Call for ‘coherent approach’ in roll-out of vaccine for food processing workers

Trade union SIPTU has said that there must be a “coherent approach” in determining the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine to essential workers.

The union’s administration and community division organiser Adrian Kane said that “obviously, health workers must be the first in line; however, many other workers have legitimate reasons why they should be classified as ‘essential workers’ and given priority access to the vaccine”.

“These include workers in sectors such as education, pharmaceutical production, meat and food processing, local authorities, retail and transport.”

SIPTU representatives have called on all employers, in both the private and public sector, to “listen to the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) for Covid-19 and ensure that, wherever possible, they should facilitate employees to work from home”.

This morning (Friday, January 15), Tánaiste Leo Varadkar published Ireland’s first National Remote Work Strategy to make remote working a permanent option for life after the pandemic.

The strategy sets out plans to legislate to provide employees the right to request remote working; introduce a legally admissible code of practice on the right to disconnect from work; invest in remote work hubs; and explore the acceleration of the National Broadband Plan. 

Commenting on this, Kane said employers “need to put public health above all other concerns”.

“The government must engage with trade unions to ensure that a coherent plan in relation to working from home and the roll-out of the vaccine programme is devised which all stakeholders can buy into.”

As it stands, those working in the food supply system are the tenth group in line for the vaccine.

Calls for NI meat plant workers to be prioritised in vaccine roll-out

Last month, a key Stormont committee urged Northern Ireland’s health minister to ensure meat processing sector workers are prioritised in plans to roll-out Covid-19 vaccinations.

Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer, who chairs the region’s Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (AERA) Committee, said: “Meat processing plants are a crucial part of our food supply chain and have experienced significant challenges throughout the world as a result of Covid-19 outbreaks.

During the lockdowns of 2020, people have developed a greater appreciation of how vital it is to have a secure supply of food in the local shops.

“This consistency of supply is thanks to key workers such as those employed in food processing plants. I believe they should be prioritised, along with other key workers, when rolling out the vaccine.”