The group representing Irish small business is urging the Government not to give in to demands by teaching unions to prioritise certain groups of workers for the Covid-19 vaccine.
t comes after controversy erupted last week when the Government announced an overhaul of the vaccine priority list, moving to an age-based roll-out system after vulnerable groups have been vaccinated.
Teachers, particularly those aged in their 20s and 30s, feel they have been pushed far down the priority list.
But the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) said it is concerned about coordinated threats from unions to “explore any and all options, up to and including industrial action” as a result of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) policy advice to prioritise vaccine delivery on an age-related basis.
The group said workers who have been furloughed on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) would look with anger on a sector who have suffered no loss of income refusing to work because they were not prioritised for vaccination.
“ISME represents businesses such as essential retail, cleaning, warehousing, distribution and food and medicines manufacture, which have continued to work non-stop throughout the pandemic despite the absence of vaccines.
“These people would rightly view any attempt to close our schools as both precious and reprehensible,” it said in a statement.
The association said while the latest NIAC advice to prioritise vaccination on an age basis may be “imperfect and blunt”, it is also “objectively fair” as it deals with the most at-risk citizens first.
ISME said it is aware of the pressure unions are under to seek vaccine priority as it has received similar requests from employer groupings among its own membership.
The business group said giving in to these requests would “open a free-for-all, where the Government is forced to deal with the loudest, most threatening groups, rather than those presenting the greatest clinical need.”
ISME responded to reports that teacher unions have been considering strike action since losing their status as priority on the vaccine list.
The group said while it does not believe a majority of teachers would support industrial action on the issue, they believe the public and business reaction to it would be negative.
It said while teachers have the legal right to withdraw their labour, it does not mean it is “proper or morally defensible to do so in a case such as this”.
ISME also recommended that Minister for Education Norma Foley inform unions that her department will immediately cease the deduction of union subscriptions from payroll if she is presented by unions with any form of threat, express or implied, to withdraw teachers from schools over the vaccination issue.
Source: Irish News