Workplace Safety Guidance & Priority List from NI Engagement Forum (Incl. Narrative)

21 Apr 2020

Covid 19 Working Through This Together safety guide in the workplace

The Northern Ireland Committee of the ICTU was invited by the NI Executive to participate in the Northern Ireland Engagement Forum to advise the Executive of labour market issues around Covid19.

As you know through our Better Work Better Lives campaign the trade union movement has been campaigning for some time for a forum for social dialogue in Northern Ireland. Therefore, we accepted this invite to participate. The Forum is made up of 6 NIC-ICTU representatives, 6 employer representatives, 2 junior Ministers from the Executive Office and a number of relevant state agencies. It is chaired by Marie Mallon, the Chairperson of the LRA. We have been meeting 2 times a week over the last 3 weeks.

The Forum having negotiated and agreed two documents sent both to the NI Executive on the 9th April 2020. The Executive considered both documents at their meeting on Friday 17th April 2020 and decided to support in full the important safety guidelines document “Covid 19 – working through this together.” This document outlines the key responsibilities of employers in the workplace during this pandemic and is a practical universally applicable guide which we would ask each affiliate to promote amongst your staff, your activists and members and through your social media and website. We hope it supports and assists any negotiations any affiliate has around ensuring and maintaining a safe workplace.

The second document was around a priority list of employment sectors that could (subject to the full application of the safety document) remain open as they were deemed critical to maintain during this period. The NI Executive has also published the list  (with some additional variations from the Executive) but has not published the narrative which explains the context and rationale of the list, also advocates a registration process, an eligibility criteria and an appeals process.

What is clear from our engagement in the forum to date is that the NI Executive have adopted 75-80% of the Forum’s recommendation and the trade union side of the forum have been very active and have had a significant impact on the outcome of such agreed documents.

We are committed to making sure the Forum addresses other important labour market issues (see terms of reference) in the interests of workers during this period, in particular the impact of the furlough scheme as it commences its roll out of payments, along with other issues. Whilst the Forum is merely advisory we will ensure that workers’ interests are centre stage.