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CORONAVIRUS LATEST: Trade unionists say O'Neill's factories should reopen to make protective equipment for health workers

'Critically, surgical masks are in short supply, with frontline workers in desperate need to be protected as they maintain essential public services'

Chairman of Derry Trades Union Council, Niall McCarroll

Chair of DTUC says the Derry business community must show leadership

Derry trade unionists have called on the local council, business community and political representatives to 'show leadership' by pushing for the O'Neill's factory to reopen to manufacture protective equipment needed in the fight against coronavirus.

The move, if successful, would allow hundreds of O'Neill's staff to return to work. 

Last week, the sportswear manufacturer announced that it would 'suspend operations' until May at the earliest due to the impact of the coronavirus on business.

Around 900 employees at factories in Strabane and Walkinstown in Dublin were affected.

Niall McCarroll Derry Trades Union Council (DTUC) Chairperson said: "Politicians have expressed how devastating the news is that between 750 and 900 workers have been laid off at O'Neills Sports Company.

"This is well below what is required at this time.

"More must be done, solutions need to be found to both the loss of income for these local workers and also to begin the fight back against the COVID-19 pandemic.

"O'Neills shareholders funds total "10.7 million and profits have soared in recent years.

"The Derry City Centre Initiative and the local Chambers of Commerce bestowed upon O'Neills Sports Business Award of the year in 2018.

"Now it's time for the great and the good of the business community to be innovative and show leadership, work together and explore ways to re open O'Neills and begin manufacturing much needed supplies in the fight against COVID-19.

"Surgical face masks would be a good starting point.

"Critically surgical masks are in short supply, with frontline workers in desperate need to be protected as they maintain essential public services.

"Surely, with the knowledge and expertise that O'Neills has gathered over time this is possible.

"O'Neills has been in existence for over 100 years with frontline workers and their families being among those loyal customers who have made the company what it is today.

"O'Neills should lead the way and make a statement to those Gaels, GAA Clubs, parishes and communities who have stood by them, a statement of solidarity.

"Derry Trades Union Council also call upon Derry City and Strabane District Council to officially get involved in this call and do what they can to meet the needs of frontline workers were that need may arise.

"Working together the people of Derry and the North West have much to offer with a key attribute being the local Factory Girls and their textile industry skills.

"Is it time to mobilise one of our greatest attributes?

"The Factory Girls with the right measures in place could also play their part in the production of surgical masks and other required items.

"The required support, advice and tools should be made available and all avenues explored.

"Time to mobilise against COVID-19 time to use everything we have as we fight this unseen enemy."

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