Trade Unions united behind safer workplaces

1 Apr 2020

The NI Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions met remotely this morning to discuss a unified and informed response to the Covis-19 public health emergency.

Unions representing over 200,000 workers across the economy, including all in those sectors currently designated as 'Essential Workers', reported on developments in their areas of speciality, from retail workers, to NHS professionals, to teacher and support staff in schools, to prison staff, to food producers, to civil servants, to manufacturers, transport workers, hygiene services and journalists, plus all of the other trades and professions keeping our society functioning at a time of crisis, and often at great personal risk.

Speaking after the NIC-ICTU meeting, ICTU Assistant General Secretary Owen Reidy said: "We agree with Health Minister Robin Swann that there are no grounds whatsoever for dropping our guard. There is no room for complacency from employers or from the state agencies tasked with keeping workers safe.

"Indeed, the sobering projections issued today from the DoH underline that 'the continuation of rigorous social distancing will save many lives and protect our health service from collapse'. Rigorous social distancing must apply in workplaces too. 

"Every workplace can play its part in protecting its workers and their families, and in turn the capacity of the NHS. We would go further and call on the government and the employers' bodies to encourage private sector entrepreneurs to follow the example of sports goods makers O'Neills and shift their processes to produce vital safety equipment, such as PPE for health workers.

"The next focus has to be on speeding up the process and extent of testing for Covid-19. Too many workers are being isolated from vital public service work as they wait to even get tested, let alone for the results to come through. We strongly believe that more testing needs to happen in Northern Ireland, with a particular priority for Health workers and other 'essential workers' where necessary. 

"NIC-ICTU is represented on the recently established Covid-19 Forum on Labour Market issues, and we will prioritise the health and safety of workers and the protection of their incomes and we will expect other stakeholders, including employers and the NI Executive to do likewise."