The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) responded to media reports last week that An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar wants to see a phased return to offices in August rather than September, on the assumption that the vaccination programme continues on course and cases remain under control.
General Secretary Patricia King said: “Congress is currently engaged in a consultation process through the Department of the Taoiseach relating to the safe return to work of thousands of workers who have adhered to current Public Health advice and worked from home for the past 15 months.
“These discussions include full consideration of all aspects of the return of workers to office locations in the autumn including the health and safety requirements as provided for in the ‘Return to Work Safely Protocol’.”
Patricia added that Congress is also of the view that remote and blended working arrangements must continue to be a feature of future working arrangements post restrictions: “Precise dates for the initiation of the return of these workers have not as yet been proposed by the Government but should be guided as always by public health advice and not business interest only.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin, asked about an August return to workplaces, said the Government would look at the situation at the end of June to see whether “we can move forward in some areas like that.”
Congress also responded this week to claims by the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises body that employers are having difficulties getting staff because of enhanced Covid-19 welfare payments.
Speaking to a Joint Oireachtas committee meeting on Wednesday (16th June), ICTU social policy officer Dr Laura Bambrick called into question ISME's claim that hiring difficulties are being caused by the PUP payment: “We are also calling into question how the unusual is being presented as representative.
“It’s not the PUP that is causing these struggles to finding staff, so what is it? In hospitality, in beauty services and in agricultural there is also evidence they are struggling to get workers.
“They are finding that these sectors are disproportionately relying on cheap migrant labour and a lot of those workers have returned to their own country. They have also found that people are changing to sectors and jobs that can provide regular hours and pay.
“There are some difficulties in rehiring, Ireland is not unusual in this but this is being misdiagnosed as a problem with the PUP.”
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