Northern Ireland

Coronavirus: Essential workers list 'expected on Monday'

Angela McGowan is on Saturday's Inside Business programme
Image caption Angela McGowan is on Saturday's Inside Business programme

The head of the CBI in NI has said she expects a list outlining essential workers to be ready on Monday.

It is being compiled by a forum set up by Stormont to advise on which businesses should operate during the COVID-19 crisis.

Angela McGowan told BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Business there is an ambition to get the list right.

“What we have achieved is getting, for the first time, certain people in a group discussing the issues," she said.

The panel, chaired by the Labour Relations Agency, is made up of trade unions, business organisations and the Health and Safety Executive among others.

“We have two huge priorities and the first is to get that essential list out as soon as possible," she said.

"The second is to start looking at the health and safety issues and making sure we can resolve these things when they do arise."

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Image caption Staff at Linden Foods walked out over social distancing

A number of manufacturers, particularly within the food sector, have seen staff walk out over safety concerns.

Stormont has published lists of businesses in the retail sector considered to be essential, but ministers have publicly disagreed as to whether or not some manufacturers should still be operating.

In the Republic of Ireland, the government has published a list specific to that sector.

'Nobody has done a drill for this'

Asked if the forum was nothing more than a “talking shop” as has been suggested, Ms McGowan said she did not think that was the case.

“There is an ambition to get this list right and the work is going on in the background," she said.

"Obviously there is a crisis and things will have to be done over the weekend and I would hope we will see this list on Monday.

“I can’t tell you how much I have stressed this is absolutely urgent and needs to be out as soon as possible. I am feeding that information to various departments to say - this is where the group is but I’d like it to be a little bit faster.

"Nobody has done a drill for this, it has never happened before. It is something everybody has been thrown into and this is why it's important for us to work together and get the solutions right,” she said.

“I think when the music changes so does the dance - everything is up for review. The essential workers list we hope to get out on Monday will be up to review.

"We’ll constantly look at things and constantly adapt to the circumstances."

You can listen to Inside Business on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Sounds at 12:30 BST on Saturday.

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