Trade unionists in Derry have criticised the government response to the Covid-19 pandemic and called on the general public to recognise the 'heroic efforts' of frontline staff during the crisis.
Derry Trades Union Council chair, Niall McCarroll, said: "The global Covid-19 crisis means we can't celebrate May Day, the international workers day, in the way we normally would. This year we were working with Derry and Strabane Council to host a 'Workers Rights and Social Justice Week' culminating with the May Day march and rally. The Covid-19 crisis is causing tremendous pain and hardship. We are in the midst of a tragedy that we hope will end as soon as possible with as few deaths as possible.
"The response to the crisis has also put a spotlight on the inadequacy of government action, the state of our public services and the central role of workers saving lives, protecting communities and allowing society to function. Many in the political establishment have joined claps in recent weeks for our heroic nurses and frontline workers but they have spent the last decades justifying poverty wages, undermining trade union representation and dismantling our public services, including our health service. The hypocrisy is glaring.
"Government's have described the battle to contain Covid-19 as a war but they've sent frontline workers out without PPE and testing. Far too many employers have risked workplace and public safety by refusing to implement public health guidelines. Workers have been forced to take strike action to make sure health guidelines are followed.
"It's crucial we put a focus on the heroic efforts of workers responding to this crisis, on the need for workers rights and on the central importance of our public services. The Derry Trades Union Council is calling on everyone to mark this May Day by joining a 'Five Minutes of Noise for Workers Rights' at 6pm on Friday May 1st - and by putting up red flags and signs for workers rights from homes and workplaces for 24 hours.
"We'll be working with unions, community groups, equality campaigners, artists and others that we were collaborating with for the 'Workers Rights and Social Justice Week' to organise as much as possible through social media.
"We will be launching our Workers Charter - our vision for dignity, respect and justice at work, in communities and for a more equal society.
"We're calling on the trade unions and organisations supporting workers rights across Ireland, North and South, to join this effort. People from all backgrounds and communities deserve workers rights, dignity and equality. We want this event to be as inclusive as possible. We need to begin to shape a new way of doing things that's centred around recognising the value of workers and the needs of the working class communities."
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