week, even from day 1, was not enough to address this crisis. We followed this up with a further email on 10th March 2020 seeking a meeting involving government, employers and ourselves to seek to work together and address this matter. Such a meeting has yet to take place. Quite frankly this is not good enough.  

"We have engaged with the Irish government and employers on a range of consequential labour market issues and progress is being made with the Irish  government listening and introducing some measures to protect workers. This engagement is ongoing. 

"We know from our colleagues in Austria and Denmark that Unions, employers and government have come together and have reached innovative and effective agreements to protect business and to guarantee workers' incomes as this crisis continues to bite and hit harder.  

"Instead of debating whether schools should close or not, government needs to urgently engage with the trade union movement and employers to put in place measures to protect workers' incomes from when the schools do close. Workers who are laid off, who have to care for their children, who have to self-isolate or get ill with COVID19 need to know that viable mechanisms are in place to protect their income and livelihoods in as much as possible. 

"This is precisely why we have joined our voice with Hospitality Ulster today calling for action. We want to play our part in this unprecedented situation to ensure the interests of workers are addressed. We can only do that if all of government work with the trade union movement and employers to ensure measures are in place before this crisis inevitably gets worse.”