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17 August 2006 Edition

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Southern workers 'cannot afford to get sick'

Figures from research conducted by Friends First Building Society indicates that 85% of private sector workers in the 26 Counties are solely reliant on state benefits in the event they become unable to work due to illness. This is in stark contrast to the situation in the Six Counties and led to Sinn Féin Workers' Rights spokesperson Arthur Morgan calling for harmonisation of sick pay entitlements across the island.

"This information shows that there is a clear onus on this Government to introduce statutory sick pay for workers," he said.

"In the Six Counties there is an entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), paid by the employer for up to a maximum of 28 weeks. This basic workers' right should be harmonised on an all-Ireland basis.

"We are living in one of the richest, most developed states in the world where workers pay their valuable contributions to the revenue through their taxes. Yet they are entitled to nothing in the event that they become ill and have to leave their employment for an extended period of time."

While 15% of employees do have some sort of sick pay scheme, this is wholly dependent on the whim of the employer or the ability of workers to fight for such a concession on a local basis. Low-paid workers in particular are unlikely to have such a system.

"The low-paid workers across the state are in a precarious enough position as it is, without having to contend with the fact that they actually cannot afford to be sick," Deputy Morgan concluded.

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