Mandate Trade Union has written to all major retail employers and to the Minister for Health calling for the provision of free antigen tests and high quality masks for workers in the retail, hospitality and the licensed trade industries as a matter of urgency.
In recent weeks the government guidelines for close contacts and isolation periods have changed and have put more workers at risk of contracting the virus.
Jonathan Hogan, Mandate Assistant General Secretary, said that the government and employers have a dual responsibility to protect staff to the greatest extent possible.
“Many retail workers on the frontline have been utilising rapid antigen tests in a proactive manner in an effort to protect themselves, their families, their colleagues and customers from the virus,” said Mr Hogan.
“While some employers have taken positive steps and provided their employees with antigen test packs, not all have done so and many workers are left out of pocket for attempting to protect the community from transmission of this virus. This is inherently unfair.”
Mr Hogan continued:
“While most workers are being provided with medical grade masks, there is mounting evidence that they are not adequate. The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention does not consider medical masks respiratory protection. Therefore we believe all customer facing workers should be given the greatest protections possible such as FFP2/FFP3 or N95 masks and we’re calling on employers and the government to ensure this is done immediately.”
Mr Hogan emphasised that these protections are also in the interest of employers and the wider community:
“The government has changed the rules around close contacts and isolation periods largely because employers are struggling to cover worker absences. We’re saying by providing free antigen tests, high quality masks, and by strictly enforcing the guidelines around social distancing, adequate provision of hand sanitizer and making sure customers are wearing masks, we can reduce the transmission of the virus. This will reduce staff absences.”
He added, “Reducing health and safety protections at the behest of employers will most likely lead to increased community transmission leading to more pressure on our healthcare system and increased staff absences. It’s a vicious circle.”