PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has paid tribute to the heroic efforts of Ireland’s frontline workers and those providing essential services during the pandemic.
In an address to the biennial conference of trade union Fórsa, Higgins said that those who continued to work during the crisis were being undervalued by society.
The President of Ireland argued that the pandemic have offered up a once-in-a-generation chance to readdress the imbalance and “create a society that is more equal, one in which all work is valued, and all jobs are decent, fulfilling and secure”.
Higgins said that for too long, too little value has been placed on essential work of this kind.
“From this demonstrably failed, disconnected model of economy, we must liberate ourselves, replace it by making a new balance between economy, ecology, society and culture,” he said.
“We are all responsible for what we know and choose to ignore, from which we avert our gaze.
“How hugely regrettable it would be, what a lost opportunity, if, through some form of evasion or moral cowardice, we as a society were to continue to disregard the efforts of these women and men, our essential workers, that, having paid them fitting tribute for putting themselves and their families at risk for us all, we were to settle for reverting to where we were before the crisis.”
President Higgins spoken candidly about the devastation left by the coronavirus pandemic in both social and economic terms.
He also hit out at those governments and employers who had, in his opinion, used the crisis “in an insidious and opportunistic way” to reduce workers’ rights.
“We continue to witness increases in precarious employment, contract working, and an ongoing casualisation of labour, with new and emerging trends in work practices that are often deemed ‘innovations’ insofar as they provide new means to maximise profits for employers, but in their practical delivery reveal the ongoing erosion of employees’ hard-won labour rights,” he said.
“The pandemic has clearly shown, too, how highly mobile workers who frequently move within, or in and out of, the European Union are irreplaceable during a public health crisis, yet they often remain the least protected.”
He concluded by calling for a renewed effort to create a more just society that favoured the welfare of the collective over the individual.
“May I suggest that the Covid-19 pandemic can be best viewed as giving us a means for us all to rediscover the significance of the social, recover or discover the experience of life beyond an immiserating individualism, to make society more just and inclusive.”