Substantially Tougher Measures And Resources For Hsa In Return To Work Protocol

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Solidarity- People Before Profit to push for substantially tougher measures and resources for HSA in Return to Work Protocol

Group to tackle Health Minister on public/private hospital deal

Solidarity- People Before Profit have said that the governments Return to Work Protocol is seriously lacking and needs to be much tougher and more robust in order to properly protect workers in the event of a return to work.

The group outlined a number of areas where they feel the protocol is seriously lacking.

They also called for the immediate permanent absorption of private hospital capacity into the public health system and urgent measures to boost staffing levels across the health service.

Speaking on the Return to Work Protocol, Bríd Smith TD said: “The governments Return to Work Protocol is seriously deficient in a number of areas. This protocol would not have protected workers in meat plants, in which there have been a number of clusters reported, and we do not believe that it will prevent further clusters from emerging.

“Light touch regulation is never a good thing, but in a pandemic such as this it can be deadly. The government must give the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) the power and resources to go into workplaces, seriously inspect them and shut them down if needed. It should be noted that there were zero inspections following 121 complaints in different workplaces across the country.

“Workers need to be aware that in The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (Section 27(3) (f)) workers do not have to stay at work if their safety is at risk. The Act also states that employers cannot penalise them if they leave.”

Deputy Smith continued: “We are shocked that the Minister has made no provision for extra inspectors or staff at the HSA to enforce the protocol or ensure that there can be on site follow up inspections when workers contact the agency.

“The minister talks of guidance’s and a collaborative approach with employers, in reality we are getting calls from workers who have been bullied and forced into returning or continuing to work in unsafe workplaces at the risk of their health and their loved ones; its practical protection they need, not empty words.”

Paul Murphy TD said: “More and more companies are now planning to open up, but still we do not have the proper protections in place, or the enforcement to protect workers. Just yesterday we found out the HSA has not inspected a single one of the 200 workplaces reportedly breaching the Covid-19 guidelines. They seem to be relying on self-regulation by big business – and that simple will not work. Instead workers need to organise themselves, elect a workplace safety committee and insist there is a full risk assessment, and proper Covid-19 liability insurance in place so workplaces can open safely.”

Speaking on the issues of healthcare capacity and the public/private system, Richard Boyd Barrett TD said: “Faced with the ongoing threat of Covid-19 and the need to urgently address long waiting lists for non-Covid treatment, Ireland needs its own NHS and we need to remove, completely, the private aspect of our health system by taking control of the private hospitals and private healthcare facilities and absorb them into the public system.

“We need a massive increase in capacity, which means large scale recruitment of nurses, pay parity for those nurses with other healthcare professionals, increased student nurse placements and for our nurses to be payed the money they are owed from last year’s strikes, as the INMO have called for.”