The pandemic revealed the workers who are now considered essential, and they should be paid a decent wage, according to the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Patricia King.

ICTU is one of the interest groups engaging in the National Economic Dialogue which continues online today. The theme of the engagement is building a sustainable recovery post-Covid.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the virtual gathering that the level of spending by the Government during the Covid-19 pandemic, is "not sustainable" and must "move to the next stage".

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said the public finances must be managed "sensibly" to avoid problems "down the line".

He said the recovery should be fair and balanced.

If the recovery is to be fair and balanced, Ms King said workers need to be paid a decent wage.

"During the pandemic, alongside frontline workers, we recognised who our essential workers are. They are often undervalued and under paid and all of those matters need to form part of the thinking of a reformed economy into the future," Ms King said.

She also said that Government resources should be invested into public services.

"We should have a universal public health care system, free at the point of entry. We should never again have to pump hundreds of millions of taxpayers money into the private health sector so that we can avail of their facilities.

"We should have a massive programme of housing construction on public land for public housing. We should deal with this crisis head on," she said.

The Covid crisis fast-tracked the move to remote working and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar called on employers and workers to make remote working a much bigger part of working life after the pandemic. ICTU supports this campaign.

"Congress has been of the view that this now should become a mainstream feature of our work patterns post-pandemic," Ms King said, adding that there is value in it for workers, businesses and the environment.

In his capacity as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mr Varadkar is bringing forward legislation so that workers can have the right to request remote working.

"That has to be meaningful legislation so that the employer has to respond, and employers have to give due consideration to the request," Ms King said.

She said ICTU is confident that it will successfully reach agreements with employers in the public and private sector on remote working arrangements.