Sherlock calls on all persons to mark Workers' Memorial Day
28 April 2021
Seanad Whip and Spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Media, Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht
Marking International Workers’ Memorial Day, Labour spokesperson for employment affairs, Senator Marie Sherlock said:
“Every year on this date, we remember those who have died or have become injured or ill in the course of their employment. This year’s remembrance takes on an added significance with large numbers of workers here and across the world infected by Covid 19 and a number of them losing their lives.
“Those who have died and their families who were left behind are foremost in our minds today. But we cannot forget the workers who have been left to cope with debilitating injuries and impacts to both their physical and mental health and other workers now stricken with long covid symptoms.
"Today’s remembrance must also be an opportunity to reflect on the strength of our health and safety procedures in the workplace.
"To date, Ireland stands with just four other countries across the EU in still not having a statutory right to paid sick leave. We know from talking to workers over the past year, that some were forced into making horrendous difficult decisions between being out of pocket or going into work with minor symptoms.
"We also know that there were 1701 cases across food production, meat processing and commercial workplaces alone over the seven months August 2020 to February 2021 according to HSPC data and while efforts have been stepped up across many workplaces, questions remain about why these outbreaks occurred.
"Ensuring high health and safety standards in the workplace is simply not enough. To ensure no worker is forced into taking unnecessary risks, we need to understand the financial pressure they are under, the wages paid, their living conditions and the capacity of that wage to afford them a decent standard of living.
"The reality is that we have relied on a number of minimum wages sectors; retail workers and bin collectors and others on low pay such as home care assistants and other health service staff or those on no pay (student nurses other than final year students) to maintain essential services to all of us over the past year. They have had to take risks to their health and lives in the course of their work.
"Lastly, we need to be assured that the State’s Health and Safety Authority is adequately resourced to investigate breaches and incidents. I am concerned that there was no recruitment for health and safety inspectors over the second half of 2020 and just three in the first half of 2021 as reported to us in a parliamentary question of March 24th.
"To deter from abusive practise and to provide confidence to workers that standards are being enforced, we need to be sure that the State’s Health and Safety Authority has all the necessary support."