Alarm that Government has yet to start negotiating with health worker unions on pandemic dividend

Senator Marie Sherlock
01 November 2021
  • Announcement on additional permanent public holiday needed this week

Labour employment spokesperson Marie Sherlock said the government’s approach to the introduction of the new public holiday has been confusing, ill thought through and downright insulting to workers, particularly those who had to go out of their homes to do their jobs during the height of the pandemic. The latest “revelation” that the government is considering a once off public holiday by way of thanks to frontline workers comes with the news that the government has yet to give the green light for the commencement of the promised negotiations with health trade unions on a pandemic dividend.

Calling for government to provide clarity on this once and for all, Senator Sherlock said the kite flying needs to stop this week.

Senator Sherlock said:

“We need to be clear about why a permanent public holiday should be introduced.  I believe it is important that we mark the trauma inflicted on our society by the pandemic, the thousands of lives lost and the long term social, mental health and economic impact from the pandemic and that we do so on the first day of Spring at the start of February to mark a period of hope and healing. It’s also vital that we introduce a public holiday to commemorate a woman – it’s incredible that we have three public holidays to commemorate a man in this country. Having it on Brigid’s day would send a strong message of inclusivity and progress.

“May Day was the last public holiday to be introduced in Ireland in 1994 by Ruari Quinn in honour of Irish workers and Ireland finds it’s self at least two day behind the EU average with regard to public holidays.

“The February public holiday would provide a much needed boost for tourism. For instance, the Cork Jazz Festival and the Dublin City Marathon – both now of huge economic importance to their respective cities – grew out of the October bank holiday introduced in the 1970s.

“What we must be clear on is that the public holiday should not be a day to “thank” front line workers. That must take the form of a separate process. One day of public holiday will not impact the persistent issues affecting low paid workers in terms of the their pay, their conditions and their ability to negotiate with their employers .

“The Labour Party has long called for action to be taken so that all workers earn, at a minimum, a Living income to end the cycle of in-work poverty and low paid families struggling and relying on supports such as the Working Family Payment to make ends meet. Work must pay, and we have a real problem with low pay in this country affecting nearly 1 in 4 workers who earn less than two-thirds of median hourly earnings. A public holiday will not address the cost of living in Ireland today.”

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