Call for targeted sick pay scheme to avoid ‘repeat of disastrous experiences’

Deputy Shortall said that lockdown cannot be the only response to the pandemic and that there must be swift action on measures that will suppress the virus.

‘This means learning some lessons’

“This means learning some lessons – one of these surrounds the need for sick pay for workers who are particularly vulnerable,” the deputy said.

“Data from the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] has shown that the take-up of paid leave went up significantly in many countries at the start of the pandemic, by up to 50% and 100%.

Many countries have expanded paid sick leave since the pandemic, including introducing specific measures to support frontline staff and support for workers with care responsibilities related to sickness. Regretfully, we have not implemented such policies.

As we enter the winter, the deputy said it must be ensured that workers who are particularly vulnerable are protected.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Taoiseach showed no willingness to address this issue,” she continued.

“We cannot risk a repeat of the disastrous experiences in nursing homes and among meat factory workers that we saw earlier in the year where both settings caused spikes in the virus.”

‘Every Single Aspect Of It Seemed To Go Very Badly Wrong’

Recently, the Social Democrats’ spokesperson on agriculture Holly Cairns told AgriLand that when it came to controlling the spread of the virus in meat plants, “every single aspect of it seemed to go very badly wrong”.

“I think it was very frustrating from the general public’s’ point of view and also mine to see entire counties shut down – all of the restaurants; loads of shops which were probably doing so much to protect their staff that don’t have any clusters, all had to close yet the meat plants got to stay open.

“Obviously, there’s the argument of it being essential food production – I completely get that – however, we know because they voluntarily closed and not through the government forcing them to, nobody starved.

There’s a line there – food production is essential, but if a meat plant closed, nobody is going to starve. I think we can be pretty sure on that one.

In recent weeks, the deputy asked Taoiseach Micheál Martin if it is proposed to introduce legislation that would allow the government to forcibly close meat plants. He said that he would “not give a commitment” to introducing such legislation.

When asked by AgriLand if she will bring forward such legislation, the deputy said she is thinking about it – “but I would be doing it to get it voted down”.

“Since I got in, routinely, every single opposition bill has been voted down regardless of how good it is: ending child poverty – voted down; mandatory sick pay – voted down; it’s consistent,” deputy Cairns said.

The only time we saw that change was the Dying with Dignity Bill; it became a conscience vote rather than a party political vote.

“If we had more votes like that I think you’d see legislation to allow government to forcibly close meat plants pass but because that won’t happen, it would just be voted down.

“In order for it to actually come into effect, the government would have to do it. But I am thinking of doing it – but I would be doing it to get it voted down.”