Messing with public holiday needs to end

25 November 2021
  • Meanwhile no sick pay in place
  • Remote workers have no legal right to disconnect

Labour employment spokesperson Marie Sherlock said the kite flying by the Tánaiste needs to end now. Calling for a commitment to a date for a new permanent public holiday, Senator Sherlock said the delay and messing on the public holiday is but a distraction from the real hardship being experienced by all workers as a result of the pandemic.

Senator Sherlock said:

“This kite flying about a public holiday has been going on since early September. It’s time that a date is agreed and set so that the tourism and hospitality sector can begin to plan and that workers and employers have greater certainty about their work schedules.

“We know the benefit of public holidays to workers – with additional time to rest, relax, spend quality time with friends and family – but also the benefit to the economy as a whole. 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.

“Unfortunately kite flying is a favoured tactic of this government, particularly when it comes to the real bread and butter issues facing workers during the pandemic. The latest guidance to work from home has plunged some workers back into uncertainty and precarious work environments. I’ve had a number of young professionals in my area tell me about their experience of working on the edge of the bed and tip-toeing into their shared kitchen to make tea when other housemates are on work calls. There will be a lasting impact of this on our next generation of workers.

“Indeed, young people have really paid a higher price than others throughout the pandemic. There is still no legal right to disconnect from work and we know that this disproportionately impacts younger workers and more junior workers in the world of work. They answer one email out of hours, they take that one call, then suddenly, without even keeping track of it, they are putting in an extra 12 hours a week than they are paid for, they are not benefiting from the rest time we all need and that we are all legally entitled to, they are not getting to switch off and recalibrate.

“Meanwhile for those who continue to work in the workplace, there is still no sick pay. Fourteen months on from when the Labour Party initiated legislation in the Dáil to give every worker the right to sick pay, there remains no right to paid sick leave in this country. The Government’s draft legislation is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny and it will be many weeks before paid sick leave will become a reality in Ireland.

“The introduction of the five day restriction of movements rule has now cast a sharp light on the lack of paid sick leave and the inadequacy of the covid illness benefit. In particular, retail workers have said to us that this new rule will cause undue hardship at what should be their busiest time of the year. At present, the covid illness benefit is just over half (56%) of average earnings in the retail sector.

“The reality for most people is they can’t afford to be sick – bills still need to be paid, mouths still need to be fed. So we need to break this cycle of people having to choose between going into work while sick, or else losing a portion of their income. This is a crucial question of workers’ rights, but it is also the essential missing piece in our strategy against Covid-19. During a pandemic, we have a special duty to guarantee sick pay as soon as possible in the name of public health.

“Enough distraction by government. I am reiterating my call to see meaningful protections for our workers. Government has a responsibility to do the right thing for us all.”

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