While business and school closures have left many workers working remotely from home (and many others without work at all), low-wage labourers in construction, sanitation, food service industries, postal services, and other essential sectors of employment have continued to brave the streets to ensure that they are kept clean and provide foods for us to eat while stuck indoors.

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, many of these workers were largely considered to be “unskilled” but the lock-down has proven just how invaluable their labour is for us all.

cover photo, Image may contain: possible text that says 'Covid19 WORKERS SPEAKOUT'

Workers Speak Out COVID-19 is a public group on Facebook created to give voice to the thousands of workers who’ve been laid off due to the lock-down measures announced in Ireland.


“Unless measures are taken now to protect workers’ incomes and working conditions, Ireland is headed towards an unprecedented depression.”

Dr. Conor McCabe is a researcher and author of Sins of the Father: the Decisions that Shaped the Irish Economy (2013), and Money (Sireacht: Longings for Another Ireland) (2018). He works with political, trade union, and community groups exploring the dynamics of theory and action for societal change.

Conor very generously contributed an essay on the Irish government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, specifically in regards to the provision of supports for business firms and workers. Crucially, he examines the underlying logics of state policy measures that have been implemented to subsidize lost wages and income for the duration of the lock-down. Conor argues that without a structured debt write-down for businesses and workers on rents, loans, insurance, and utility bills, the country will be headed toward an economic depression rested on mountains of debt. You can read the piece by clicking here.


While much of the discussion around unemployment in this country has centred on the provision of social welfare payments for those who’ve found themselves jobless in the wake of recent events, less attention has been given to the thousands of contracted and informal workers for whom these benefits were sorely insufficient or lacking prior to the pandemic.

Before the outbreak of coronavirus, 20,000 undocumented migrants and thousands more workers on short-term temporary contracts were subsisting on below-poverty wages with little to no protections against exploitation and abuse nor any semblance of financial security.


“There is such a lack of trust in and fear of state agencies that some workers won’t risk engaging them, even when they are in dire need.”

Sex Workers Alliance Ireland

Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) works with sex workers to fight for and promote the health, safety, and dignity of all sex workers in Ireland.

We were very fortunate to receive a written piece from representatives and members working on behalf of SWAI that speaks to the grim realities for sex workers as they try to navigate the circumstances presented by the lock-down. While they share many of the same concerns as all workers across the country, sex workers have long been faced with high levels of prejudice, abuse and surveillance — all of which has only been further exacerbated by the pandemic. To read the piece, please click here.


If you would like to learn more about SWAI, you can follow them on Twitter (@SWAIIreland).

Page last updated: 12.51 Thursday 28 May 2020