Working together in crisis times
by Kevin Callinan, General Secretary, Fórsa

I wanted to take this opportunity to address you directly as a member of Fórsa trade union at this time of crisis for all citizens.


The events of the last two weeks are without precedent, and are an understandable source of anxiety for our members and their families. With so many of our members working in public services they are, in lots of different ways, at the very coal face of the response to Covid-19.


Similarly, our members in the community and voluntary sector, the aviation industry and a wide range of state bodies have been affected in different ways by the developments.


What binds us together on this occasion is the role each of us play in the collective response to the Covid-19 virus. That means following the guidelines on keeping our distance from one another, hand hygiene and self-isolating if we are feeling unwell.


We are bound together also by membership of this union with 80,000 other members. The foundations of the trade union movement were built upon workers standing together, shoulder to shoulder, ready to defend their interests and protect each other.


Now, more than ever, those foundations serve us well as we face into the crisis created by Covid-19. Already, our members nationwide have shown responsibility and resilience, characterised by the large numbers of you who’ve sought to volunteer to get involved with the response effort. That generosity of spirit and determination is a source of pride for all your union colleagues.


Fórsa and its members across the civil, public, private, voluntary and semi-state sectors remain committed to cooperating fully with emergency measures necessary to contain the Covid-19 coronavirus, protect the health and safety of citizens and workers, and maintain essential services during this unprecedented public health emergency.


Some of the measures necessary at this extraordinary time might not be acceptable in normal times. Fórsa has said that, so long as employers consult with the appropriate unions, respect existing collective agreements, and reach agreement with the union if they feel it necessary to waive aspects of collective agreements in the short-term, we can work together on the response to Covid-19 in a spirit of mutual trust and respect.


We are still in the early stages of this crisis, and the full effect on our society, on the economy, on jobs and incomes are not yet fully known. But the scale of job losses last week gives us a strong sense of its severity. Because of this, unions have called on the Government to dig deep to provide income supports and other emergency economic measures  to protect jobs and incomes.


We continue also to talk to employers in health, local government, civil service and education about plans for temporary reassignment and the measures necessary to keep those workers safe.


Above all, I want you to know that your union is here for you throughout this crisis. We’re here to answer your questions, protect you at work and fight for the necessary supports to ensure you and your family can recover from the impact of this crisis.


As a union and as a society, we will not be defined by this crisis but rather by our response to it. And the response of our members so far has been phenomenal, and fills me with optimism for what we can achieve beyond this point in time.


Your union is proud to stand with you at this time. Know that you do not stand alone.


If you have a question for the union on any of these issues, please contact us. Your welfare is our priority and Fórsa staff stand ready to answer your questions.


Stay safe and let’s face this challenge together.


In solidarity




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