NI Executive paper on Coronvirus road map a missed opportunity

12 May 2020

Owen the View 19 Mar

Reacting to the recently published NI Executive paper on a road map through the pandemic, Owen Reidy, Assistant General Secretary of the ICTU stated:

“The paper today is a missed opportunity as it doesn’t give sufficient clarity to workers about the future. While we welcome the fact that the Executive is seeking to operate actual devolution and to have a more independent approach to the chaotic approach of the UK government, the fact remains that the number of people being tested is way too low.

“As of 10th May 2020 only 33,440 people have been tested. That’s less than half of the number of healthcare workers working today in NI. Unless we get expansive mass community testing with adequate tracing and appropriate isolation we will not adequately address this pandemic.

“The first duty of any state is to protect its citizens. In the current arrangements whereby the population is being asked to adhere to necessary and strict lockdown regulations, it is not unreasonable of that same population to expect and demand that the state has a fit for purpose testing regime to adequately fight this pandemic. With only 33,440 tests today clearly it does not.

“The fact that there are no dates associated with the stages and that different sectors can move at different phases, does not bring adequate clarity to workers either. Just like businesses,  workers will need clarity and notice when returning to work.

“Obviously any return to work must be conditional on it being safe to do so and we welcome that the Executive paper does make it clear that such a return has to be in line with the safety document developed by the NI Engagement Forum which NIC-ICTU are represented on. Having dates with specific targets which place obligations on society and also the government is both necessary and the only viable approach to work through this pandemic together.

“For us, this document is incomplete and requires more work. We think it is critical that all sectors of society have their say and that the NI Executive listens and responds. The best response is to put in place the necessary infrastructure so as a community we can come together and everyone, i.e. the state and society, can play their appropriate role to combat this virus. This paper does not do that in its current form,” concluded Mr Reidy.