Women have been “disproportionately impacted by the pandemic”, with many forced to work longer hours to balance their jobs and home responsibilities, according to Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland.
peaking at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) biennial delegate conference in Belfast, Ms Gilliland said: “Looking forward, we need to ensure that women’s voices, women’s parity and women’s equality are put centre stage.
“Many women faced life and death, day in day out, on our hospital frontlines, many working from home ended up working longer hours juggling work and home responsibilities or reducing working hours or giving up or forgoing further education or training opportunities to look after children and elderly family matters.”
She added: “We saw levels of domestic and gender based violence against women increase.
“We also witnessed the lack of women’s voices and perspectives around the national decision making table – at one stage in the lessening of restrictions you could go play golf but you couldn’t get your child’s foot measured for shoes.”
The Labour Party councillor said the trade union movement will be essential in ensuring parity and equality for women.
She called for work addressing the gender pay gap to be implemented across all sectors and workplaces “so all women benefit.”
“There is no better vehicle for this than the trade union movement and the proven leadership shown by the Women’s Committee.
“For example, we can all build on the progressive work of the Financial Services Union (FSU) in the area of paid leave for those experiencing domestic abuse, of Unison on abortion rights, of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) on paid reproductive health-related leave.”
Ms Gilliland criticised how frontline workers have yet to be offered booster vaccines, saying requests by staff are “seemingly falling on deaf ears.”
“Covid-19 also shone a light on the inequalities that we have been voicing for many decades – lack of investment in public services, such as investment in early intervention services, social care services, services for the disabled and those with intellectual and mental health challenges, in education, in our local authorities and in those services that should be public services,” she said.
“In our public hospital services, where all staff so valiantly did what had to be done in a national emergency, they are still understaffed and struggling without a break to keep up with demands and the even the smallest of asks now, a call for a booster vaccine, is seemingly falling on deaf ears.”
The ICTU biennial conference is taking place today and tomorrow at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall.
Delegates from both sides of the border will take part in a wide range of debates and votes on 47 motions and five amendments.
Some of the main issues on the agenda include housing, climate change, public policy lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact of Brexit on workers.
There will also be a discussion on a campaign for the introduction of a four-day working week.