The Government should not give in to teachers unions demanding their members are prioritised in the vaccine rollout programme, according to ISME which represents small and medium sized businesses.

ISME said businesses such as essential retail, cleaning, warehousing, distribution, food and medicines manufacture have continued to work throughout the pandemic and are not calling to be prioritised.

It said the Government should hold firm on any attempts, as it puts it, to jump the vaccine queue.

CEO Neil McDonnell said the SME representative group have had to deal with similar requests from employers in particular sectors among our own membership, "but we have politely refused to entertain them. 

"To do otherwise would open a free-for-all, where Government is forced to deal with the loudest groups rather than those presenting the greatest clinical need."

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The business group acknowledged that while the latest NIAC advice to prioritise vaccination on an age basis may be imperfect and blunt, ISME said it is also objectively fair, it deals with the most at-risk citizens first, and it is least prone to circumvention.

ISME does not believe a majority of teachers would support industrial action on this issue. "But we also believe that the public and business reaction to it, even if only threatened, would be negative and vociferous," Mr McDonnell said. "These people would rightly view any attempt to close our schools as both precious and reprehensible."

Although teachers, like all workers, enjoy the legal right to withdraw their labour, this does not mean that it is proper or morally defensible to do so in a case such as this.

"Similarly, those hundreds of thousands of workers who have been furloughed on the PUP would look with incredulity and justifiable anger upon a cohort who have suffered no loss of income refusing to work because they were not prioritised for vaccination."