Government Finally Acknowledges that Workers’ Safety must be Protected

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Return to Work Safely Protocol: People Before Profit says Government finally acknowledges that workers’ safety must be protected

“Protocol not worth the paper it’s written on if it can’t be enforced,” says Bríd Smith TD

Existing clusters must be addresses and workplaces closed as necessary

People Before Profit have said it has taken over 10 weeks for the Government to acknowledge that worker’s safety must be protected.

 Deputy Bríd Smith said:

 “We have been seeking that workers lives be protected since the start of this crisis. We have relentlessly pursued the government as it has been clear that no statutory authority has the power to enforce Covid-19 guidelines in workplaces.

“It is not surprising that there are now 35 clusters in workplaces including 10 in meat plants with 566 cases. It is not at all clear that this Protocol will be applied to workplaces that are already open. These workplaces with clusters of infection must be closed immediately.

 “The Minister has said that the HSA will have the authority to enforce this Protocol. Without effective enforcement the Protocol is not worth the paper it’s written on. Effective enforcement can only happen with a massive programme of inspection and the allocation of additional resources to the HSA. The Minister must now clearly indicate what additional resources will be allocated to the HSA.

 “Further, any safe return to work is conditional on a serious ramping up of testing”. 

“Throughout this crisis we have said that we must empower workers and their unions ensure that workers lives are protected. I note that provision for trade unions to access workplaces has not been provided. Further, there is reference to safety representatives being selected and appointed.

“We need to be clear that safety reps must be elected by workers, be independent of management and should have been given the power to veto the return to work. In this context workers who believe their safety is being put at risk should feel free to walk off the job. The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (Section 27(3) (f)) says workers don’t have to stay at work if their safety is at risk and employers cannot penalise them if they leave”.

People Before Profit said it will continue to examine the Protocol. Of immediate concern is:

·         the provision for the reduction of the 2-metre distancing to 1 metre in some cases. This, we believe, represent the first official reduction in the requirement for 2 metre distancing;

·         the consequence for workers who contract the virus between signing the form that they don’t have the virus “at least 3 days” prior to returning to work and returning to work; and

·         the failure to allow vulnerable workers to remain at home.

Deputy Smith concluded: “We cannot allow workers safety to be sacrifice in a rush back to work. Workers must remain vigilant and be prepared to take action if they feel their safety is compromised in any way”