Right to disconnect must be secured for workers says ICTU

Patricia King

Paul Hyland

The general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) has said the right to disconnect is a key policy which must be secured for Irish workers going forward.

General secretary Patricia King said the Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the way large sections of the workforce operate and argued new protocols are needed to meet the changing work environment.

Ms King was speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme ahead of the ICTU’s biennial conference which gets underway in Belfast today.

She said the pandemic has proven that practices such as remote working do not damage productivity.

“One of the things that it [Covid-19] certainly has shown is, if you take a feature like remote working it doesn’t actually decrease or damage productivity levels. It means that we all now have had to take on changes in the way we work.

“The right to disconnect is really important as well because people who are engaged in that sort of work can’t be available 24/7 because that’s totally unacceptable,” she added.

Ms King added: “We’re looking at the reshaping of our world of work” and Covid-19 has further highlighted long-standing issues including the lack of legislation around sick pay.

She argued that meat factory workers had to continue working while sick “because they couldn’t afford to stay at home” throughout the pandemic.

Ms King said Ictu has been campaigning for the state to introduce a sick pay scheme and said she understands that legislation is being drawn up for the support.

She added that it is a pivotal moment for workers’ rights in Ireland and said it is welcome to see positive changes in terms of pay and conditions coming down the tracks.

The theme of this week’s conference is ‘No Going Back– A new deal for a safe and secure future for all’.

Organisers said the conference will “call out revenue gaps that others try to ignore or hide, such as the fact that employers in the Republic of Ireland and in the UK pay less than half of the European average in social contributions.”

Ictu is also campaigning alongside trade union confederations across Europe through the ETUC for the improvement and adoption of a draft directive on Adequate Minimum Wages in the European Union which promotes collective bargaining.

Ms King said: “Congress and the wider movement will continue to champion social, economic and industrial issues facing our members, and their families across the island.”