Gov Tough Guy Sick Pay Policy Means No End To Outbreaks

Meat Plant Workers

FF/FG-led governments have maintained Ireland’s EU outlier status against sick pay for working people. ‘No statutory provision for sick pay’ could be listed as an ‘attractive advantage’ for potential business owners.

‘No Sick Pay’ is actually bad for everyone. With Covid we see it’s bad for profits too. It’s too difficult for low-paid workers to get sick pay from the state so we just show up sick and carry on. This is called sick ‘presenteeism’.

Employers who offer low paid precarious work rely on presenteeism and in fact double down. They don’t give sick pay and people who take time off lose small advantages: social duties, place on the roster or sufficient hours. Higher-paid, more stable jobs generally do the opposite. In total only 44% report paying sick pay voluntarily. Now the custom and practice of the tough guy majority (the 54%) has become a societal issue. And we’re all paying.

Whether that the mental health issues caused by precarious work or Covid symptoms, tough guy owner attitudes that mock people’s needs must be called out as an abuse by employers against workers. It’s dangerous. FF/FG governments instead have condoned and adopted it as common sense and policy.

For Ireland this attitude tragically sets out how we all must live. It’s easy to see the how wrong it has been in 2020: a year of rolling targetless lockdowns and thousands of deaths.

There were outbreaks in meat plants among precarious workers in January. 60-70% of meat plant workers in Ireland are migrants. They make around 500 per week. It makes the boss’s tough guy sense to ignore light symptoms and ignore non-symptomatic cases. And so Covid spreads. Real sick pay schemes are one step in getting to Zero Covid. They are a major step in ending precarity and the life-long society wide effects of low-paid employment.

Change is coming but one of the reasons lockdown is extending and extending is because of the abusive powerful legacy of tough guy business owners and their ‘common sense’. They got what they wanted from FF/FG governments against their workers and the society’s best interest. Help People Before Profit fight back harder now- get active in your union and campaign to bring inclusive comprehensive sick pay in faster for all.

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