Survey shows shameful disregard for health and safety of frontline workers

23 April 2020
  • Nash reiterates calls for urgent establishment of body to regulate and enforce social distancing in the workplace in response to survey of retail workers

Labour TD Ged Nash has said the results of a Mandate Trade Union survey of frontline retail workers should reinforce the need for real government action to regulate and enforce the new normal of social distancing.

Deputy Nash said:

“The Mandate Trade Union survey clearly show the urgent need for a State body to regulate and enforce social distancing in the workplace, with nearly half of all retail workers (46%) surveyed stating that social distancing and crowd control measures are not being adhered to in their workplace.

“Almost one-in-five (17%) workers – from the 7000 respondents from over 300 businesses across the country – also rate the measures implemented by their employers as “poor” or “extremely poor.”

“We are hearing talk today of a secret plan to “reopen” the economy on a larger scale, yet even during this lockdown we are seeing too many instances where the very basics such as PPE, hand sanitisers and protective screens are sadly lacking.

“This is simply not good enough. A basic set of enforceable standards needs to be set right across the board, as we cannot allow a few rogue employers to cut corners on health and safety measures.

“This not only puts workers at risk, but also the many thousands they serve daily, and will only undermine the many personal sacrifices being made by the public at this time of crisis.

“On 3 April I wrote to both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation to strongly encourage them to establish a body to develop clear procedures for enforcement of social distancing guidelines in workplaces. Three weeks later, this call continues to go unanswered.

“This shows the inability of the government to strategically think and plan ahead on even the most essential of issues and it raises serious questions about their ability to safely manage the reopening of the economy.

“The reality is that the social distancing requirement will be the ‘new normal’ for the foreseeable future, and we cannot allow a free-for-all approach in essential services during the management of a public health crisis and we plan for phased re-openings.

“We need urgent clarity on whether the Government finally plans to create a new body – comprising the functions of and personnel from the HSA, the NSAI and elements of the HSE and An Garda Siochana and other relevant agencies –  to ensure ongoing adherence to and compliance with social distancing requirements and the implementation of government policy on the operation of essential services.

“This body should provide businesses with clarity on correct health & safety procedures, and reassure workers and the public that those companies who do not comply will suffer penalties.

“Finally, the survey shows that frontline workers on already low-wages not only deserve a pay-rise – they need it and needed it even before this crisis begun.

“The proposed hazard pay of 20% cited by workers would be a small but symbolic recognition for their service and a welcome first-step towards a living wage of at least €12.30 which should be guaranteed as a basic minimum in the post-crisis period.”

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