THE publication on Saturday evening of the list of essential service providers under the new public health guidelines is most welcome, according to Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes following a day of confusion amongst member companies as to how their operations would be classified.
Having received a many phone calls from concerned chief executives following An Taoiseach’s announcement of new travel and work restrictions, as to whether they would need to start shutting down operations at short notice, Ms Downes has welcomed the fact that companies, on reading the detail, can now assess if their operations are classified as essential.
While many Shannon companies have kept production operational to date, many were questioning overnight as to what steps they would need to take over the weekend to either shut down or maintain operations and advise staff accordingly.
Following a teleconference call with over twenty companies on Saturday, Ms Downes stated: “Our members want to do what’s best for their staff in terms of health and safety whilst maintaining production of products and services that are part of global supply chains. All are taking HSE and WHO advice on board and are abiding by the strict protocols necessary to protect their staff. The ambiguity following last night’s announcement left them wondering as to whether their operations would be classified as essential and critical.
“We have already witnessed the priority our member companies have placed on staff welfare with many companies facilitating remote working and even within the manufacturing environment, work that can be done from home is being facilitated. Some companies will be in a position, following the latest restrictions, to close temporarily until after Easter but companies, particularly in the med tech and multi-sector environments, will have to remain open to keep the supply chains of those sectors open. They will do so whilst maintaining the protocols set down by the HSE and the WHO.
“We will remain on call for our members over the weekend should any company feel uncertain as to their classification. However, as noted in the Government’s publication, the document has been produced to ‘provide guidance to employers and employees as to what constitutes an essential service where workers cannot work from home and have no option but to travel to work’. Companies do not need official authorisation; if they are part of an essential supply chain, they can continue to carry out their activities and in so doing, should have the correct procedures in place to make the working environment safe.
“Having engaged with An Garda in Shannon, we have been reassured that in keeping with the new travel restrictions, employees travelling to Shannon to work will be able to get to their respective companies once they carry ID and a support letter from their companies. We have prepared a template letter for our member companies which they can structure to their own company’s needs; a copy is available from email@example.com “It’s a time of concern for everyone and the focus is always on reducing and arresting the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” added Ms Downes.