Covid pandemic has proven how frontline and essential workers are undervalued, says President Michael D Higgins


The Covid pandemic has proven how frontline workers and those providing essential services are being undervalued in our society, President Michael D Higgins has said.

ddressing the biennial conference of trade union Fórsa, Mr Higgins said the pandemic has presented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to “create a society that is more equal, one in which all work is valued, and all jobs are decent, fulfilling and secure”.

Mr Higgins questioned how, as a country, we got ourselves into a position where so little value was placed on essential work and the contribution of essential workers.

“From this demonstrably failed, disconnected model of economy, we must liberate ourselves, replace it by making a new balance between economy, ecology, society and culture.

“We are all responsible for what we know and choose to ignore, from which we avert our gaze.

“How hugely regrettable it would be, what a lost opportunity, if, through some form of evasion or moral cowardice, we as a society were to continue to disregard the efforts of these women and men, our essential workers, that, having paid them fitting tribute for putting themselves and their families at risk for us all, we were to settle for reverting to where we were before the crisis.”

The President spoke about the devastating impact the pandemic has had socially, personally and economically.

He accused some governments and employers across the world of using the coronavirus crisis “in an insidious and opportunistic way” to restrict the rights of working people by disrupting the right to strike and excluding workers from participation in the economy through their unions.

“We continue to witness increases in precarious employment, contract working, and an ongoing casualisation of labour, with new and emerging trends in work practices that are often deemed ‘innovations’ insofar as they provide new means to maximise profits for employers, but in their practical delivery reveal the ongoing erosion of employees’ hard-won labour rights,” he said.

“The pandemic has clearly shown, too, how highly mobile workers who frequently move within, or in and out of, the European Union are irreplaceable during a public health crisis, yet they often remain the least protected.

“May I suggest that the Covid-19 pandemic can be best viewed as giving us a means for us all to rediscover the significance of the social, recover or discover the experience of life beyond an immiserating individualism, to make society more just and inclusive.”

Mr Higgins said that online workers are often not covered by the most basic employment law agreements, but said the move towards digitalisation may not be wholly negative “if offered within a social-economic model”.

The President said a more democratic and activist State is needed to meet the challenges presented by the Covid pandemic.

Online Editors

Source: Irish News