Trade Unions call for more support for workers during pandemic
5 Nov 2020
The NI Committee of ICTU today met today and agreed that the health and welfare of workers and their families should be paramount in the minds of NI Executive ministers as it decides the next steps to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. ICTU Assistant General Secretary Owen Reidy stated:
“The expertise of public health specialists must be respected, and when they offer evidence based medical and scientific advice, we must take seriously their opinions because lives are at stake. However, lockdowns and circuit breakers can be crude and blunt devices which can have other unwanted consequences particularly for low paid workers and the most vulnerable in our society. That is why we need action and not words to significantly improve the infrastructure developed in recent months for Test, Trace and Isolate.
"Workers need to know that if they are exposed to infection then they must take time off and isolate from their work colleagues and receive adequate sick pay and not the paltry statutory sick pay of £94.25 per week. Employers must be clear on the regulations and requirements around the isolate rules and ensure compliance to halt the risk of cross infection.
“The trade union movement has repeatedly called for the furlough scheme to be reinstated in full. We welcome the fact that the Chancellor has reinstated the scheme but we believe that the NI Executive must have access to such a scheme which it deems necessary and such funding must not be conditional on whether there are restrictions applying in England or not. In the event the NI Executive endorse the call of public health specialists and continue with the current restrictions for a longer time, it is essential that workers, such as those in the hospitality sector and other low-paid affected sectors, receive their full salary and not 80% of their pay in this instance. For example, over 80% of hospitality workers earn less than the real living wage. Therefore for many of these workers, their income from furlough will be less than the national minimum wage. This is unacceptable and wrong. The lowest paid must not pay this price.
“These are tough and unenviable choices for policy makers. However to not build a first class test, trace and isolate scheme now would be unforgiveable. It is not too late.”